A win for Barbudan Land Rights Defenders
A joint campaign by GLAN and Front Line Defenders to end prosecution of land defenders on the island of Barbuda has proven successful.
For the past two years, 22 Barbudan residents had been repeatedly summoned to court on charges of trespass.
Large, international corporations, like ‘Peace Love Happiness’, have been clearing wetlands, nature reserves, and habitats of endangered animals, to make way for multiple luxury tourism resorts. The land defenders were arrested while monitoring development projects which are being built on communally owned land.
At their hearing in June 2022, the presiding judge threatened defendants that they could face jail time.
Then, the Barbudans were summoned to appear in court again on 29 September 2022.
Before the hearing, land defender Jacqueline Frank, said, “This is the fourth time of coming to court, but the situation cannot be resolved. The complainant has never shown up in court, which in my opinion means that it should have been thrown out from the beginning. It’s unfair and it’s intimidation, and it’s malicious. It needs to stop.”
Together with Front Line Defenders, we issued an urgent, public appeal, which made the front page of the local newspaper, was sent to the UN and government authorities. The appeal called out the prosecution for lack of evidence and called for an end to the prolonged prosecution.
In a victory for Barbudan residents, on the day of the hearing, the charges were dismissed for want of a “virtual complainant’. The defendants’ lawyer, Mr. Leon C. Symister, said, “We are satisfied that this attempted prosecution was a way to frighten people in Barbuda who are defending their land.”
Devon Warner, Land Defender, said, “This is of course a happy moment for Barbudans. After almost 2 years of judicial harassment, we have been released by the court for lack of evidence on the part of the prosecution. It’s a small victory but one that needs to be celebrated anyway. Just a happy moment for us and the fight continues, very much so.”
This is a significant victory in an ongoing battle to preserve the rights of Barbudan people.
GLAN continues to support local people in their legal actions that aims to preserve their environment and right to communal ownership of their land.
However, we continue to be concerned with the safety of local residents who have recently reported increased military presence and continued harassment of local people on the island.
We reiterate our call to the government of Antigua and Barbuda to take the necessary measures to enable the land defenders to continue to safely defend their collective rights.
Find out more about our work in Barbuda on our case page.