Common Action Tribunal (CAT)

The Common Action Tribunal (CAT) is an initiative designed to facilitate dialogue and ethical deliberation, serving as a complement to the annual fora for ideas convened by the Common Action Forum (CAF).

In the center of the image, the fixed members of the gallery, Eduardo Barcesat (President of the CAT) and Renata Ávila (Secretary of the CAT) accompanied by Wadah Khanfar (Chairman of the CAF). On the left, invited experts Baltazar Garzón and Agnes Callamard. On the right, invited experts Valeska Teixeira and Cristiano Zanin.

What are the specific competencies of the CAT?

The CAT is critical and pedagogical in nature, and does not issue condemnatory or binding sentences. Its mission is to bring visibility to phenomena of interest to the international community. In the complexity of modern times, with the technological innovation and globalized systems that affect our natural and human environs, universal and fundamental rights violations have recently taken new forms. They require novel, extensive analysis, regarding both the way in which they operate, as well as of their repercussions.

What is the CAT’s objetive?

The CAT will issue resolutions that offer an ethical roadmap to address asymmetries and contradictions inherent to the structural problems affecting our global citizenry, so as to provide orientation towards a common order in our world.

Who forms part of the CAT?

Formally the Tribunal is made up of three entities: the Presidency, the Secretariat and the Group of Experts. The first two positions are occupied by individuals formally linked to the Common Action Forum’s Boards. Currently, Eduardo Barcesat presides over the Tribunal, and Renata Ávila over the Secretariat. The third entity is composed of external individuals renowned for their career trajectories, who after participating as experts in the OCTAGON, bring their expertise to the CAT.

What does the Tribunal do?

In keeping with the annual working theme decided upon by CAF, for which around 50 experts from varying disciplines and cultures meet to debate upon, concrete phenomena are defined to become the subject matter of CAT.
Petitions must be filed in the working languages of the Tribunal, English or Spanish, and sent by email to, or via postal mail to the address: CAT, Common Action Forum Foundation, Calle Claudio Coello 5, 4D 28001, Madrid, Spain. If submitted by post, it must be accompanied, when possible, with a USB of the information digitalized. In the near future, a secure mechanism will be put in place to send in cases electronically and anonymously.
Once submitted, the issue and its material will be deliberated upon within ninety days of receipt. When submitting the petition, it is important to provide reasoning as to why society would benefit from clarification on the issue. The CAT also provides mechanisms to submit petitions and evidence relevant to deliberations on the selected subject matter or phenomenon.

When does the Tribunal take place?

The CAT operates permanently and conducts an annual meeting in Madrid immediately following the OCTAGON, usually during the month of November. At this time, the Tribunal organizes a press conference to present the fruit of its work to the public, as well as to communicate the material it will examine the following year.

What does the Tribunal currently address?

The most recent OCTAGON 2019 dealt with the «Era of Security.» Within the framework of this conference, two phenomena were chosen as subject matter for the CAT in 2019/2020: whistleblowing and lawfare. The first was selected because it affects the security of journalists and criminalizes so-called «whistleblowers» committed to a more just world (the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, for example, was an active member in our gatherings until he was brutally murdered). The latter was chosen as it is a modus operandi about which very little is known; meanwhile, it threatens the guarantee of rule of law in democratic states, and with geopolitical ends, instrumentalizes laws, influences public opinion, manipulates politics and appropriates economies. Both phenomena operate independently of the political spectrum and must be made known to the public in all their complexity.

 What historic precedents inspired the CAT?

The guiding and inspiring principles of the CAT are those found in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is also inspired by: the Permanent People’s Tribunal, founded in Bologna in 1976; the Bertrand Russell-Jean Paul Sartre Tribunal, which judged atrocities committed in Vietnam, founded in Paris in 1967; and finally, additional ethics tribunals that held to account the systematic violations of human rights committed in Guatemala, Tokyo, Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, among others.
At the same time, the CAT is differentiated from these examples by essence of its forward-thinking and pluralistic nature, both in phenomenological and epistemological terms.

Common Action Tribunal (CAT)