Posts Tagged ‘Land issues’

Human rights defenders working on development issues are increasingly stigmatized, UN Rapporteur tells General Assembly

October 29, 2013

 

Human rights defenders working on behalf of communities affected by large-scale development projects are increasingly being branded ‘anti-government’, ‘against development’ or even ‘enemies of the State’, the Special Rapporteur for human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, has warned. Read the rest of this entry »

Killing of 3 indigenous HRDs in Honduras on 25 August

August 30, 2013

On 25 August 2013, human rights defenders Ms María Enriqueta Matute, Mr Armando Fúnez Medina and Mr Ricardo Soto Fúnez were killed in an attack in Honduras. The three belonged to various tribes of the Tolupán indigenous people, from Locomapa, in the Yoro zone, and had been involved in a peaceful protest against a local mining operation and the construction of Read the rest of this entry »

Special Rapporteur’s next report focuses on HRDs and large-scale development projects: you can contribute!

June 14, 2013

The next thematic report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, to the General Assembly in October 2013 will focus on the links between large-scale development projects and a safe and enabling

environment for human rights defenders, with a particular emphasis on the challenges of the human rights-based approach to development and the role of human rights defenders. This is indeed – as also shown in this blog – a growing area of concern with many HRDs working on e.g. land grabbing, forced evictions, environmental issues or the protection of indigenous minorities under constant threats and many having been killed .

To this end, the Special Rapporteur is requesting Member States, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations and regional human rights mechanisms to answer a questionnaire. If you would like to contribute to this exercise, kindly complete the questionnaire and send it to defenders@ohchr.org. Deadline: 24 June 2013!. Should you have any question, please send an e-mail to the same address.  Questionnaire to be found via Questionnaire on large-scale development.

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

Another Guatemalan Human Rights Defender murdered – 3 others released by kidnappers

March 27, 2013

On 18 March 2013, the body of human rights defender and indigenous peoples’ leader Encarnación Marcos Ucelo was found, following his kidnapping by heavily armed men the day before. His body reportedly showed signs of strangulation and his hands were tied. Fellow indigenous leaders Messrs Rigoberto Aguilar, Rodolfo López and Roberto González were also kidnapped by the armed men, but all three were released on 17 and 18 March 2013.

Encarnación Marcos Ucelo was a member of the Xinca indigenous people in Santa Maria Xalapán, situated in the department of Jalapa in Eastern Guatemala. He had worked as secretary of the Indigenous Parliament of Santa Maria Xalapán for almost two years and was also involved in a commission established in 2012 to investigate the historical land rights of indigenous peoples and campesino communities in Guatemala. Rigoberto Aguilar, Rodolfo López and Roberto González are all members are of the same indigenous community, while Roberto González is also Mayor of Santa Maria Xalapán and President of the Parliament.

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped condemns the killing of Encarnación Marcos Ucelo, and expresses serious concern for the security and physical and psychological integrity of Rigoberto Aguilar, Rodolfo López and Roberto González and urges the authorities in Guatemala to initiate an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation and take all necessary measures to guarantee the security and physical and psychological integrity all other indigenous peoples’ rights defenders of the Santa Maria Xalapán community.

Link between protecting the environment and human rights asserted by UN Expert Knox (re-issued with working links and references to case law)

March 11, 2013

What is apparent from this blog, which has featured many cases of environmental Human Rights Defenders, has now been clearly stated (on 7 March 2013) by the United Nations Independent Expert on human rights and environment, John Knox. In his report to the Council of Human Rights, he highlighted the urgent need to clarify the human rights obligations linked to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Such clarification, he said, “is necessary in order for States and others to better understand what those obligations require and ensure that they are fully met, at every level from the local to the global.”……………….In his report Mr. Knox also identifies rights whose implementation is vital to environmental policymaking, such as the rights to freedom of expression and association, rights to receive information and participate in decision-making processes, and rights to legal remedies. “The exercise of these rights, makes environmental policies more transparent, better informed and more responsive to those most concerned.” “States should recognize the important work carried out by human rights defenders working on land and environmental issues in trying to find a balance between economic development and environmental protection, should not tolerate their stigmatization and should ensure prompt and impartial investigations into alleged violations of their rights,” he said.

John Knox was appointed as the Independent Expert on human rights and the environment in July 2012 by the United Nations Human Rights Council.humanrightslogo_Goodies_14_LogoVorlagen

Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13089&LangID=E

Knox’s full report: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A-HRC-22-43_en.pdf 

via Link between protecting the environment and human rights | Scoop News.

I would also like to refer now to an article by Lauri R. Tanner  in the Oxford Press Journal of Human Rights Practice on the landmark environmental defenders cases by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: the milestone case of ‘Kawas v. Honduras‘ and the so-called ‘Mexican Ecologists case‘. In its first-ever ruling on environmental defenders, the Court found a positive obligation on the part of member states in the Hemisphere to protect environmentalists who are in serious jeopardy from human rights violations. The Kawas case is a paradigmatic example of the constant threats these activists encounter, both in the Americas and internationally, and states in the region are now on notice to ensure special protection to those most in danger of harm. The Court arrived at the remarkable juncture of ‘making visible and potentially punishable what heretofore has been invisible and unpunished’. In an epilogue Tanner addresses the subsequent ruling in the ‘Mexican Ecologists’ case, and offers recommendations to human rights and environmental defenders and practitioners both regionally and internationally.

PDF to download:
http://jhrp.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/hur020?ijkey=TmPlvBcvZYHLh18&keytype=ref

Full Text online:
http://jhrp.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/hur020?ijkey=TmPlvBcvZYHLh18&keytype=ref

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.