Posts Tagged ‘Eviction’

Russian NGO “For Human Rights” forcibly evicted from offices

June 25, 2013

Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders condemns the brutal use of force against the Russian NGO ‘’For Human Rights’’ and its chairman Lev Ponomaryov, during the organisation’s forcible eviction Saturday night, 22 June 2013. Read the rest of this entry »

Cambodia’s land dispute takes centre stage in future documentary “Cause of Progress”

January 2, 2013

The Cause of Progress” tells the story of the lives of three Cambodians caught up in the country’s chaotic and often violent economic progress, set against the backdrop of the shifting political, religious and familial landscapes of modern-day Cambodia. Shot over the course of three years, the film is a unique and intimate portrait of modern Cambodia. At times poignant and emotional, at others violent and chaotic, the film explores the impact of progress on modern society – from the corruption of the national religion, to the disintegration of the family, to the abusive power and kleptocracy of the ruling political elite.

What is happening in Cambodia is happening all over the developing world, from South America to Africa to Eastern Europe – land is being colonised by the developed world and the local elites, while the rightful owners are being displaced. This film addresses one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Each of the three personal narratives focuses on a different aspect of the story but forced evictions and land grabbing recur across all three. The Venerable Loun Sovath is a Human Rights Defender who uses video as part of his activist campaigning, all the while fighting against the corruption within his religious order. He is the 2012 Laureate of the MEA. Sopheap, facing eviction and waiting for a new home, is struggling to start a new business while she tries to cope with her slowly disintegrating family. And Srey Pov – at the front lines of a high profile forced eviction – comes face to face with a corrupt political elite and the sometimes difficult relationship between global institutions and the developing world.

This film will offer a unique insight into a country at a pivotal time in its development, finally shaking off the legacy of the past and the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia’s future direction is uncertain.

Those who want to keep up to date on future developments of this project should sign up to the film’s blog, join its facebook group, and mailing list and follow on twitter @chriskellyfilm

Luon Sovath by Dovona

Luon Sovath by Dovona

Filmmaker Chris Kelly filming at Boeung Kak lake. Image © Nicolas Axelrod 2010.

Luon Sovath speaks out on Radio Free Asia

November 10, 2012

On 7 November the activist monk Luon Sovath, MEA Laureate of 2012, spoke to Radio Free Asia about his work.

As the interview is quite interesting I copied here in in full:

Fresh from receiving the “Nobel Prize for Human Rights,” Cambodia’s technology-savvy activist monk Loun Sovath has called on authorities in his country to end the use of violence in land eviction cases, vowing to continue his struggle to protect victims of land grabs. He also said he would not be cowed by government harassment and called on his fellow monks, often respected as figures of moral authority in Cambodia, to join in the struggle to defend villagers who have become victims of forced evictions. Loun Sovath was the first Southeast Asian to be presented with the 2012 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders as he was selected for documenting the struggle of land rights activists and ordinary citizens evicted from their homes in his impoverished country. The monk collected the award—viewed by many as the Nobel Prize for Human Rights—in Geneva last month.

“The Buddha advised people to do good deeds both physically and mentally,” he told RFA’s Khmer service during an interview in Washington on Wednesday. “Respecting human rights is a good deed which will lead to peace and prosperity for this world and in the next. So for monks to become rights defenders is nothing against Buddhism, but can lead to enlightenment and peace.” “Monks play a vital role in society. I appeal to monks to rise up to follow in the Buddha’s footsteps,” he said. Loun Sovath  said the Cambodian people must also rise up to demand their rights, highlighting land disputes as the one of the biggest issues facing the public in the country.

“The authorities must stop using violence against innocent villagers who are the victims of land grabbing,” he said. Research by Cambodian rights group LICADHO shows that some 2.1 million hectares of land has been given to private companies in the form of land concessions over the last two decades. The massive transfer has led to countless forced evictions and affected over 400,000 people in the 12 provinces that LICADHO monitors since 2003 alone, the group said.

Sovath is currently touring the U.S., meeting with the Cambodian community and addressing various nongovernmental organizations on the human rights situation in his country. He began his nearly two-month visit last week in New York, traveled to Washington, and arrived in Chicago Thursday. Sovath said he was honored to receive the Martin Ennals Award.

“I was given the award because I have worked as a rights defender and a protector of social justice involved with land issues, forced evictions, and the protection of natural resources and wildlife,” he said. In June 2011, the New York-based Human Rights Watch awarded Loun Sovath with the Hellman/Hammett grant for his work supporting communities facing forced evictions and land-grabbing in Cambodia.

Luon Sovath by Dovana

Years of activism Sovath first became involved in human rights work in 2009, when members of his family were injured during a police shootout at unarmed villagers in a land eviction case. The monk’s brother and nephew were wounded in the standoff, which he documented in a video. He is known for his extensive use of video to inform the world about his confrontations with authorities, earning him the nickname “multimedia monk.” The monk is rarely seen without a mobile phone or tablet. He also uses songs and art to spread his non-violent message of defending human rights. Loun Sovath said he strove to protect human rights in the interest of his country. “I have a desire to help build Cambodia,” he said. In June, Loun Sovath was briefly detained by Cambodian authorities and accused of “causing instability” after he joined protests against the jailing of 13 women over a long-running forced land eviction case in the capital Phnom Penh. Municipal monk officials threatened to have him defrocked as a monk, but released him after he put his thumbprint on a statement assuring that he will not join future protests. Loun Sovath had been banned in April from entering pagodas in Phnom Penh after he participated in land protests.

Sovath, who has since participated in various protests, said he would not stop his activism even though he was concerned about his personal safety. “The authorities have tried to prevent me from doing good things and from helping the country and [the Buddhist] religion,” Sovath said. “I can’t accept this because I have done nothing wrong,” he said. “As long as human rights violations continue to exist in Cambodia, I will continue to do my work.”

Reported by Samean Yun for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Copyright © 1998-2011 Radio Free Asia. All rights reserved.

Boeung Kak Lake women sentenced for peaceful protest in Cambodia

June 20, 2012

On 24 May I reported that the Buddhist monk Luon Savath, nominee of the 2012 MEA detained and threatened with defrocking, which would open the way to criminal prosecution. This has not happened yet but the group of 13 women whose protest he was supporting and covering with his video camera, were sentenced as reported by the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) on 19th June 2012 

Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake has been an area of ongoing land disputes which has resulted in more than 600 families receiving land grants and over 3,500 families being evicted, while other families have been unfairly excluded from receiving land titles. On the 22nd of May about eighty members of the community gathered peacefully at the sand filled lake to sit and sing land rights songs in support of eighteen displaced families. Before noon, it was reported that about two hundred Phnom Penh police and anti-riot police carrying shields and sticks surrounded some of the protesters and arrested thirteen women. Within forty-eight hours all the women received prison sentences, including a seventy two year-old grandmother, to thirty months of imprisonment under Articles 34 and 259 of the Land Law and Articles 504 of the Penal Code.

WHRD IC is particularly concerned that proceedings began only an hour after charges were filed and those proceedings lasted only three hours. Lawyers asked for a delay to allow the preparation of a defense, which is their right under Cambodian law. However not only was this refused, but the lawyers for the accused were also refused access to the files, state evidence, and were not permitted to call witnesses (some of whom were on standby outside the court). Furthermore, two community representatives, who were to act as witnesses for the defense, were arrested outside the court on the same charges; they have since been released on bail under the supervision of the court. Other witnesses, media and the public were not admitted to the courtroom to observe the proceedings. This irregular judicial process denied the women their right to a fair trial and was in clear violation of Cambodia’s Code of Criminal Procedure.

The women have appealed their convictions to the Appeal Court and requested bail; the appeal court hearing is scheduled for 27 June. There has also been a lack of response to calls from the international community, including WHRD IC members, to the Prime Minister Hun Sen to vacate the convictions of the women.

The WHRD IC calls for the Cambodian authorities to:

·        Immediately vacate the convictions and unconditionally release the thirteen women and also drop the criminal charges of the two other community representatives now out on bail.
·        Uphold the right to a fair and just trial and the right of peaceful assembly for all its citizens under the Cambodian law and international standards, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Cambodia is a state party.
·        Grant land titles to the families who have been excluded and to provide adequate compensation to those who were evicted in full compliance with international human rights standards.
·        Fulfil their commitments under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders to ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities.

For more information including articles, photos and video please visit The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) website http://www.licadho-cambodia.org/ and the Free the 15! Blog http://freethe15.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/solidarity-action-5-ceremony-to-free-the-15/

Amnesty publishes video on forced evictions in Africa

May 17, 2012

List of Nobel Peace Prize laureates

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amnesty International shows its ‘new’ broadened mandate with this short video on forced evictions in Africa. In 4 languages on YouTube: video by AI on forced evictions in Africa. It highlights the kind of human rights violations that the 2012 nominee of the MEA in Cambodia is dealing with: see short film on the multimedia monk on http://www.martinennalsaward.org

Breaking news: the venerable Luon Sovath from Cambodia – MEA 2012 nominee

April 24, 2012

Today the nominees of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders 2012 are announced in Geneva. The ann0uncement was made by the new Chair of the Martin Ennals Foundation, Mrs Micheline Calmy Rey, until last year the President of and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.  Each nominee deserves its own post!

One of the 3 nominees is the venerable Luon Sovath from Cambodia. In Cambodia forced evictions remove families from their homes and lands with little or no notice, without genuine consultation, and often without compensation. Despite threats of violence, arrest and disrobing, the venerable Luon Sovath, a non-violent, innovative human rights defender, firmly supports and documents at-risk rural and urban communities, mainly by advocating to stop forced evictions, documenting their struggles with videos (the venerable Sovath  is also known as the ‘Multimedia Monk’ as he is never without his camera, his mobile phone and his laptop), poems and songs, defending their right to housing, as well as for adequate compensation and alternative housing, organizing public forums to educate communities on how Buddhism, human rights and democracy are in the same line. His peaceful, non-violent approach (the venerable Sovath also composes songs to unite and inspire – regularly distributing the songs on CDs to the communities) is crucial in the nascent grassroots mobilization of affected communities nationwide; his increasingly prominent role has drawn the reaction of the authorities, and his advocacy against forced evictions touches powerful economic interests. The threats against the venerable Sovath are very real, from powerful businessmen, from the authorities and even from some of the conservative clergy.