Tribunals of opinion or popular (peoples’) tribunals have been used to create a “public” space for people to draw attention to critical issues at local, national and global levels.

Persons directly affected by different situations (e.g. fracking, injection wells, public information, public participation) can present testimony, bring awareness and advocate for fundamental human rights.

Tribunals are genuine moral sanctions having no official judicial verdict in regard to the State.

Elements of a tribunal Information gathering/decision making as first steps:

1-What is the OBJECTIVE of the tribunal? Is it targeting a certain time, event or important occasion? E.g. Is it organized to feed into a UN meeting?

2- What is the FOCUS area for the tribunal? Will there be a subtheme determined by the location?

3- Form an ORGANIZING COMMITTEE – Who will be involved? What groups are key? Who will take the organizing role?

4- BUILDING CASES – Select 5-10 cases based on the area of focus or subthemes of the tribunal.

5- DOCUMENTATION – This would include note-taking, recording, video, photos.

6- OUTCOMES AND RECOMMENDATIONS – Document outcomes and rec’s, in particular.

Objectives of tribunal:

  • What is the main purpose of holding a tribunal?
  • Is there a specific or crucial message to raise at a critical time?
  • Is there an important event, e.g. global meeting or conference, where the tribunal can happen as a parallel event?
  • Target audience – is there a target audience for the tribunal?
  • Area of focus

Decide on an area of focus for tribunal, or on sub-themes related to the main area of focus:


  1. Injection wells
  2. Public Participation
  3. Oil/Gas waste disposal
  4. Fracking
  5. Public information
  6. Water
  7. Farming

Organizing Committee

  • Bring together partners or a group of dedicated and committed individuals/organizations around the central theme of the tribunal.
  • Ensure a commitment for the duration of the planning process (could be 3-4 months).
  • Decide how often the OC will meet.
  • Select supporters but also workers!
  • Begin recruiting interns/volunteers.

Build Cases

  • It is ideal to organize the focus area and subthemes into mock cases.
  • Based on the focus area(s) and the length of the tribunal, select cases to present at
  • the tribunal.
  • Lead organizer will find witnesses to present on the case.


Case 1: Class II injection wells

Case 2: Public Participation

Case 3: Oil/Gas waste stream disposal

Case 4: Fracking

Case 5: Public information


  • Select primary witnesses as well as secondary, or expert witnesses.

  • Primary witnesses will present their experiences, personal stories, first source information relating to the specific focus area of a case.

  • Expert witnesses provide analysis, studies/reports, documentation, and most importantly, could provide the context and initial introduction of a specific case.

Panel of Judges

  • The selection of Judges is crucial to the tribunal.

  • A panel of Judges will consist of top experts in the field, academics, analysts, prominent members of the community or celebrities.

  • Another purpose is for Judges to attract media if media is wanted at the tribunal.

  • Judges will provide feedback in the form of proposals and recommendations, as well as speak to the media.

  • Select Judges who will provide insight serving to “connect the dots” presented by the witnesses.


  • Documentation is critical to the process of gathering information and highlighting the situation of women. 

  • Documentation could include, but is not limited to:

  • Audio recording of witnesses spoken work

  • Verbatim recording/account of testimony

  • Reports, films and any other supplemental information presented at the tribunal



  • Filming, videography of tribunal

  • Media on tribunal

Final Outcomes and Recommendations

Throughout tribunal, the Judges and experts will have recommendations and other advice to offer.

These recommendations are critical for any follow-up processes of tribunal, such as submitting reports to UN or other authorities.

Record recommendations and demands of the Judges and witnesses.

Prepare report(s), video, … to send to targeted authorities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why organize a tribunal hearing?

As a means to voice concerns, share stories and experiences;

to present testimony and documentation about a critical issue.;

when formal justice does not offer answers, a tribunal is an opportunity for civil society to join forces to advocate for the respect of human rights and be validated.

It raises awareness and highlights an issue.

What can be achieved by a tribunal?
Tribunals aim to put political pressure on governments at the national, regional and international level;

Proposals and information from tribunals are collected, documented and presented to decision-makers and used for public policy purposes;

Tribunals promote the formulation of recommendations, coming to conclusions with the aim of generating the change for the effective fulfillment of human rights.