Fracking Goes on Trial
A coalition of human rights lawyers and academics has been granted an opportunity to put fracking on trial at hearings to be held in the UK and the United States.
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) will hold a session on hydraulic fracturing and other unconventional fossil fuel extraction processes after a submission 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).
Between five and seven jurists of high standing in international human rights law will hear testimony before deciding whether sufficient evidence exists to indict certain nation states on charges of “failing to adequately uphold universal human rights as a result of allowing unconventional oil and gas extraction in their jurisdictions.”
An internationally recognised public opinion tribunal, the Permanent People’s Tribunal is a descendant of the 1967 Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal. The PPT hears cases in which prima facie evidence suggests a breach of the basic rights of ordinary citizens. It acts independently of state authorities and applies internationally recognised human rights law to the cases brought before it. A PPT which examined the Bhopal chemical disaster of 1992 led to the adoption of the Charter on Industrial Hazards and Human Rights.
Dr Damien Short, Director of the HRC 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.”
Submitted evidence for these hearings will include personal witness statements; 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.
Dr Tom Kerns, Director of the EHRA 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.”
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 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.”
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.
Issued by Dr Damien Short
Director: Human Rights Consortium
School of Advanced Study | University of London