The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, based in Rome, is an internationally recognized public opinion tribunal functioning independently of state authorities. It applies internationally recognized human rights law and policy to cases brought before it. The PPT is a descendant of the 1967 Bertrand Russell-Jean Paul Sartre Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal, and hears cases in which prima facie evidence suggests abridgement of basic rights of ordinary people.

PPT Sessions are virtually identical to courtroom proceedings in which a complainant or class of complainants brings an action against a government or private party and asks that they be judged against legal standards. The Peoples’ Tribunal, comprised of eleven members, including five to seven jurists of high standing in international human rights law as well as expert in the field, along with internationally well known representatives of civil society, hears testimony from victims, witnesses and experts in various fields, hears arguments from prosecuting and defense attorneys, deliberates and in time issues judgments and recommends remedies..

“The importance and strength of decisions by the PPT rest on the moral weight of the causes and arguments to which they give credibility, as well as the integrity and capability to judge of the Tribunal members.” The goal of PPT Sessions is “recovering the authority of the Peoples when the States and the International Bodies failed to protect the right of the Peoples.”

Complaints heard by the Tribunal are submitted by the victims or by groups or individuals representing them. The PPT calls together all parties concerned and offers defendants the opportunity to make their own arguments heard. The panel of judges is selected for each case by combining members who belong to a permanent list and individuals who are recognized for their competence and integrity.

From June 1979 to the present date the PPT has held some 40 sessions whose results and judgements are available here.”

Some recent cases on which the PPT has held Sessions and rendered judgments include:

  1. Peoples’ Tribunal on Sri Lanka, 7-10 December 2013, Bremen, Germany
  2. Session on Agrochemical Transnational Corporations, 3-6 December 2011, Bangalore, India.
  3. The European Union and Transnational Corporations in Latin America: Policies, Instruments and Actors Complicit in Violations of the Peoples’ Rights, 14-17 May 2010, Madrid, Spain.
  4. The Canadian Mining Industry Hearing on Latin America, 29 May – 1 June 2014, Montréal, Canada.

Purposes and benefits of PPT Sessions include:

  • Providing witnesses opportunity for their personal testimony to be heard, documented and entered into the public record;
  • Presenting and rehearsing testimony, arguments and law that can later be used in national and international courts;
  • Educating parties and the public about the human rights dimensions of actions undertaken by the defendants.

Primary differences between a Peoples’ Tribunal Session and national courts are that the Peoples’ Tribunal does not rely on state-based legal authority but instead acts independently of states, politics and corporate and other  vested interests. While its findings do not have the compulsory legal force of state-based courts, the legal standards against which defendants are judged are those expressed in broadly endorsed international human rights law.