Cambodian villagers’ Intl. Criminal Court complaint (re land grabbing)

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On 7 October 2014, a group of Cambodian villagers filed a communication before the International Criminal Court (ICC) against powerful members of Cambodian society (referred to as the “ruling elite”), including representatives of the Cambodian Government, security forces and government-connected businesses.

The communication alleges that between 2002 and October 2014, the “ruling elite” undertook “widespread and systematic” land grabbing, through threats, violence and forcible relocation.  It claims that the land grabbing has affected 770,000 people and that 145,000 have been forcibly displaced from Phnom Penh, to make way for rubber and sugar plantations or logging operations.  It further alleges that indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by the land grabbing and that opponents to the land grabbing have been assassinated, threatened or imprisoned.  The communication alleges that these actions cumulatively constitute a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the ICC.

The Cambodian Government has denied the allegations and says that they are politically charged.  A Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesperson declared that: “The government has a mechanism to resolve the land issue and has already resolved the problem effectively”. 

The ICC Prosecutor will conduct a preliminary investigation to assess whether there is a reasonable basis to believe crimes against humanity may have been committed.  If the Prosecutor finds a reasonable basis, a full investigation is launched.

- “Cambodians claim land grabs are crime against humanity” [Subscription only] Michael Peel, Financial Times, 7 Oct 2014
- “’Ruling Elite’ in Cambodia face ICC complaint over land grabs”, So Chivy & Samean Yun, Radio Free Asia, 7 Oct 2014
- “Cambodians say land grabs have led to crime against humanity; want the ICC to investigate”, Megha Bahree, Forbes Asia, 10 Jul 2014

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH):
- “Summary of communication & other information on Cambodians’ formal claim that systematic land seizures amount to crimes against humanity”, FIDH, 7 Oct 2014

Global Diligence:
- “Communication under Article 15 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – The Commission of Crimes Against Humanity in Cambodia”, Global Diligence LLP, 7 Oct 2014

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Author: Benjamin Bibas, Reporterre (France)

« Valérie Cabanes : « Le crime d’écocide doit être reconnu par la Cour pénale internationale » », 11 mars 2019 

Les droits fondamentaux des peuples sont atteints par les dommages infligés aux milieux naturels et le droit international n’est pas parfaitement équipé pour punir et prévenir les crimes environnementaux. La juriste Valérie Cabanes propose une architecture juridique internationale plaçant à son sommet le respect de l’écosystème global pour restaurer la sécurité et la paix…

…En octobre 2014, l’avocat britannique Richard Rogers a déposé au nom d’un groupe de victimes une communication auprès de la procureure de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI), faisant état au Cambodge d’un accaparement massif de terres par une « élite dirigeante » en vue de développer des activités immobilières ou agricoles, entraînant la destruction de milieux naturels sur des millions d’hectares, dont des centaines de milliers de Cambodgiens dépendent pour vivre… 

[En] 2016, la procureure a annoncé son intention d’enquêter sur « l’appropriation illicite de terres ou la destruction de l’environnement », « l’exploitation illicite de ressources naturelles »et autres « ravages sur le plan écologique »en temps de paix, potentiellement constitutifs de crimes contre l’humanité.

C’est une avancée majeure car, dans le statut de Rome fondateur de la CPI, les « dommages »à « l’environnement naturel »ne sont mentionnés qu’à l’article 8 définissant les crimes de guerre…

Cela justifie de demander…l’intégration d’un cinquième crime, « l’écocide », au corpus des crimes internationaux connus par la CPI…

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Article
23 November 2016

Cambodian villagers are optimistic for Intl. Criminal Court complaint following court's decision to investigate land grabs as violations of intl. law

Author: Chris Arsenault, Thomson Reuters Foundation

"Landless Cambodian farmers look to International Criminal Court for justice", 22 Nov 2016

A group of farmers who survived the Khmer Rouge's notorious "Killing Fields" genocide in Cambodia are at the centre of a landmark legal case that could change the way global corporations manage large-scale land acquisitions, experts say...Human rights attorneys say the ICC could decide by the end of the year whether the case...should proceed...Legal experts say the case is internationally significant as it could change the way community displacement in the wake of large-scale land deals is tested and prosecuted under international law...Richard Rogers...said he was optimistic the ICC would give the green light to the case, launched in 2014, because of a change in the way serious international crimes can be prosecuted.  The ICC's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, signalled in September that the court will start investigating cases of large-scale environmental destruction and..."land grabs" as severe violations of international law.  Legal experts have interpreted this statement as a major shift in the court's approach with Cambodia the test case..."It puts governments and companies on notice that the ICC will be taking a closer look at some of these widespread land grabs,"...

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Author: AFP

La procureure de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI) a averti jeudi les hommes d'affaires et les politiciens qu'elle allait désormais mettre l'accent sur les destructions de l’environnement et les accaparements de terres en tant que possibles crimes contre l'humanité.

...Fatou Bensouda affirme que son bureau "s'intéressera particulièrement" aux crimes impliquant ou entraînant "des ravages écologiques, l’exploitation illicite de ressources naturelles ou l’expropriation illicite de terrains"...

A travers le monde, l'indignation ne cesse de croître au sujet de ces communautés rurales expulsées de leurs terres, qui sont ensuite revendues à des sociétés agricoles ou minières, notamment.

Des avocats ont déjà envoyé un dossier au procureur, lui demandant d'ouvrir une enquête au Cambodge.

Le gouvernement cambodgien est très critiqué pour ses accords avec des groupes étrangers - notamment chinois - pour exploiter ses terres avec des plantations de canne à sucre, d'hévéas, ou des barrages hydroélectriques. Selon les organisations de militants des droits de la terre, cela passe souvent par la spoliation des terres aux communautés rurales...

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Article
7 October 2014

Cambodian land grabs are 'crime against humanity', lawyers tell ICC

Author: Chris Arsenault, Reuters

….It should take the ICC three to six months to decide whether to begin a preliminary examination…Cambodian government spokesman…said the complaint was a partisan ploy by a local opposition party. "The motivation is to polarize,"…Lawyers were hired by supporters of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, he said. "They are just trying to make our government look bad. They invented fake numbers of people being affected by land grabbing and eviction."…At least four million hectares of land, 22 percent of Cambodia's land area, have been confiscated, with indigenous peoples particularly targeted, [said] the International Federation for Human Rights…The Cambodian government's actions "amount to crimes against humanity" when taken cumulatively…Many of the evicted residents were removed to make way for sugar or rubber plantations, or logging operations, Rogers [the lawyer filing the complaint] said. Some of the projects involved joint ventures between Cambodia's ruling elite, and international investors, mostly from Thailand, China and Vietnam, Rogers said…

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Article
7 October 2014

Cambodians claim land grabs are crime against humanity [Subscription only]

Author: Michael Peel, Financial Times

A petition to be filed at The Hague on Tuesday against a group of politicians, security chiefs and business magnates in the southeast Asian country raises the stakes for land disputes by arguing that systematic illegal seizures can be a crime against humanity...[T]he argument behind it has a potential impact on sectors such as resources and commodities, where companies are increasingly becoming embroiled in disputes over land rights. “The message this case sends to companies is that they need to do their due diligence much more carefully,” said Richard Rogers, a partner in Global Diligence, the London-based law firm bringing the ICC claim...In a separate Cambodia damages case brought to the High Court in London last year, 200 villagers allege a sugar business formerly owned by the UK’s Tate & Lyle sourced cane from a plantation...on land grabbed by government agents, including military police. “In our view, there is no basis for the villagers’ claims against us,” T& L Sugars said...The new Cambodia claim to the ICC accuses the country’s ruling elite of a “widespread and systematic attack” on the rights of the civilian population, including land-grabbing “on a truly massive scale”... [Also refers to CocaCola] 

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Item
7 October 2014

Communication under Article 15 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court - The Commission of Crimes Against Humanity in Cambodia

Author: Global Diligence LLP

This...Communication outlines the mass human rights violations perpetrated against the Cambodian civilian population by senior members of the...[Cambodian] Government...senior members of State security forces, and government-connected business leaders (...the "Ruling Elite")...from July 2002 to present...[T]he Ruling Elite have illegally seized and reallocated millions of hectares of valuable land...for exploitation or speculation by its members and foreign investors...Those who resist evictions have faced brutal violence, trumped-up criminal charges and other forms of persecution...Land grabbing and associated deforestation has disproprotionately affected the indigenous minority population...[d]ue to their particular dependence on and cultural attachment to land...[The] investigation has uncovered a well-organised and recurring pattern of perpetration, which relies on complicity between the [Cambodian Government], State Security Forces, local authorities, private businesses and judiciary...

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Author: FIDH

« Cambodge : Un examen préliminaire devrait être ouvert par la CPI sur les crimes résultant de l'accaparement des terres commis à grande échelle », 7 octobre 2014

Une communication soumise aujourd'hui au Bureau de la Procureure (BdP) de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI) atteste que la pratique massive et systématique des crimes découlant de l'accaparement des terres pratiquée par...de hauts responsables gouvernementaux, des forces de sécurité à leur service et des dirigeants d'entreprises proches du gouvernement ont mené une attaque contre la population civile, avec le double objectif de s'enrichir et de garder le pouvoir à tout prix. Les crimes commis dans ce cadre incluent des meurtres, des déplacements forcés de population, des emprisonnements illégaux, des actes de persécutions et d'autres actes inhumains...Celles qui ont été expulsées de leurs terres continuent de souffrir, dans des conditions effroyables, dans les camps de réinstallation où l'insécurité alimentaire et les maladies sévissent. Proportionnellement, les minorités autochtones ont été particulièrement touchées...

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Article
7 October 2014

Summary of communication & other information on Cambodians’ formal claim that systematic land seizures amount to crimes against humanity

Author: International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

“Cambodia: ICC preliminary examination requested into crimes stemming from mass land grabbing”, 7 October 2014

A communication filed at the International Criminal Court (ICC)…alleges that widespread and systematic land grabbing conducted by the Cambodian ruling elite for over a decade amounts to a crime against humanity. The communication contends that senior members of the Cambodian government, its security forces, and government-connected business leaders carried out an attack on the civilian population with the twin objectives of self-enrichment and preservation of power at all costs. Crimes committed as part of this campaign include murder, forcible transfer of populations, illegal imprisonment, persecution, and other inhumane acts…

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Article
7 October 2014

‘Ruling Elite’ in Cambodia face ICC complaint over land grabs

Author: So Chivy & Samean Yun, Radio Free Asia (USA)

Cambodia’s “ruling elite” and other groups accused of violent land grabs that have displaced poor farmers should be investigated for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court…Rogers [the lawyer filing the complaint] said he…file[d at] the…ICC because victims…could not expect to receive justice through Cambodia’s court system….Cambodia’s Housing Rights Task Force secretariat director…agreed that villagers have little hope in resolving their complaints through the local judiciary...Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman…dismissed the complaint as “politically motivated....” “The government has a mechanism to resolve the land issue and has already resolved the problem effectively,” he said. “The lawyer is biased toward the opposition [Cambodia National Rescue Party]. He is defaming Cambodia.”…

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Author: FIDH

"Camboya: Examen preliminar de la CPI solicitado por crímenes derivados del acaparamiento masivo de tierras", 7 Oct 2014

Una comunicación remitida hoy a...la Corte Penal Internacional (CPI) atesta que la práctica generalizada y sistemática del acaparamiento de tierras...por parte de la élite dirigente de Camboya, constituye un crimen de lesa humanidad. La comunicación explica que altos cargos del Gobierno camboyano, las fuerzas de seguridad, y los dirigentes de empresas relacionados con el Gobierno, perpetraron un ataque contra la población civil con el doble objetivo de enriquecimiento personal y preservación del poder a cualquier costo..."Teniendo en cuenta el continuo incumplimiento de parte del sistema judicial camboyano de investigar de forma adecuada estos graves crímenes y asegurar remedios verdaderos a las personas afectadas, la CPI constituye ahora el camino más realista para que las víctimas obtengan justicia," afirmó el presidente de la FIDH Karim Lahidji. "...Richard J. Rogers, el abogado de las víctimas camboyanas probó que en los últimos catorce años, unas 770.000 personas (el 6 % de la población), se han visto afectadas por el acaparamiento de tierras en Camboya...Las personas que se han opuesto al acaparamiento de tierras han sido brutalmente reprimidas...

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