Protesters at the Stop the Frack Attack march in Washington, DC, in the summer of 2012. (Photo: Ernesto Brown)
“The needs of public conscience can become a recognized source of law […] and a tribunal that emanates directly from the popular consciousness reflects an idea that will make headway: institutionalized powers and the people, from whom the former claim legitimacy in actual fact tend to diverge and only a truly popular initiative can try to bridge the gap between people and power.”—Lelio Basso
Communities and individuals all over the world have been, and are being, affected by fracking operations. Frequently, such affected communities and individuals face powerful corporations and governments unresponsive to the voices of those claiming that their lives and communities have been blighted by fracking. While there is immense public resistance to fracking all over the world, and increasing evidence of health and environmental impacts, it is difficult for people to know where to turn for help and a hearing.
It is against this background that, in early 2015, a coalition of human rights lawyers and academics were granted the opportunity to put fracking on trial at hearings to be conducted in March 2017 by the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT). The coalition of 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), joined by partners and endorsers from across the globe, are organizing two weeks of hearings on the human rights impacts of fracking, one week in the United Kingdom and one week in the United States.
The tribunal’s panel of judges will be asked to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to indict nations on charges of “failing to adequately uphold universal human rights as a result of allowing unconventional oil and gas extraction in their jurisdictions.” In addition, mini-tribunal hearings are currently being organized for Canada, Australia and other locations prior to the main hearings. The findings of mini-tribunals will provide important evidence to the plenary tribunal hearings and are an opportunity for people all over the world to get directly involved in examining their own situations against international human rights law standards.