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Rising Before Sinking: The Landmark Decision of the UN Human Rights Committee in Daniel Billy et al. v. Australia

Völkerrechtliche Tagesthemen: Spotlight (Episode 31)


In its groundbreaking views on Billy et al. v. Australia the UN Human Rights Committee found that Australia failed to adequately protect members of an indigenous community present in four small, low-lying islands in the Torres Strait region from adverse impacts of climate change, resulting in the violation of the complainants’ rights to enjoy their culture and to be free from arbitrary interferences with their private life, family and home. The presentation will take up the decision’s key findings in order to critically reflect upon them in light of currently discussed challenges faced by human rights dogma in the context of climate change. It will be argued that the Committee has taken a hesitant and restraint position on victim status, the right to life and mitigation obligations, failing to account for harms located in the (further) future. However, it will be further explained that the Committee nevertheless succeeded in overcoming previously disputed admissibility hurdles, thereby taking the case to the merits. In doing so, it has issued the first decision at the international level to tackle substantive human rights questions in the context of climate change that relate to the current situation of small islands and their indigenous inhabitants.



Verena Kahl
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