Author: Ip Tsz Yan Natalie, BBA (Law) IV;

HKU Date: 7/8/10

The plaintiffs asserted that "[d]ust clouds from the mining operations combined with emissions from the copper concentrator created a poisonous mix which polluted the air." As a result of this air pollution, the number of Bougainvilleans suffering from respiratory infections and asthma purportedly increased and the effect of the pollution caused many Bougainvilleans to suffer health problems. It was alleged that this was a violation of the rights to life, health, and security of the person.

However, the case was dismissed as the plaintiffs did not describe the parameters of the rights to life and health, nor detail what type of conduct violates those rights. Consequently, the court could not conclude that the rights are sufficiently "specific", or that nations universally recognize they can be violated by perpetrating environmental harm. They must have to demonstrate that defendants' conduct breached a "universal" norm of international law, and the plaintiffs had failed to make such a showing. The relevant inquiry is whether "a specific, universal, and obligatory" norm prohibits the activity. [1]


  1. last accessed 7/8/10