Legal case studies

There have been numerous cases throughout the world in which the rights to water and sanitation have been legally enforced at the national and regional levels.

Cases by quasi-judicial bodies

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), Ombudsmen, regional Commissions and Committees are quasi-judicial bodies, meaning that they are officially established as authoritative mechanisms that investigate claims and alleged infringements of human rights, and take decisions in the form of recommendations. These bodies have the mandate to promote human rights, monitor the implementation of human rights obligations of the State, and to promote the harmonisation of national law and practice with international human rights. Most of them are able to receive and address complaints of violations of rights.

For more information on these mechanisms, see Handbook Booklet 6: Justice.


Ultimate recourse to courts is crucial – without the possibility to legally enforce human rights they risk remaining meaningless. Courts are therefore charged with the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that such accountability is properly enforced. Many countries implemented the rights to water and sanitation at the national level or judges interpret other human rights, such as the right to life, health or healthy environment as a legal basis for these human rights. The deterrent effect and precedent setting nature of case law are especially important for the advancement of rights. The rights to water and sanitation have been successfully litigated in front of both national and regional courts.

See Court cases for examples of successful litigation, and use the online legal database of ESCR-Net so search for other court cases on the rights.