How Swiss “Seniors” fight for their rights

Status: 11.11.2021 11:31 a.m.

In Switzerland, a group of older women went to the European Court of Human Rights. The accusation: the government of your country is doing too little to combat climate change – and to protect it.

By Kathrin Hondl, ARD Studio Geneva

It was almost exactly a year ago that Rosmarie Wydler-Wälti from Basel went to the European Court of Human Rights – together with around 2000 fellow campaigners. The “KlimaSeniorinnen”, as they call themselves, are suing Switzerland.

Kathrin Hondl
ARD studio Geneva

Wydler-Wälti says: “The problem is our government, which is doing far too little, ie not doing its job, because it should work for our health protection and especially for us as the particularly affected population group of older women. Because we have excess mortality consists in heat waves. “

So far, lawsuits have been dismissed

And due to climate change, heat waves are becoming more common. Hence the complaint by women against their country, which is not doing enough to protect the climate and thus protect women.

In Switzerland, the women’s climate suit was dismissed by all authorities. Wydler-Wälti says: “The most terrible argument that the Federal Supreme Court wrote: We still have time, it has not yet been proven that it will heat up to over 1.5 degrees, and we still have time to complain. “

Human rights violated by climate protection policy?

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) must now clarify whether the human rights of women are being violated by inadequate climate protection policies. In contrast to the ruling by the German Federal Constitutional Court – which forced the federal government to amend the Climate Protection Act – it is not primarily about responsibility for future generations, but – even if the climate crisis naturally affects everyone – about the life and rights of older women here and now .

The 71-year-old Rosmarie Wydler-Wälti wants the Swiss government to do more to protect the elderly.

Image: Katrin Hondl

“Current and particular concern”

“And that is important,” explains Cordelia Bähr, Zurich lawyer for the “KlimaSeniorinnen”. “To gain access to a court in Switzerland you have to prove that you are currently and particularly affected. It is also important to assert a violation of human rights, because such a violation can only exist against people who actually have their lives are threatened. “

Weighty supporter

The Swiss “KlimaSeniorinnen” have an important supporter. Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, submitted a statement in Strasbourg. The case is the opportunity to take into account that “the drastic effects of climate change must be justiciable”.

In September the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution recognizing life in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right.

Claudia Mahler, an independent expert on the rights of the elderly at the UN Human Rights Council, also commented on the case of elderly women in Strasbourg: “Because the rights of older people are always being ignored – and especially in the area of ​​climate change. When we have discussions on the subject of climate change It is very clear that everyone is thinking about the future, but the older ones are already there. “

The judges in Strasbourg have classified the complaint of the “Senior Climate Women” as urgent. But now the ball is back with the Swiss government, which has until November 19 to react to the contributions from the UN Human Rights Council. The Federal Office of Justice announced on request that one does not want to comment publicly on the ongoing proceedings.

Judgment could have far-reaching consequences

If the European Court of Human Rights were to rule in the interests of the “women seniors”, it would have far-reaching consequences – not only for Switzerland, but for all 47 member states of the Council of Europe that have ratified the Convention on Human Rights.

Wydler-Wälti hopes for success

It would set a precedent – with significance for global efforts to improve climate protection. And of course it would be a huge success for the 71-year-old Wydler-Wälti: “I think we older women are the only specifically old people in the world who have taken it in hand and tread this legal path. We women want and hope and can fix it. “

Climate adjudication – Swiss climatologists before the ECHR

Kathrin Hondl, ARD Geneva, 11.11.2021 9:33 a.m.

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