The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, established after the Vietnam War crimes tribunal, will hold hearings in the US and UK.
It will examine testimony to decide whether there is evidence to indict certain nations on charges that they failed to uphold universal human rights by allowing unconventional oil and gas extraction.
The decision by the PPT to hold sessions on fracking, announced this morning, follows a submission by three groups of human rights lawyers and academics: The Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment, the Environment and Human Rights Advisory and the Human Rights Consortium
Dr Damien Short, Director of the Human Rights Consortium at the University of London, said:
“This PPT is hugely significant because it will make important decisions on a key international issue: the uncontrolled spread of unconventional resource extraction.
“Fracking has taken place around the world in spite of serious public opposition and with large numbers of people alleging that their human rights have been ignored by those who supposedly represent them. This PPT aims to consider those allegations in an even-handed and judicial way.”
The PPT, based in Rome, considers cases where evidence suggests there has been a breach of the basic rights of citizens. It acts independently of nation states and government.A panel of jurists examine the evidence and apply internationally-recognised human rights laws to each case.
One of the Tribunal’s early cases involved the leak of toxic gas from the Union Carbide plant at Bhopal in 1984. More recent sessions have examined the massacre of Tamils in Sri Lanka, agrochemical transnational corporations and the activities of the Canadian mining industry in Latin America.
PPTs have no power to compel people to attend hearings or to enforce a judgement. But the Bhopal tribunal led to the adoption of the Charter on Industrial Hazards and Human Rights.
The hearings on fracking are scheduled for 2017 and evidence will be invited from across the world. It will include:
- Personal witness statements
- Expert testimony on the practices and impacts of fracking
- Findings from preliminary hearings in other countries
- Peer-reviewed research
- Academic reports
- Human Rights Impact Assessments
Dr Tom Kerns, Director of the Environment and Human Rights Advisory, based in Oregon, USA, said:
“The Tribunal will consider the human rights dimensions of a range of potential impacts: human and animal health, environmental, climatic, seismic, hydrologic and economic impacts, as well as those on local physical and social infrastructures.
“The PPT will be inviting witness testimony from citizens all over the world who may wish to hold preliminary mini-tribunals in their own country. Evidence and findings from those early tribunals can then be submitted to the later plenary hearings in the US and UK.”
Professor Anna Grear, Director of Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment, based in London, said: “The PPT will play a unique and vitally important role in presenting and rehearsing testimony, arguments and law to lay down an informal but highly expert precedent, with potential for future use in national and international courts of law.
“The PPT will also educate a wide range of parties and the general public about the human rights dimensions of fracking.
“This really is a People’s tribunal. It belongs to communities and individuals from all over the world and it aims to produce a highly influential, legally literate and serious judgement of the issues by some of the world’s finest legal minds as a trail blazing example for future legal actions, when and where appropriate.”