People’s Tribunals are a form of grassroots justice, and take the form of opinion tribunals organised by civil society. The concept is derived from the famous 1966 Russell Tribunal, which held the U.S government to account for war crimes committed in Vietnam. Several other intellectuals, including Jean Paul Sartre and Leilo Basso, participated in the tribunal and the initiative was the start of a long civil society tradition of organising People’s Tribunals for issues where governments failed to provide justice. Most People’s Tribunals are organised to hold states accountable for violations of international law by building public awareness and generating a legitimate evidence record. People’s Tribunals can also play an important role in empowering victims and recording their stories. The form of the Tribunal depends on its objectives – some Tribunals are comparable to truth commissions, while others mimic formal court procedures.
The Permanent People’s Tribunal
The People’s Tribunal on the Murder of Journalists has been convened by the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT). The PPT is an internationally recognized people’s tribunal that organises People’s Tribunals in the tradition of the Russell Tribunals in accordance with its Statute and the Algiers Charter. These Tribunals adhere to procedural norms insofar as possible, deliver high quality legal analysis and advice, and are therefore able to set an example. They do not have formal legal authority, and thus derive their power from the public character of the proceedings, the participants and the integrity of the procedures.