Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) is a body which, by statute, is part of the International Section of Lelio Basso Foundation. Set up in June 1979, it is the direct continuation of the opinion tribunals Russell I and II.

The PPT is an opinion tribunal whose activities include identifying and publicising cases of systematic violation of fundamental rights, especially cases in which national and international legislation fails to defend the right of the people.

An opinion tribunal is an innovation in the field of law and politics, the legitimacy of which Lelio Basso discussed at length reaching the conclusion that: “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”.

In its three decades of activity the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal has followed, anticipated and supported the struggles of peoples against violations of their fundamental rights, such as the denial of the principle of self-determination, foreign invasions, environmental destruction and all cases of new forms of economic dictatorship and slavery.

PPT action is based on the principles expressed in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples. After analysing the reality and complex historical, political and economic causes that lead to violations of the right of peoples, it issues “rulings”, of a legal nature, against those responsible for violations of these rights. The PPT is permanent and the jury members, chosen for their moral, scientific, and literary qualities, reflect its ideological pluralism; some of the members are Nobel laureates.

Since its inception, the TPP has organized 38 sessions, all dealing with internal and external violations of peoples’ self-determination. Of the issues dealt with in recent years, the problems of the roots of legality, illegality, and international law have been addressed in the following sessions: “Impunity in Latin America” (1991), “Conquest and international law” (1992), “The policies of the IMF and World Bank” (1989 and 1994), “International law and new wars” (2002). Another important area of analysis is economic crimes, seen as structural categories of human rights violations. This was the focus of the sessions on “industrial disasters”, such as Bhopal (1992) and Chernobyl (1996), and those on “Transnational corporations and peoples’ rights in Colombia” (2006-2008) and “The European Union and transnational companies in Latin America” (2006-2010).

All rulings are sent to major international bodies and many have been discussed by the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.