Civil society statement supporting the case filed against the Cambodian ruling elite in the International Criminal Court

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Global Witness| 12 December 2014

Civil society statement supporting the case filed against the Cambodian ruling elite in the International Criminal Court

Land grabbing and the associated forced evictions of people from their homes and farmland is increasingly a global human rights problem that has reached a crisis point in a number of poor countries.
The undersigned civil society organisations from across the world wish to express strong support for the case filed against the Cambodian Ruling Elite at the International Criminal Court on 7th October 2014 (the “Communication”).

The case alleges that the widespread and systematic crimes that have
accompanied the Ruling Elite’s massive land grabbing campaign amount to a crime against humanity. The land grabbing, which has been perpetrated for well over a decade, has affected an estimated 770,000 people. We come together to urge the Office of the Prosecutor to initiate a Preliminary
Examination with a view to opening a full investigation.

Land grabbing and the associated forced evictions of people from their homes
and farmland is increasingly a global human rights problem that has reached
a crisis point in a number of poor countries. National and foreign investors
are acquiring cheap land for everything from agriculture to mining, and this
phenomenon continues to grow as population growth, consumption, and
financial speculation drive demand upwards.

Land deals are often conducted in secret so available figures are likely to be a
gross underestimate. But we know that over the last decade as much as 49
million hectares have changed hands or are under negotiation. The majority
of these land deals are taking place in countries where the rule of law is weak,
allowing governments and companies to ignore due process with impunity.

The victims of these land grabs are routinely evicted from their homes and
forced away from the land and other natural resources that have sustained
them and their families, often for generations. In the vast majority of cases,
victims lose their sources of livelihood without receiving compensation and,
as a consequence, are pushed deeper into hunger and poverty. Associated
human rights violations are common. Opposition is often met with violence
and armed state forces are used to quash the resistance of communities brave
enough to defend their rights. In short, land grabbing has become one of the
major causes of human rights violations of our age.

Something must be done. Land tenure security is vital to meeting global aims
around poverty alleviation, climate change and the fulfilment of universal
human rights. By contrast, the current global land grabbing crisis is displacing
poor urbanites and creating a generation of landless farmers, therefore
driving political unrest in many of the world’s most volatile countries.

The International Criminal Court accepting the case would have a hugely
positive impact, not just in Cambodia, but globally. It would send a powerful
message that when land grabbing is widespread or systematic, and reaches a
certain level of gravity, international criminal law becomes engaged. We have
a duty to protect the victims of land grabs and associated forced evictions
who have no chance of obtaining justice in their own countries.

The Prosecutor should not be concerned about ‘opening the floodgates’ by
acting on this Communication. Not all forcible evictions or transfers are as
widespread and systematic as those in Cambodia; not all land grab situations
will meet the elements of ‘crimes against humanity’.

See final version of the statement including all signatories CSO statement supporting ICC
Original source: Global Witness
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