It was announced today (23rd July 2015) that a coalition of human rights lawyers and academics has been granted an opportunity to put fracking on trial at hearings to be held by The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) in the UK and the US.
The PPT will hold a session on hydraulic fracturing and other unconventional fossil fuel extraction processes after an application was made by three groups: the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE), the Environment and Human Rights Advisory (EHRA) and the Human Rights Consortium (HRC). The PPT is an international opinion tribunal, independent of any state authority. It examines cases regarding violations of human rights and the rights of peoples.
The extreme energy process of ‘fracking’ has taken place around the world in spite of powerful public opposition and with large numbers of citizens claiming that their human rights have been completely disregarded by the corporations involved and by the public officials who are meant to protect and represent the public. The PPT on fracking will examine such allegations in an “even handed and judicial way” and will consider the indictment of nation states, rather than the industry itself, because it is these states, and not the fracking companies, who bear a direct legal responsibility to human rights law.
The human rights dimensions of the full range of oft cited impacts will be examined: the health of human and non-human animals, environmental, climatic, seismic, hydrologic and economic impacts – as well as those on local physical and social infrastructures. Testimony is invited from witnesses all over the world – some of whom may also wish to hold preliminary mini-tribunals in their own countries. Evidence and findings from those early tribunals can then be submitted to the later plenary hearings in the US and UK which, in turn, will play an important role in laying down an informal but highly expert precedent, with potential for future use in national and international courts of law.
At the hearings, between five and seven jurists of high standing in international human rights law will judge whether sufficient evidence exists to indict certain States on charges of “failing to adequately uphold universal human rights as a result of allowing unconventional oil and gas extraction in their jurisdictions.”
Submitted evidence for these hearings will include personal witness narratives, expert testimony on the practices and impacts of fracking, findings from preliminary hearings in other countries, peer reviewed research, reports from preparatory academic round tables, Human Rights Impact Assessments and other forms of evidence.
Prof Anna Grear, Director of GNHRE 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 Peoples’ 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.’’
Anyone wanting more information should go to www.tribunalonfracking.org where there are details of how to submit testimony, organise smaller national pre-PPT initiatives and help with the crowd funding of costs.
Hearings are scheduled for March of 2017 in the United States and in the United Kingdom.