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Barbudan land defenders secure landmark win in fight against billionaire developers

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27.02.24: Barbudans are today celebrating a historic victory for land defenders as the Privy Council sitting in London have ruled in favour of Barbudan land defenders John Mussington and Jacklyn Frank. John and Jackie appealed a decision of the Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court that ruled that they did not have ‘standing’ to challenge the razing of pristine forest for a private jet airport.


The judgment marks a turning point on the island which has seen powerful US developers swoop in following the devastation of Hurricane Irma in 2017 to take coastline for private luxury enclaves.

Resisting billionaire developers 

The US developers ‘Peace, Love, Happiness’ (PLH) backed by billionaire John Paul DeJoria and Casamigos co-founder Michael Meldman’s ‘Discovery Land Company’ (DLC) contributed 5 million USD to the airport’s construction which was intended to provide access to villas for the ultra-wealthy. This included a development owned by Hollywood star Robert DeNiro and an infamous PLH development built in a national park over the island’s internationally listed wetland.

The Privy Council, which acts as the final court of appeal for some countries in the Eastern Caribbean, dismissed the central government of Antigua and Barbuda’s claims that John and Jackie lack sufficient interest to challenge the environmentally disastrous runway construction.

“This judgement from the Privy Council will have significant implications for citizens of Antigua and Barbuda who have long been suffering from the lack of transparency and accountability from key institutions and officials charged with implementing the planning laws. The implications will also impact other people in the wider Caribbean and Latin America who face similar challenges. The ruling will be a plus for those States which are party to the Escazú agreement since it brings the judicial system into alignment with the clauses of the treaty.”


John Mussington, Barbudan Land Defender 

After Hurricane Irma residents were forcibly removed from the island by authorities while US developers were allowed in. The Government then resisted their legal challenge of the runway in court stating that John and Jackie were ‘busybodies’ and did not have the necessary legal standing. However, the Privy Council found overwhelmingly that John and Jackie have sufficient interest given they live less than two kilometres from the runway and could be impacted by noise, disruption to the environment and pollution of their drinking water.


The judgment also raised questions about the Government authority's adherence to the rule of law. To date the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the runway has never been released by the Government despite an obligation to disclose relevant information in court proceedings.

The case has drawn significant international attention due to its potential to establish precedent for environmental and Indigenous land defence cases. The Privy Council found that the Barbudan’s standing is in line with Antigua and Barbuda’s international obligations under the Escazú Agreement which calls for transparency and broad public participation in decision-making in environmental matters. This is the first judgment in the Caribbean to utilise this progressive international instrument.

This case also affirms that concerned citizens have the right to challenge government decisions in court in the name of conserving the environment. Indeed, the overturned decision had already been used against communities in Grenada to deny them standing in their ongoing challenge against mega tourist resorts on their island.

While John and Jackie have now won a crucial legal point against the government, this is not the end of the battle. The case will return to local courts, and the fight continues to stop the airport going ahead, to restore the land and legally challenge the other developments plaguing the island.

Support their legal fight now!


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Jackie Frank, Barbudan Land Defender

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John Mussington, Barbudan Land Defender

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