U.N. Human Rights Council Exhorted to Defend Peasants’ Rights

By Isolda Agazzi

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Henry Saragih, the general coordinator of Via Campesina, a movement representing more than 200 million small farmers worldwide.

Credit: Isolda Agazzi/IPS

GENEVA, Mar. 9, 2012 (IPS) - Decades after peasants’ networks have advocated for a new legal instrument to protect the rights of small farmers to land, seeds, traditional agricultural knowledge and freedom to determine the prices of their production, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) may decide to start drafting a declaration on peasants’ rights next week.

"The idea of an international declaration on peasants' rights comes from our (base) because many small farmers don’t have access to land, work, water and seeds," Henry Saragih, the general coordinator of Via Campesina, a movement representing more than 200 million small farmers around the world, told IPS.

For the Indonesian activist, labelled by some international media as "one of the twenty green giants of our world", next week could mark the first victory in a battle that has gone on for more than a decade: the UNHRC will discuss a study of its Advisory Committee that recommends the elaboration of a new legal instrument on the rights of peasants, on the basis of a declaration proposed by the expert body.

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La Via Campesina letter in solidarity with Herman Kumara

Write letters to the authorities of Sri Lanka too (see contacts below)

Dear Mr. NK Illangakoon, dear Ms. Eva Wanasundara,

A plot to kill or otherwise harm the human rights defender Mr. Wijetunga Appuhamilage Herman Kumara the Secretary General of the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) and the head of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NFSM) of Sri Lanka .

The indident took place on the 29th of February 2012 in Chilaw, Sri Lanka . An unidentified group of people was involved.

I am writing to express my serious concern over the case of Mr. Wijetunga Appuhamilage Herman Kumara of Sandalankawa, Irabadagama In Kurunegalle District. The SecretaryGeneral of the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP) and head of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NFSM) of Sri Lanka, a widely known human rights organization, is facing a potential threat to his life as he fears an imminent abduction. Mr. Kumara has helped organize protests by local fisherman who demonstrated in response to the government’s fuel increases, and he received death threats for this work.

The NFSM has filed an official request to the Sri Lankan authorities to assure Mr. Kumara’s safety but they have not responded to his request; the officers of the Pannala Police Station have yet to take any steps to investigate the complaint. The complaint made on this regard to the Pannala Police Station and it was recorded with reference as, CIB(1)/241/490, by the wife of the Herman Kumara, Ms. Shrini Kumuduni Pradeepika Adihettie.

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Oral Intervention of FIAN International and La Via Campesina in the 8th session of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

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21 February 2012

Dear Mr. /Mrs. President,

La Via Campesina, the international peasant movement, together with FIAN International, would like to commend the Advisory Committee for its final study on the advancement of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

Secure access to and control over land and productive resources are inextricably linked to the expression of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several regional and international human rights treaties. They include the right to adequate food, self-determination, an adequate standard of living, housing, health, culture, property and participation.

We note with grave concern that the current land grabbing phenomenon has been undermining those rights. Powerful foreign investors are signing backdoor agreements to take possession of or control land. Many of these agreements involve more than 10,000 hectares and several include more than 500,000 hectares. This land is very important for current and future food sovereignty in the host countries. The High Level Group of Experts of the Committee on World Food Security FAO estimates that between 50 and 80 million hectares in poor and developing countries has been negotiated, acquired and leased by international investors. All available studies that have examined the impact of this lust for land agree that large-scale land transactions are undermining the food security, endangering the livelihood and damaging the environment of the local population.

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Mesuji: Tip of the Iceberg of Peasants Rights Violations in Indonesia

JAKARTA. At the end of 2011 one horrible news struck Indonesia. A total of 30 Mesuji farmers in Lampung and South Sumatra fell victims of violence due to conflicts with corporations. Violations have happened for a long time, but had remained hidden especially by local authorities.

According to Henry Saragih, Chairperson of the Indonesia Peasant Union (SPI), deaths of farmers are caused by the increase in agrarian conflicts all across Indonesia. SPI recorded 20 death (from 120 cases of agrarian conflicts) in 2011.

Meanwhile data from the National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said that out of 6,000 cases of violations occurring each year, 1,000 are committed by plantation companies. Many conflicts between companies and communities have happened since the New Order era.

Henry also lashed on Plantation Law No. 18/2004. "The Law provide a very strong preference to companies to grab land from the people. Some articles in it also provide space for companies to continue to criminalize farmers and indigenous people,"

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