Posts Tagged ‘land disputes’

Insight into correspondence between NGOs and UK Foreign office about Colombia

January 31, 2018
On 30 January 2018 IRIN reported that on 20 December 2017, ABColombia (a joint advocacy project on Colombia for CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, SCIAF and Trócaire) sent a letter to Sir Alan Duncan, UK Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, expressing concerns regarding the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia. In the letter, ABColombia asked the Minister to ensure a statement is made at the UN Security Council regarding the extremely high levels of killings of Colombian HRDs and that the UK strongly requests the Colombian Government to officially invite Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, to Colombia. [see also:]

In his response from 17 January 2018, Minister Sir Alan Duncan wrote:

[…] I share your concern about the increasing violence against human rights defenders in Colombia. As you mention in your letter, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has confirmed that 73 social leaders were killed last year. It is verifying a further 11 cases. A disproportionate number of those killed are linked to disputes concerning land restitution. Some also appear to have been targeted for speaking out for the rights of local and indigenous communities. Please be assured that our Embassy in Bogota continues to monitor the situation on the ground closely.

As you know, Colombia is designated a Human Rights Priority Country by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and protection of human rights defenders is a priority focus for our work. I regularly raise violence against human rights defenders during my meetings with Colombian Ministers and the Colombian Ambassador […]

Read the letter that ABColombia sent and the full response by Minister Alan Duncan

11 June: Premiere of “The Cause of Progress” on land rights defenders in Cambodia

June 3, 2016

After more than eight years in the making, the documentary ‘The Cause of Progress’ will have its world première at the Sheffield international documentary festival on 11 June 2016. Preliminary versions of this film by Chris Kelly were shown in closed circles (see: but it has now been finalised. Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights defender Chai Bunthonglek killed at home in Thailand

February 12, 2015

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped reports that on 11 February 2015, land rights defender Mr Chai Bunthonglek was shot and killed at his home in Chaiburi District, Thailand, by an unknown man. Reportedly, the perpetrator fired six bullets at the human rights defender.

[Chai Bunthonglek was a member of the Southern Peasants’ Federation of Thailand – SPFT, a network formed in 2008 to campaign for the right to agricultural land. Chai Bunthonglek is the fourth member of SPFT who has been killed. On 19 November 2012, Ms Montha Chukaew and Ms Pranee Boonrat were shot by unknown individuals near the village of Khlong Sai Pattana in Surat Thani Province. In 2010, Ms Somporn Pattaphum was also shot dead in the area.]

The killing follows the recent incommunicado detention of Mr Pianrat Boonrit, the President of SPFT, on 3 February 2015. The human rights defender was released by the military on 5 February 2015, reportedly on condition that he would mediate between the army and the Premsub Community, and urge the community to leave the area. Allegedly, Pianrat Boonrit was threatened with seven days’ detention if he did not convince the community to leave the land. The human rights defender had been arrested and detained when he presented himself at the Vibhavadi Rangsit Military Camp, Surat Thani Province, in response to a summons to attend an “attitude adjustment camp” for three days.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the killing of Chai Bunthonglek, which it believes to be directly linked to his peaceful and legitimate work in the defence of land rights. Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity and security of Pianrat Boonrit and other members of SPFT.

The plight of land rights defenders was the focus of the annual report of the Observatory last year, see:

Peace Brigades International officially launches its country chapter in Ireland

November 28, 2014

Interesting to note that Peace Brigades International (PBI), in spite of a large number of Irish volunteers working for it, officially launched its local chapter in Ireland only now, Wednesday 26 November 2014. PBI is known for sending teams of international volunteers to areas of conflict at the request of local human rights defenders who are threatened and the volunteers provide protective accompaniment backed up by political support networks around the world.

Peace Brigades International are active in Colombia








At the launch, three visiting human rights defenders from countries where PBI works – Colombia, Kenya and Honduras – spoke about the risks facing human rights defenders in their countries. Honduran lawyer Donald Hernández Palma joined Colombian activist Yomaira Mendoza and Ruth Mumbi Meshack.

[Ms Mendoza’s husband was shot dead in front of her and her family’s land was taken from her illegally. After talking to Colombia’s attorney general about the progress of her case, she was subjected to death threats. After months of trying to reduce her risk in Colombia and re-location attempts within the country, she is now living in exile in Spain.]

[Mr Hernández Palma has been subject to threats and harassment in his work in criminal and environmental law, with a particular focus on mining in Latin America.]

[Ms Meshack is a community mobiliser, and founder and current National Coordinator of Bunge la Wamama, a women’s chapter a movement for social justice and accountability in different parts of Kenya. She has been imprisoned for her work defending human rights.]

Human rights NGO launches in Ireland – RTÉ News.

Martin Ennals Award Jury expresses its concern about Loun Sovath, Martin Ennals Award Laureate 2012

November 22, 2014

On 24 November 2014 the Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) published a letter expressing concern by all 10 NGOs on the Jury about the charges against its 2012 Laureate. Here is the text:

new MEA_logo with text The Martin Ennals Award Jury (Listed Below) is extremely concerned about the flawed and protracted judicial proceedings being used to threaten renowned human rights defender (HRD) Venerable Loun Sovath. He is scheduled to face trial on November 25, 2014. Venerable Sovath is internationally known as the “multimedia monk,” and his efforts to voice the human rights abuses suffered by land communities and HRDs in Cambodia have been recognized globally. The charges brought against Venerable Sovath are groundless and must be dropped immediately. 

Venerable Sovath was awarded the 2012 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. The award was created in 1993 to honor and protect individuals who demonstrate exceptional courage in defending and promoting human rights.

Despite international recognition Venerable Sovath has continually been targeted by religious and legal authorities in Cambodia. He has been subjected on numerous occasions to threats of imprisonment, verbal abuse, death threats, and defrocking, among others.

As part of a wave of arrests, trials, and convictions of social activists and peaceful demonstrators, this case is the renewal of an old case in which Venerable Sovath was charged with incitement to commit a felony [1] for allegedly inciting and leading demonstrations by victims of land conflicts against government authorities in Chi Kreng, Siem Reap, and Boeung Kak lake, Phnom Penh. The trial is now scheduled for November 25, 2014. If convicted, Venerable Sovath faces up to two years in prison and a fine of US$1,000, equivalent to over 4,000,000 Cambodian Riels.

….. The vagueness of the charges and lack of clarity surrounding the legal process raise significant concerns. The Martin Ennals Award Jury calls on the Government of Cambodia to ensure any legal processes are handled in accordance with the principles of the rule of law.

Martin Ennals Award Jury:

– Amnesty International,

– Human Rights Watch,

– Human Rights First,

– Int’l Federation for Human Rights (FIDH),

– World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT),

– Front Line Defenders,

– International Commission of Jurists,

– EWDE Germany,

– International Service for Human Rights,


[1] Cambodia Criminal Code, Article 495 (imposing criminal liability for “Incitement to commit a felony or to disturb social security…”).

see also:


Guatemala: suppression and intimidation of human rights defenders is the norm

May 11, 2014

For the weekend a longer read: On 22 April 2014, human rights defender Dr Yuri Melini in Guatemala discovered that intimidating text had been painted on his front gate. The text names the member of the police provided as personal security to the human rights defender since an assassination attempt was made against him. Yuri Melini is the Director of the Centro de Acción Legal, Ambiental y Social de Guatemala (CALAS) – Legal, Environmental and Social Action Centre of Guatemala. CALAS is an organisation working for the strengthening of environmental issues, community participation and respect for the collective rights of indigenous communities in relation to environmental concerns. The human rights defender was awarded the Front Line Defenders Award in 2009. The human rights defender has previously faced harassment, intimidation, defamation and an attempt on his life as a result of his human rights work, see:  [Last year eighteen human rights defenders were assassinated, a 72-percent increase over 2012, even as the country’s general murder rate has decreased.]

To place this incident in context one should read the report by Patricia DAVIS published in Eurasia Review of 28 April 2014:  “GUATEMALA: SUPPRESSING DISSENT AT HOME AND ABROAD – ANALYSIS”

After a lengthy introduction concerning the ad personam attack by Guatemalan President Molina on Tim Rieser, majority clerk on the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee (for blocking military aid), the article dives into the numerous human rights problems in the country.  Read the rest of this entry »

Example of harassment from Cameroon reads like a film scenario

April 1, 2014

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedOn 28 March 2014, human rights defender Mr Musa Usman Ndamba, a defender of the rights of the Mbororo community in Cameroon, appeared before the Bamenda Court of First Instance, and the trial was once again adjourned to the 23rd of May 2014. The trial of 28 March 2014 was the eighth such hearing in an ongoing trial against Musa Usman Ndamba led by a local wealthy landowner, Baba Ahmadou Danpullo, who has never attended any of the hearings. Meanwhile, two other defenders of the rights of the Mbororo, Messrs Abdulkarim Shehu and Mallam Yunusa are in detention whilst an arrest warrant has been issued for human rights defender Mr Fon Christopher Achobang. Musa Usman Ndamba is the Vice-President of Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA). Abdulkarim Shehu is a male nurse and social development worker, as well as founder and co-ordinator of the Angel of Hope Foundation, a health centre that caters for people with disabilities. Mallam Yunusa is an organiser of the Mbororo community of Banjah. Fon Christopher Achobang is a land rights campaigner and journalist sympathetic to the plight of the Mbororo.

Members of the community and their defenders have long been facing severe judicial and other harassment owing to disputes over their land.  ……On 19 March 2014, authorities of the Catholic Church, led by a representative of the Archbishop of the Bamenda Archdiocese, directed a group of hired militias with a bulldozer to demolish the homes of the Mbororo in the Ndzah village. The community mobilised and stopped the demolition from taking place. However, during the stand-off both the representative of the Archbishop and Fon Christopher Achobang were injured. After the incident, at which he was not present, Abdulkarim Shehu reportedly took members of the police to the site to show them what had happened. Fon Christopher Achobang was forced to go into hiding after threats on his life following the incident. According to lawyers for the Mbororo Banjah community, the invasion took place in spite of a court case pending in the Bamenda Administrative Court with a Stay of Execution of the Order on the now disputed land, as a contested eviction notice had been issued the week before. Additionally, despite having been alerted to the impending invasion, government officials did nothing to stop it from going ahead, in complete violation of the law and the legal rights of the Mbororo community.

Front Line Defenders issued a previous urgent appeal regarding the ongoing judicial harassment against MBOSCUDA and Musa Usman Ndamba on 14 May 2013, while  the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders also sent a communication to the Cameroonian government regarding the same.

Lolita Chávez about land and life in peril in Guatemala

January 29, 2014

This time just a short presentation of Guatemalan human rights defender Lolita Chávez who spoke in Ottawa, Canada, for a group of supporters some time ago (March 2013): Lolita Chávez says it is love of life that motivates her to risk her own as an outspoken Maya Kiche activist against racism, mining, and hydroelectric project developments in the highlands of Guatemala. As a result of her leadership in Guatemala’s Indigenous movement, she is a frequent target of threats, accusations and attempts to label her as working against the national interest, as some sort of enemy of the state. Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights defender and indigenous leader Justo Sorto killed in Honduras

January 24, 2014

On 21 January 2014, the indigenous Lenca leader and human rights defender, Mr Justo Sorto, was found dead in Jesús de Otoro, Western Honduras. Justo Sorto was an active member for twenty years of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Indígenas Populares – COPINH (Civic Council of Popular Indigenous Organisations). The human rights defender was killed by several gunshots from a high-calibre weapon. [ COPINH is an organisation that works for the defence of the land and the environment, and for improving the living conditions of communities and indigenous peoples in Honduras.] The indigenous Lenca community works for the defence of its forests and against the execution of mining projects in the region.  Read the rest of this entry »

Justice maybe on its way for some Human Rights Defenders in Honduras

January 17, 2014

As reported by Front Line Defenders, on 9 January 2014, the Appeals Court of Comayagua provisionally suspended the case against Honduran human rights defenders Ms Berta Cáceres and Messrs Tomás Gómez and Aureliano Molina.  They had been facing charges of usurpation of land, coercion, and causing more than $3 million in damages to DESA, a hydroelectric dam company. The Court further reversed a decision to displace the indigenous Lenca community from their ancestral lands, and revoked the arrest warrant which had been in place against the human rights defenders. No court date has been set for the final decision in the case. Berta Cáceres is the general co-ordinator of Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Indígenas Populares – COPINH (Civic Council of Popular Indigenous Organisations). Tomás Gómez Membreño and Aureliano Molina are also members of COPINH which is working on land, environmental and indigenous rights, particularly in relation to large-scale development projects.

Front Line Defenders welcomes the provisional suspension but remains concerned that the case has not been permanently suspended. It notes that the case comes in the context  large-scale development projects impinging on environmental rights and the rights of indigenous people, and that the principle of free, prior and informed consent is not being fully respected. [for earlier info:]