PERMANENT PEOPLES’ TRIBUNAL ON THE MURDERS OF JOURNALISTS
In continuity with the Opening session of the session on journalists held in The Hague on 2 November 2021, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) will hold three thematic hearings on cases relating to the governments of Mexico, Sri Lanka and Syria, representative of the global scenario of violations of fundamental human rights outlined in the Opening session. The procedure was opened in response to a request from Free Press Unlimited, Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders. The three thematic hearings will take place, for the case of Mexico, on 26-27 April 2022 in Mexico City, and for the cases of Sri Lanka and Syria, on 12-13 May 2022 and on 16-17 May 2022 in The Hague. The final hearing is scheduled for June 20, 2022 in The Hague.
The first thematic hearing will concern the murder of Mexican journalist Miguel Ángel López Velasco. The indictment presented by the requesting organizations holds “the State of Mexico responsible for grave violations of the international human rights of journalist Miguel Ángel López Velasco, specifically the right to life, the right to freedom of expression and the right to an effective remedy.” It refers that “the murders of journalist Miguel Ángel López Velasco, his wife Agustina Solana and their son Misael on 20 June 2011, were part of systemic attacks on journalists in Mexico. In the period 2000-2020, between 46 and 133 murders of journalists were reported in Mexico. Many other journalists have been faced with other forms of physical attacks and harassment, in some cases committed by public officials. Mexico has consistently been ranked as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. […]The case of Miguel Ángel López Velasco is also emblematic of the persistent impunity for murders of journalists in Mexico, widely believed to be one of the drivers of continuing violence against journalists. While the federal government and state governments have adopted several measures to improve the investigation and prosecution of these cases, the impunity rate for murders of journalists remains close to 95%.”
The second thematic hearing will focus on the murder of Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge. The indictment holds “the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka responsible for grave violations of the international human rights of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge, specifically the right to life, the right to freedom of expression and the right to an effective remedy.” It states that“the murder of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge on 8 January 2009 was part of systematic attacks of journalists during the civil war in Sri Lanka. Particularly in the last months of the war and the aftermath, the government, under the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa as President and Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Secretary of Defence, authorized attacks on journalists including abductions, assaults, torture and killings. More publicly, the Rajapaksa regime arrested, deported, and sued journalists and attempted to enact laws and regulations limiting the free press. […] The case of Lasantha Wickrematunge is also emblematic of the notorious culture of impunity in Sri Lanka for human rights violations. International bodies have found that no progress has been made in the majority of cases from the civil war, and that the justice system is particularly inadequate for remedies against powerful public figures and government actors”.
The third and final thematic hearing will focus on the murder of Syrian journalist Nabil Walid Al-Sharbaji. The indictment holds “the Syrian Arab Republic responsible for grave violations of the international human rights of journalist Nabil Walid Al-Sharbaji, specifically the right to freedom from torture, the right to life, the right to freedom of expression and the right to an effective remedy.” It affirms that “the murder of journalist Nabil Walid Al-Sharbaji, as a result of the conditions of his arbitrary detention and the acts of torture he was subjected to, was part of systematic attacks on journalists in Syria. Since the start of the conflict in 2011, at least 23 journalists have been murdered in reprisal for their work, with many others killed in crossfire or faced with other forms of physical attacks and intimidation. The Syrian government was responsible for the majority of the violations committed against journalists between 2011 and 2021, […] The impunity for these crimes against journalists is nearly complete. Syria has one of the highest impunity rates for murders of journalists in the world, and victims and their relatives lack access to justice. The exceptional measures instituted under emergency law both enable government actors to violate the rights of journalists, and contribute to a climate of impunity. Investigation and prosecution of cases involving the murder of a journalist are further complicated by the lack of an independent judiciary, as well as far-reaching impunity and amnesty legislation.”
The panel of judges, convened by the PPT President and the PPT General secretary, is integrated by, in alphabetical order: Eduardo Bertoni (Argentina), Representative of the Regional Office for South America of the InterAmerican Institute of Human Rights; Marina Forti (Italy), journalist and writer; Gill H. Boehringer, (Australia) former Dean and now Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the School of Law, Macquarie University, Sydney; Mariarosaria Guglielmi (Italy), Magistrate, Vice President of Medel (Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et Libertés); Helen Jarvis (Australia-Cambodia), Vice President of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal; Nello Rossi (Italy), Vice President of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal; Kalpana Sharma (India), independent journalist; Philippe Texier (France), President of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal and Marcela Turati Muñoz (Mexico), freelance journalist.
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The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) is an international opinion tribunal that is competent to judge any type of crime committed causing injury to peoples and minorities. It was established in Bologna in 1979 thanks to the intuition of jurist and politician Lelio Basso, on the basis of the framework defined in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of People (1976). Established as a direct continuation of the Russel Tribunals on Vietnam (1966-67) and Latin America (1973-76), it was then transformed into a permanent institution, able to give a voice and visibility to those people facing a lack of their rights, and impunity. The Tribunal is built around a network of 70 internationally recognized experts and actors, who are then appointed for the PPT panel of judges for each session. Through its 48 sessions and judgments, the Tribunal has given visibility to several cases of serious human rights violations, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. It has recently expanded the scope of its competence to include economic, ecological, and systemic crimes.
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is based in Rome, at the Fondazione Lelio e Lisli Basso, Via della Dogana Vecchia 5.