The ILVA plant in Taranto, inaugurated in 1964, is the largest steel plant in Europe and one of the largest in the world, today employing about 11,000 employees. In all these years of activity, ILVA has had a heavy impact on the environment and the health of the population of Taranto, as well as that of its employees.
The report underlines that serious violations committed by the company in the decades in which it has operated under private management have been widely documented and known to the authorities since at least the 1990s, and that the Italian State has negligently delayed the adoption of preventive and precautionary measures to limit the risks deriving from exposure to polluting emissions. This negligence is in violation of the State duty to protect human rights imposed by international and European law. Moreover, there have been few and ineffective sanctions imposed in response to the conduct of the company and its managers. This is in spite of Italy’s adoption in 2016 of a National Action Plan for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights.
As the Italian Constitutional Court also stated in its ruling filed on Friday 23 March 2018, “the legislator has over-emphasized the interest in the continuation of productive activity, completely neglecting the requirements of inviolable constitutional rights related to health protection and of life itself (articles 2 and 32 of the Constitution), which must be considered inextricably linked to the right to work in a safe and non-dangerous environment (Article 4 and 35 of the Constitution).”
It is therefore the duty of the Italian government to protect and respect human rights and in particular the right to life, to health and to live in a healthy environment, as enshrined in international law, in the context of violations perpetrated by companies, and therefore to adopt without delay all the necessary measures to limit environmental damage related to ILVA’s production activities and to prevent further damage in the interests of the population of Taranto.
The case of ILVA thus illustrates the need to improve the implementation of existing international, regional and national standards and legislations protecting human rights from corporate abuses. It also demonstrates that it is crucial to move forward with the negotiation and adoption of an international binding instrument that regulates companies’ behavior towards human rights. A link to the full text of the report can be found here.