Rights of Nature Tribunal Press Conference at UNFCCC COP20 in Lima

The prominent International Tribunal issues verdicts on 12 cases of violations to nature and communities

The Tribunal finds corporations, United Nations and governments guilty of violating nature’s rights. Watch the Press conference at

UNFCCC Press Conference video link


At a UNFCCC Press Conference Osprey Orielle Lake (USA), Pablo Solon (Bolivia), Tom BK Goldtooth (Indigenous, Turtle Island, USA), Atossa Soltani (USA) and Nnimmo Bassey (Nigeria) report out results of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal.

Osprey Orielle Lake, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, provides a summary of the 12 cases heard and resulting decisions by the Rights of Nature Tribunal convened December 5-6, 2014.  Highlighting that current legal systems recognize Nature as property without rights recognized within the law, Ms Lake reported the Tribunal concluded “we need to change the DNA of legal systems in order to recognize Rights of Nature ~ Rights of Mother Earth.  The Tribunal examined egregious violations to rights of Nature and repeated violations to Defenders of the Earth. The Lima Tribunal was dedicated to Jose Tendetza, Shuar leader from the rich bio-diverse  Condor Mine region of Ecuador who was found murdered just days before he was scheduled to present the Condor Mine Case to the Tribunal and in Lima.

Pablo Solon was lead presenter of the case addressing Climate Change and False Solutions.  “Climate Change represents systemic violations to the Rights of Nature.  Key responsible parties are governments, transnational corporations, the UN system, and the capitalist system.  Presenters requested the Tribunal to go deep into the analysis.  Extractive industries of oil, gas and coal don’t want to leave fossil fuels in the ground. It is not a problem of emission cuts, it is MUCH bigger.  It is a problem of extraction and this issue is not even being discussed here [at the UN COP.]  For us it is key to discuss the structural causes of climate change.  It is not only about emission cuts, it is about patterns of consumption, patterns of production, and the logic of capital.  Why all the economies want to grow and grow forever, even beyond the limits of the earth systems? That is not needed for humanity but that is needed for capital.  Capital that does not grow, that does not get more profit, is capital that is displaced from the market.  If we are not able to move away from this logic of capital, we are not going to be able to address climate change. That is why for us, in order to preserve the Rights of Mother Earth we need to clearly address these four key factors.”

Tom Goldtooth served as judge to hear the case of REDD and Forests to determine whether REDD and REDD type projects violate the Rights of Mother Earth. “We heard from experts that REDD [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation] is a global initiate to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests to compensate governments and companies or owners of forests in developing countries, not to cut  the carbon rich forests or to reduce the rate of deforestation and forest degradation as a market mechanism to avoid greenhouse gas emissions.  REDD+ expands REDD to develop methods of for carbon sequestration … in developing countries.

Indigenous peoples throughout the Tribunal consistently provided a foundation for the Tribunal understanding that climate solutions have to embrace the human relationship and responsibility and duty of humanity to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth, nature, Pachamama and the concept of Father Sky.  The Indigenous Peoples stated that they have natural laws of nature that have been developed since the beginning of time that allow them to live in harmony with nature.  From the testimony it is clear that REDD and related regimes such as carbon trading, carbon cycling, demonstrate that REDD projects inherently violate the rights of Mother Earth.  The Tribunal recommended the case be extended to receive additional testimony from experts and witnesses.

Atossa Soltani spoke of the violations of the Belo Monte Dam to nature, the Amazon Basin and the Indigenous Peoples impacted.  The dam is 7 km long and 70 meters high.  While the dam is promoted by the Brazil government as “clean energy”, the dams actually generate significant levels of methane that is 50x more potent than C)2.  Furthermore, the Belo Monte is only one of a number of dams being proposed. There have been 22 law suits that have been presented against the dam but these suits have gone no where.  The Brazilian government is disregarding these suits as well as other rulings.  Not only the rights of nature are being violated but also the rights of Indigenous Peoples and their livelihood because of the impact to the environment, fish and food sources are being impacted.  The Tribunal recommended that a special session be held in Brazil to present more evidence and to look had what parties are responsible for the violations including the government, mining consortiums, banking industry, and others.

Nnimmo Bassey noted that before he left Nigeria his temperature was checked twice.  Had his temperature been elevated by 0.8 degrees Celsius, he would have been quarantined and not allowed to leave the country.  Now at the COP we are talking about the temperature of the earth going beyond 1 or 2 degrees. It means that the earth is suffering from high fever. But we cannot quarantine the planet.  We need to quarantine the transnational corporations and those responsible for this temperature increase. These are the issues the Rights of Nature Tribunal brought forth.  This is a crime against nature.

Prominent International Tribunal issues verdicts on 12 cases of violations to nature and communities

Panel finds corporations, United Nations and governments guilty of violating nature’s rights.

Alberto Acosta, President of the distinguished Tribunal and former president of the Constitutional Assembly of Ecuador, led the 13 judges through 12 cases presented on the 5th and 6th of December in the Gran Hotel Bolivar in Lima. The Tribunal determined to expand the evidence, and even establish international commissions and special sessions.

“This permanent ethical tribunal is a call to humanity to encounter nature. This body arises when States fail to fulfill their obligation to preserve the lives of living beings, said Acosta. The judgments have been rendered having as a legal framework the Rights of Nature and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. “The rights of nature must have a universal validity,” he said. As long as nature is seen as property in law, there can be no justice for communities, or nature.

The 12 cases heard demonstrate egregious violations to rights of nature and human rights. The Tribunal was dedicated to Shuar leader José Tendentza who was found murdered just days before the Tribunal. Tendentza of Southern Ecuador was scheduled to present the Condor Mine case to the Tribunal. Cases included:

  • False Solutions related to Climate Change and REDD+;
  • Peruvian cases: Conga Mine, Bagua Massacre – Defenders of Earth, 4 River Basins of Peru;
  • Ecuadorian cases: Condor Mine, Chevron/Texaco, and Yasuni ITT
  • Brazil: Belo Monte Dam
  • USA and Bolivia: Hydraulic fracturing “fracking”
  • Oceans: BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, coal mine and other threats to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

The distinguished panel of judges included: Alberto Acosta, economist and former President of the Constituent Assembly from Quito, Ecuador; Verónica Mendoza, Peru Congress member, representative of the region of Cusco; Raúl Prada Alcoreza, philosopher, sociologist, author, former member of the Bolivian Constituent Assembly of 2006-2007, Bolivia; Hugo Blanco director of the monthly publication “Lucha Indígena”, Perú; Tantoo Cardinal, actress (e.g., Dances with Wolves) and activist from the Tar Sands of Canada; Blanca Chancoso, Kichwa leader and educator from Cotacachi, Imbabura, Ecuador; Edgardo Lander, sociologist, professor, from Venezuela; Tom Goldtooth, Dine’/Dakota, director of Indigenous Environmental Network from MN, USA; Francios Houtart, professor, philosopher, theologian, member of the Permanent People’s Tribunal, Belgium; Osprey Orielle Lake, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, USA; Rocío Silva Santiesteban, National Human Rights Coordinator, author, professor, Perú; Atossa Soltani, founder and Executive Director of Amazon Watch, USA; and Terissa Turner, professor Sociology and Anthropology, former UN Energy Specialist, Canada.

Ramiro Avila, environmental attorney form Ecuador, served as Prosecutor for the Earth.  Natalia Greene and Robin Milam, Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, served as Secretariat.

Watch the Press conference at