November 2023: Barbudans take their fight against destructive airport development to London-based Privy Council
On 8th November two Barbudans, Jacklyn Frank and John Mussington, are travelling to the London based Privy Council (the Supreme Court for the Eastern Caribbean), taking a stand against the government of Antigua and Barbuda, who have denied them the right to challenge environmentally destructive construction on Barbuda, effectively allowing billionaire developers to act with impunity.
Billionaires creating a playground for the ultra-wealthy
The people of Barbuda, a small island in the Caribbean, saw their island-home devastated by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Instead of first contributing to recovery, foreign developers took advantage of Barbudans’ forced displacement, clearing acres of forest to build an airport to serve private jets and multi-million-dollar private resorts. This was an attempt to turn the island into a playground for billionaires. Since then, developers expanded construction building a golf course over the country’s only Ramsar protected wetland, with devastating consequences to wildlife, protective mangroves, and the rights of the local population.
Fighting for the right to determine their own future
There is a growing community of Barbudan land defenders committed to fighting for the right to determine their own future. This case is the culmination of a 6 year legal fight to overturn a controversial decision denying locals to right to challenge developers in court.
Barbudans have persevered despite harassment and threats of legal action for trespass and sedition. GLAN is supporting them to bring their case and ensure their right to legally challenge developments that harm or destroy their island, and they are represented pro-bono by barristers from Garden Court Chambers and 3 Hare Court.
This is a true David versus Goliath fight; developers with endless resources are banking on Barbudans giving up their fight. Islanders need help to continue their legal battle. There are serious environmental consequences at stake; Barbuda is extremely vulnerable to climate change as a low-lying island protected by a delicate wetland ecosystem.
Regional implications of the case
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) will consider the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss a legal challenge on the ground that the land defenders lacked standing to bring such a claim. While the JCPC will decide on whether the Barbudans had standing to challenge the airport construction, it will have ripple effects across the Caribbean in terms of whether communities have a right to protect their homes from colonial style exploitation and abuse by foreign developers.
Antigua and Barbuda are party to the Escazú Agreement, an international treaty signed by 25 Latin American and Caribbean nations, which requires broad legal standing in environmental cases. Last year, a group of UN Special Rapporteurs voiced ‘deep concern’ about the human rights implications of developments, including the airport.
Support Barbudan Land Defenders
Barbudans have persevered in their fight despite those who have stood up to the central government and developers on the island being arrested, subjected to legal threats including charges of sedition.
The hearing on 8th November will be live streamed; watch here.
Barbudans fighting for the future of their island need your support, donate to the crowdfund now.
"The decision to fight against the development of the private-jet airport on Barbuda was not taken lightly. But it had to be done… We, as Barbudans, were not consulted about this development. Our environment, our culture, our history, and our right to be consulted and participate in the future of our Lands have been totally ignored.”
Jackie Frank, Barbudan Land Defender
Jackie Frank, Barbudan Land Defender
John Mussington, Barbudan Land Defender
September 2022: 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. Read more.