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

In 2014, a group of Cambodian villagers filed a communication before the International Criminal Court against the ruling elite of Cambodian society. Plaintiffs allege the ruling elite undertook widespread and systematic land grabbing. The ICC Prosecutor will conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether there is a reasonable basis for believing crimes against humanity were committed. If such evidence is found, the case will proceed.


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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