COMMON GROUND: SECURING LAND RIGHTS AND SAFEGUARDING THE EARTH

Author/Org: Oxfam, International Land Coalition, Rights and Resources Initiative

March 1, 2016

Up to 2.5 billion people depend on indigenous and community lands, which make up over 50 percent of the land on the planet; they legally own just one-fifth. The remaining land remains unprotected and vulnerable to land grabs from more powerful entities like governments and corporations. There is growing evidence of the vital role played by full legal ownership of land by indigenous peoples and local communities in preserving cultural diversity and in combating poverty and hunger, political instability and climate change. The importance of protecting and expanding indigenous and community ownership of land has been a key element in the negotiations of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, and is central to their successful implementation.

This report launches a Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights, backed by more than 300 organizations all over the world. It is a manifesto of solidarity with the ongoing struggles of indigenous peoples and local communities seeking to secure their land rights once and for all.

The report can be downloaded from http://www.rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/Global-Call-to-Action_Common-Ground-Report.pdf

International organizations condemn the murder of Indigenous Leader Bertha Cáceres in Honduras

PRESS RELEASE
 
International condemn of the murder of indigenous leader Bertha Cáceres in Honduras
 
4th March 2016, Planet Earth
Berta Cáceres, indigenous leader and spokeperson for more than 20 years of the Civic Council of Popular and Inigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras – Copinh), was murdered on 3rd March while she was resting in her home in La Esperanza, Intibucá, about 188 km from Tegucigalpa, by “unknown” gunmen.
Bertha Cáceres was a firm defender of small farmers and indigenous peoples’ rights and an inspiring social activist, both at regional and continental level, in defense of social and environmental justice, particularly against mining megaprojects and hydropower plants.
She had warned amny times about Free Trade Agreements as part of the machinery of impunity of transnational corporations. Bertha committed her life to health, land, against patriarchism and violence. She opposed the political golpe of 28th June 2009; COPINH denounced the golpe as an instrument of violence serving transnational corporations to exploit resources and to repress the dissent of social movements. Bertha also opposed US military bases on Lenca territory.
In April 2015, Bertha Cáceres was awarded with Goldman price, one of the most prestigious awards for environmental defenders. She was awarded for her hard work in defense of the Lenca territory against the Agua Zarca Hydropower Project of the Chinese transnational SINOHYDRO and national company Desarrollo Energético Sociedad Anónima (DESA).
Lenca people had been denouncing for years the violation of human right to water as source of life and culture by corporates, military and governmental actors.
Berta Cáceres was mother of four and was assigned precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) which were not accomplished by the state. Bertha has been assassinated by a state who protect the interests of local capital, transnational corporations who have spoiled the territory. Bertha’s commitment in favour of life, of those most in need, was reason of several trials, investigations and threats against her.
The indigenous leader denounced many times death threats against her, and this was happening among a general violent context; 111 environmental activists in Honduras have been killed between 2002 and 2014, according to the 2014 report “¿Cuántos más?” of the ONG Global Witness. This makes Honduras the country with the highest rate of violence among the 17 countries analysed in the report. It also shows the architecture of impunity and violence of the large scale mining, of the hydroelectric business, among other activities in favour of private capital and complicit governments. According to the Honduras-based organization ACI-PARTICIPA (Asociación para la participación ciudadana en Honduras) more than 90% of assassinations and abuses in the country remain unpunished.
We firmly demands to the government of Honduras:
– To put an end to impunity and proper investigation on the murder of Bertha Cáceres, as well as of all other social and environmental justice activists.
– To ensure the integrity, freedom and to respect Human Rights of Gustavo Castro de Soto and of Aureliano Molina.
– To suspend all projects that have been denounced by Human Rights defenders, among which the Hydropower plant Agua Zarca on Rio Blanco and the Blue Energy project on Rio Cangel.
– That corporations and finance institutions withdraw their support and investments from projects that have violated HHRR or where there has been no free prior and informed consultation, according to ILO Convention 169.
– To put an end to persecution and criminalization of Human Rights defenders and to accomplish with all  precautionary measures for the integrity and safety of people.
We express our solidarity and extend our condolences to the family and close friends of Bertha Cáceres, to the Lenca people, and to the people of Honduras who suffer her irreparable loss.
 
Finally, we call for an international peoples’ mobilization and immediate denounce of Bertha’s assassination to the embassies and consulates of Honduras in our respective countries, to express our repudiation of such crimes and our firm demand of justice. 
*Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk

URGENT APPEAL – Five Lumads hurt as an evacuation camp in UCCP Haran, Davao City set to fire

KARAPATAN URGENT APPEAL FOR ACTION: Five Lumads hurt as an evacuation camp in UCCP Haran, Davao City set to fire

Dear Friends,

Please join us in calling for an independent investigation on the burning of the evacuation camp of Lumad at the compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao City on February 24, 2016. Let us join hands in calling for an end to the harassment of Lumad evacuees and the pullout of military troops in Talaingod, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon where the Lumad evacuees came from.

ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENT

Jong Monzon, secretary general of PASAKA, a federation of Lumad organizations in the Southern Mindanao region, narrated that at 2:30 a.m. on February 24, 2016, evacuees woke up to the smell of gasoline poured on the canvas roofs of their tents at the evacuation center. Immediately after, the tents were set aflame when a lighted torch was thrown in. Five makeshift houses were already consumed by the fire when it was put out. Monzon said that he and other leaders went out after extinguishing the fire to report to the authorities about the incident. On their way, they saw the gasoline container that was used by the perpetrators.

Monzon and several other leaders immediately called the local 911 to report the incident. Media personnel and police officials responded to the scene and interviewed some of the Lumad evacuees, including Monzon. Monzon recounted that at the middle of the interview, a pedicab driver approached them to report that another fire has started in the dormitories of the UCCP compound, which was roughly 100 meters from the evacuation camp. The dormitory houses Haran workers and students.

Witnesses said that something was thrown into the vicinity of the dormitory which caused the explosion. Later investigations found that two lines of barbed wires were cut by the perpetrators to enter the UCCP compound. A bag containing a 1.5 liters soft drink bottle full of gasoline was also found.

Five were hurt during the incident, with three needing hospitalization, including two children. The children suffered burns when the canvas roofs melted and fell on the children’s feet. Some also had burns in their hands. The victims were sent to a hospital, but were denied attention. Hospital authorities claimed there was no recommendation from the 911 personnel. The injured are now under the care of health workers and medics inside the Haran compound.

The perpetrators were described by those in the evacuation center as three men, aboard a motorcycle. A white cap, which belonged to the one of the perpetrators was even left behind, stuck in the cyclone wires.

Initial reports from the Bureau of Fire Protection in Davao City pointed to arson.

The incident is part of a series of harassments and threats, which are no longer new to the evacuees seeking shelter in UCCP-Haran. Monzon reports that the military and members of the ALAMARA paramilitary group held a rally outside the UCCP once.

Monzon stated that as early as December 17 last year, ALAMARA has already threatened to burn the evacuation center in UCCP.

On July 23, 2015, however, Nancy Catamco, representative of the 2nd district of North Cotabato, brought anti-riot policemen and buses to force the Lumad evacuees to return to their communities. The incident resulted in a skirmish between the evacuees and the police and paramilitay elements.

The more than 700 evacuees started to arrive at the UCCP- Haran, batches, starting February 2015. Most them are from Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte, while a number came from Kitaotao in Bukidnon province. The Lumad fled their communities when soldiers and military-backed ALAMARA militia forces occupied their communities and forcibly recruited them into the paramilitary group.

The continuing harassment on the Lumad evacuees seeking refuge at the UCCP Haran, and the insistence of state agencies to force them back to their communities, show a lack of understanding of their plight and a lack of concern for their safety and welfare.

Recommended actions:

Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:
1. The immediate investigation of the incident to be conducted by an independent body;
2. An end to the continued harassment and intimidation of Lumad in and out of their communities;
3. The immediate pullout of government troops from the Lumad communities;
4. The disbandment of all paramilitary groups;
5. The Philippine Government to withdraw its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians; and
6. The Philippine Government to adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory

You may send your communications to:

H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
E-mail: op@president.gov.ph
Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216
stqd.papp@opapp.gov.ph

Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600
Fax:+63(2) 982-5600
Email: osnd@philonline.comdnd.opla@gmail.com

Emmanuel L. CaparasSecretary, Department of JusticePadre Faura St., ManilaDirect Line 521-8344; 5213721Trunkline: 523-84-81 loc.214Fax: (+632) 521-1614Email: soj@doj.gov.phJose Luis Martin GasconChairperson, Commission on Human RightsSAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth AvenueDiliman, Quezon City, PhilippinesVoice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188Fax: (+632) 929 0102

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below:
URGENT ACTION Prepared by:
KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
National Office
2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor Matatag Sts., Brgy. Central,
Diliman, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146
Email: urgentaction@karapatan.orgkarapatan@karapatan.org

 

*photo credits to BAYAN-USA