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18 March 2014

Asbestos: Switzerland condemned by the European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Switzerland on 11 March to compensate the family of a worker who died from an asbestos-related work cancer. The deceased’s widow and two daughters lodged an application with the ECHR after their claim was dismissed by the Swiss courts. Under Swiss law, claims are time-barred ten years after the worker was last exposed. In this case, the victim’s last contact with asbestos was in 1978, 16 years before his cancer was diagnosed. The European judges ruled that the limitation period under Swiss law had had restricted the applicants’ access to a court to the point of breaching the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial.

Lawyers for asbestos victims in Switzerland believe the ruling should help asbestos victims get the financial compensation the Swiss justice system has so far denied them. "The ice is broken and compensation claims against Eternit, the railways and ABB are expected", lawyer Martin Hablützel told reporters.

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