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In China, Justice Lewandowski highlights the role of the judiciary in environmental protection

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

"As in any situation where conflicts of interest may arise, it is up to the Courts to contribute to the harmonization of economic and social development and environmental protection policies." The statement was made by the Chief Justice of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (STF), Ricardo Lewandowski, on Sunday (29) in the city of Sanya (China), in the panel "Judicial Protection of Natural Resources", in the BRICS Justice Forum.
For the Chief justice, the judiciary must exercise its task of pacifying conflict, acting impartially and in accordance with the applicable constitutional principles, in order to give unity, uniformity and effectiveness of public policies in the environmental area.

"It is also essential that the performance of the judiciary in the prosecution of environmental crimes is effective, imposing adequate and timely sanctions that curb new threats against nature, always bearing in mind the importance of the legal interest in regard," he said. "It is also crucial that the judiciary facilitates the access to environmental justice, including the use of procedures that allow direct citizenship participation”.

Minister Ricardo Lewandowski pointed out that the environmental balance is established in the Federal Constitution of 1988 as a right of all citizens, when he established, in article 225 , that everyone is entitled to an ecologically balanced environment, a common good to the people and essential to their quality of life, imposing to the Government and society the duty to defend it and preserve it for present and future generations.

According to the President, the Brazilian infra environmental legislation is also broad and comprehensive, as the Law 6.938 / 1981, known as the Law of the National Environmental Policy. "Under a criminal point of view, the Brazilian environmental legislation is quite severe. In this sense, the Law 9.605 / 1998 provides for criminal and administrative sanctions derived from conduct and activities harmful to the environment, establishing the classification of the so-called environmental crimes", he said.

Civil action
According to the minister Ricardo Lewandowski, one of the most effective legal instruments to bring before the judiciary issues in environmental matters is the civil action, disciplined by Law 7.347 / 1985, which can be used to held responsible public or private officials for damage caused to the environment.

"The Supreme Court decided that is a duty of the government and society the defense of an ecologically balanced environment for present and future generations, making it an individual right guaranteed by the Constitution, and that the judiciary, in exceptional situations, can determine that the Public Administration adopt ensuring measures to constitutional recognized as essential rights, and that it will not violate the principle of separate Branches of power", he said.

The President said that another issue on which the Court may be called upon regards the conflicts between different levels of government as to the competence for the adoption of public environmental policies and to the licensing of works or activities that cause impacts on the environment.

In his speech, he cited precedent cases in the environmental area, as the Complaint (RCL) 12957, in which was analyzed the divergence between the Union and the State of Amazonas about the exploitation of the region rivers, and the Petition (PET) 3388, on the demarcation of an indigenous area called “Raposa Serra do Sol”, in Roraima.


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