It was 1966. Lord Bertrand Russell and French philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre had just organized the first Russell Tribunal, a symbolic “peoples’ trial” to present evidence and hold the United States accountable for military intervention and war crimes in Vietnam. The trial was in no way intended to be legal or official — it was meant solely, as Lord Russell had stated, to prevent the crime of silence.
Now, almost 50 years later, the Russell Tribunal has been used as a model to hold a people’s trial to prosecute war crimes in Chile, Brazil, Armenia and Iraq. Most recently, it has evolved into the Russell Tribunal on Palestine — a people’s trial that has held sessions in Barcelona, London and Capetown to present evidence of international and corporate complicity in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. This weekend, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will hold its fourth and final session in New York City — where speakers such as Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Angela Davis and many others will examine the United States and the United Nations for their complicity in the occupation, and failure to meaningfully address Palestine’s right to self-determination.