International Climate Justice Tribunal Preliminary Hearing, Cochabamba, Bolivia 13th and 14th of October 2009



In the city of Cochabamba in the Plurinational State of Bolivia, on the 13th and 14th of October 2009, the International Climate Justice Tribunal held a Preliminary Hearing, receiving with great respect the initiative of the Bolivian social organisations and the international networks. The condemnation of seven cases regarding the impact of climate change and the violation of communities’, peoples’ and Mother Earth’s rights was heard.




The Earth’s climate is changing at an accelerated speed due to (in)human action. The effects of the global temperature increase can be seen throughout the planet, and they are even higher than the scientists’ forecasts. Climate change is the greatest problem mankind will face, not only due to its direct impacts but also because other existing problems will become more serious, such as poverty, famine, violence, gender inequality, land and food control, access to water and sanitation, amongst others. Therefore, climate change represents a serious threat against the basic elements of human life in different parts of the world: access to a water supply, food production, health, use of land and environment.


The current economic and political system, as well as the international set-up of trade, finance and investments which support exaggerated levels of consumption, are the main causes of the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases, generated mainly by the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas and others). These are used to produce energy and for transport which maintains the current development model, as well as deforestation, industrial agriculture and the mining industry.


Climate Justice is based on the understanding that, whilst climate change requires global actions, the Northern Industrial Countries are historically responsible for having produced the greatest part (80%) of greenhouse gases over the last 250 years. Low cost energy –oil, coal and gas- has been the power behind their quick industrial and economic growth, without recognising the ecologic, social, financial and historical debt to the southern communities and nature, for which they are responsible. Southern communities and low income communities of the Northern Industrial areas have taken the toxic “burden” of mining and fossil fuels, their transport and production. Now these communities are facing the worst impacts of climate change.


Foundation and background of this Tribunal


Although this duty has not been entrusted to us by any formally constituted legal authority, we have become responsible for it in the name of mankind and in defence of civilisation and Mother Earth.


The initiative of this Tribunal reacts to the needs of responding to a lack of mechanisms and institutions which sanction climate crimes that have taken place so far. It does not have any binding state character, because its constitution and functioning do not originate from judicial power but from organised civil society. Its decisions seek ethical, moral and political meanings and wish to become the necessary force which requests that governments and multilateral bodies assume their responsibilities within the framework of equality and climate justice.


We are inspired by the initiatives of the people to establish Ethical Opinion Tribunals, such as the Russell Tribunal (1967), established to judge and condemn war crimes committed by the United Estates in Vietnam and which later on (1974-1976) prosecuted the crimes and human rights violations committed by the dictatorships in American countries. Also the Permanent People’s Tribunal, founded in 1979 which, throughout the more than 30 years it has been functioning, has followed, anticipated and supported the communities’ struggles against the wide range of violations of their basic rights, including the refusal of their self-determination, foreign invasions, new dictatorships and slavery of the economy and the destruction of the environment. We are also inspired by the work of other independent tribunals such as the International People’s Tribunal on Debt and the Water Tribunal. They are all trying to highlight and qualify those situations in which the massive abuse of basic rights does not have recognition or an institutional answer and are legitimised by the tremendous will of the population, in contrast to the power of governments and companies.


Cases submitted at the First Hearing


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