Preliminary Mini-tribunals

Residents of countries in which hydro-fracking is planned or already underway are encouraged to hold preliminary Mini-tribunals on the human rights dimensions of fracking in their country. Witness accounts, other evidence, arguments and findings from that Mini-tribunal can then be made available to the plenary hearings held in late 2017 or early 2018.

Mini-tribunals will address the question: Does sufficient evidence exist to indict your State on charges of failing to protect the human rights of persons impacted by fracking?

If you wish to hold a preliminary tribunal, please contact the PPT Session Steering Group about the timing of your mini-tribunal and for suggestions about how to begin the process.

Guidelines for preliminary Mini-tribunals

Each country that chooses to hold a preliminary mini-tribunal may choose from a variety of possible formats. You will want to choose a structure that best fits the local situation and yet includes all the essential elements of a mini-tribunal, which include:

1. The question to be addressed by the tribunal

The question for judges to answer is: Does sufficient evidence exists to indict [your state] on charges of failing adequately to respect the human rights of citizens as a result of permitting hydraulic fracturing and other techniques of unconventional oil and gas extraction within its jurisdiction? A Mini-tribunal may focus its work on any or all of the six sub-cases (listed below).

2. Jurists

Each Mini-tribunal can use one judge, a panel of 3-5 judges or a combined panel of judges and respected members of civil society. 

Standard PPT sessions include a panel of judges comprised of eleven members — five to seven jurists of high standing in international human rights law and expert in the field at issue, and recognized representatives of civil society. A panel of judges for a Mini-tribunal will be smaller in number but may choose to keep the ratio of jurists to representatives of civil society.

3. Attorneys

Each Mini-tribunal can use prosecuting attorneys only, or both prosecuting and defense attorneys. Standard PPT practice is that, after the tribunal has been organized, a venue determined and a panel of jurists put together, a summons is issued to the relevant State with an invitation to provide defense attorneys to represent their interests. If a State does not provide defense attorneys, the tribunal will normally provide them for the hearings. A Mini-tribunal can use its own discretion on this matter, but any perception of bias in the hearings should be assiduously avoided.

4. Venue

The location for the tribunal will ideally be centrally located and held in a physical setting that manifests the dignity and authority of the proceedings. The choice of location and settings, however, is less important than the quality of the proceedings themselves. Alternatively, it may be possible to arrange a Mini-tribunal in which the venue is entirely online, perhaps using option-rich meeting software packages, or perhaps using something as basic as Skype.

5. Evidence

Evidence may include personal witness narratives, expert testimony on the practices and impacts of fracking, peer reviewed research, reports from citizen groups, preparatory academic round tables, Human Rights Impact Assessments and amicus curiae briefs. Personal testimony may be submitted orally in person during the Mini-tribunal, or in written, audio or video formats, or streamed concurrently from afar.

6. Findings

Formal hearings may occur over a period of one or more days, after which the judge or panel of judges will deliberate, weigh the evidence and arguments, and issue findings that answer the Mini-tribunal’s question.

7. Robustness

The more robust the proceedings the more reliable and respectable the findings resulting from them. Elements that contribute to increased robustness include:

  • the heft and quality of the submitted evidence, including reliability of personal testimony;
  • a panel of judges rather than a single judge;
  • selecting jurists familiar with human rights law, and selecting jurists and representatives of civil society of recognized character and wisdom who are held in high public regard;
  • including defense attorneys in the proceedings to insure that the evidence and arguments presented by the prosecution are sufficiently tested;
  • requesting PPT approval of the judges and representatives of civil society;
  • employing a structure for the Mini-tribunal that has been approved by the PPT.

Note: the six primary sub-cases

  1. The human health case will address the human rights dimensions of adverse impacts on all dimensions of human physical and mental health.
  2. The environmental, ecosystem, hydrologic and seismicity cases will address the human rights dimensions of adverse environmental, ecosystem and wildlife impacts as well as impacts on air, surface water, groundwater and earthquakes.
  3. The fuels infrastructure case will address the human rights dimensions of exploration, drilling, fracking, extraction and delivery processes as well as of the infrastructure needed for transport, storage and export of product and waste (e.g., pipelines, storage facilities, waste treatment facilities, waste water disposal, LNG terminals, etc).
  4. The climate impacts case will address all the human rights dimensions, for both present and future generations, of fracking and climate change, including of governments’ continued subsidizing of fossil fuels.
  5. The public participation case will include the human rights dimensions of public participation (or lack thereof) in decision-making about unconventional oil and gas exploration, extraction and policy-making.
  6. The social costs case will address the human rights dimensions of social and cultural impacts on individuals, families and communities.