What Is This Session About?

During the week of May 14-18, 2018, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Session on the Human Rights Impacts of Fracking will ask its judges to apply the standards of international human rights law to six subcases addressing the experiences of individuals and communities around the world who are being impacted by unconventional oil and gas extraction and usage, and by its resulting climate effects.

The Tribunal will consider whether sufficient evidence exists to indict certain named States on charges of failing adequately to respect the human rights of citizens as a result of permitting, and failing to adopt a precautionary approach to, hydraulic fracturing and other techniques of unconventional oil and gas extraction within their jurisdictions.

States, as primary duty-bearers for protecting the human rights of their citizens, are the central focus of this investigation, though fossil fuel corporations may be implicated in witness testimony.

The Tribunal’s panel of seven judges — about half of whom will be jurists practiced in international human rights law and expert in this field, and about half of whom will be highly respected members of civil society — will hear testimony submitted by victims, witnesses and experts in various fields, will hear arguments from prosecuting and defense attorneys, and will issue findings.

Prosecuting attorneys will argue that sufficient evidence does exist to indict the named States, while defense attorneys will argue there is not sufficient evidence.

Evidence will be collected during the year leading up to the Tribunal and may include personal witness narratives (which can be submitted via this site), 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, citizen groups, Human Rights Impact Assessments and amicus curiae briefs.

The Tribunal will consider 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 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. The social costs case will address the human rights dimensions of social and cultural impacts on individuals, families and communities.

Preliminary short tribunals and fact finding hearings are encouraged. They may be conducted at any time in any country between now and March 2017, when the plenary hearings are scheduled in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Evidence and findings from those mini-tribunals may then be submitted at the plenary hearings.


For purposes of this Tribunal the term “fracking” will refer to the extraction of shale gas, coal-bed methane/coal seam gas (CBM/CSG) and “tight oil.” A scaled-up form of hydraulic fracturing (high volume), involving injecting fluids under high pressure to crack the rock, is often used to release hydrocarbons during unconventional oil and gas extraction. Unconventional oil and gas extraction is a complex process, involving pad construction, well drilling, casing, stimulation (often including but not limited to hydraulic fracturing), extraction, waste disposal, well plugging (or failure to do so) and abandonment, as well as associated infrastructures such as pipelines, storage facilities, compressor stations and export terminals. The Tribunal will examine evidence on the full range of impacts of all forms of unconventional gas and oil production including, but not limited to, “fracking.”