International Rights of Nature Tribunal established
JUDGES AND INDIGENOUS LEADERS FORM HISTORIC ALLIANCE
Paris, France, 6 December 2015
The International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature was formally established on Dec 4 and 5 as a permanent peoples tribunal with massive support from indigenous representatives and civil society organisations from all over the world. The Tribunal’s judges, made up of internationally renowned lawyers and leaders for planetary justice, heard a wide range of testimonies on ecological violations and rendered decisions based on the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth (UDRME, Bolivia 2010).
Former Argentinian Senator Fernando Pino Solanas characterised the event as a “landmark in human history”, marking the start of a profound shift in humanity’s approach to governance from anthropocentrism to ecocentrism.
The International Rights of Nature Tribunal provides a systemic alternative to environmental protection, recognizing the right of ecosystems to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate their vital cycles.
On Dec 5 Tribunal president Cormac Cullinan invited Chief Raoni (Kayapo) and all indigenous leaders present to join in signing the convention establishing the Tribunal. In turn Chief Raoni invited all parties to the Tribunal to sign the Defenders of Mother Earth Alliance agreement. Judge Tom Goldtooth characterised the mutual signing as representing “an alliance for the sacredness of nature”.
Prior to the Paris Tribunal, which marks the third time this body convenes (Quito 2014; Lima 2014), the Tribunal received a powerful mandate from organisations and communities all over the world which signed the ‘People’s Convention for the Establishment of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal’. This expressions of overwhelming support from civil society for systemic climate solutions recognizing rights of nature highlights the critical gap between symptom-based climate change strategies discussed in COP21 and the transformative leadership civil society is requesting of them.
During the sessions, news reached the Tribunal that negotiators of COP21 were considering the removal of the only mention of “the integrity of ecosystems and Mother Nature” (Pp10 of the draft text) from the treaty.This consideration alone further demonstrates the grave gap between the will of the people and approaches proposed by world decision makers.
The panel of judges dealt with a wide range of topics, including climate crimes, fracking and fossil fuels, agro-industry, megadams, ecocide, BECCS and Free Trade Agreements. The Tribunal charactarised the financialisation and commodification of nature as a crime against the rights of Mother Earth. Bio-engineering, including genetic engineering as practiced today, was also denounced as a crime. The Tribunal condemned the criminalisation of defenders of Mother Earth and environmental activists. Further, the Tribunal stated that any outcome of COP21 resulting in a governance trajectory that will lead to global warming exceeding the 2 degree Celsius threshold would be a violation of the rights of nature.
After two long days of hearings prosecutor Linda Sheehan called on the judges to condemn the COP21 treaty draft text of 5 Dec as illegal, given that the draft ignored the causes for climate change, such as fracking and conventional energy extraction; did not hold governments and people accountable for specific actions; did not address violations of the rights of nature, people and especially indigenous peoples; was therefore in violation of the UDRME, as well as in violation of internationally adopted declarations and laws regarding human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples.
The Tribunal included well known figures such as. Both the global North and South were represented, and the event showed the underlying unity of different civil society actors across the world regarding the climate emergency.
The event marked the convergence of European-based groups -- including the End-Ecocide movement, NatureRights and ATTAC -- and the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, which includes civil society groups, former politicians, indigenous leaders, and others.
In addition to the many cases brought before the judges over these two days, five new cases were brought before the Tribunal for future consideration. The judgements rendered in Paris will form a foundation for future local and global Rights of Nature tribunal hearings, and will give moral weight to civil movements everywhere demanding climate justice.