Brazil's President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva vowed Jan. 23 to provide the indigenous Pataxó Hã Hã Hãe people of southern Bahia state with federal support in a land dispute with farmers who are encroaching on their territory. The dispute led to the death of an indigenous leader in a confrontation; her brother, a traditional indigenous chief (cacique), was also shot but survived after undergoing surgery. Others suffered non-deadly injuries in the clash, including a broken arm.
Residents of a disputed neighborhood in Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk staged a sit-in Dec. 15 to protest eviction orders and criminal charges filed against them by a state-owned oil company. Hundreds of Kurdish families who were pushed out of Kirkuk during Saddam Hussein's Arabization campaign returned to the city following the fall of his regime in 2003. With their former homes now occupied by Arab families, many took up residence in a residential complex in Arafa neighborhood, previously inhabited by functionaries of Saddam's Baath party. Now, the North Oil Company is claiming ownership of the residential complex, and ordering the Kurdish families to vacate. Arrest orders have been issued against residents who have refused to comply. (Rudaw)
With all eyes understandably on the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, the economic and security crisis unfolding in the Israeli-occupied West Bank risks being overlooked, as funds to address the growing needs evaporate, according to aid groups and Palestinian residents. Escalating violence by the Israeli military and settlers, intensified restrictions on mobility, tens of thousands of cancelled work permits, and the withholding of tax revenue from the Palestinian Authority (PA) are combining to tip the territory into a humanitarian crisis, they say.
In what is being hailed as an historic decision, on Nov. 24, an appeals court in Ecuador ordered the return of a 42,360-hectare expanse of the Amazon rainforest to the Siekopai indigenous people, generations after they were driven from the territory by the military. The Provincial Court of Sucumbios ruled that the Siekopai (also known as Secoya) retain indigenous title to their ancestral homeland, known as Pë’këya, which lies along the border with Peru in remote country.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, Ian Fry, called Nov. 15 for the disbandment of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which he called a "counter-insurgency force" in the Philippines.
In a statement released Nov. 3, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights brought attention to an "alarming and urgent" situation on the occupied West Bank, with "multi-layered human rights violations of Palestinians" mounting while the world is focused on the greater crisis in Gaza. The statement notes that 132 Palestinians, including 41 children, have been killed on the West Bank since the current crisis began on Oct. 7. Two Israeli soldiers have also been killed. Settler violence, which was already at record levels, has escalated dramatically, averaging seven attacks a day. In more than a third of these attacks, firearms were used, the statement charged. In many of these incidents, "settlers were accompanied by members of the Israeli forces, or the settlers were wearing uniforms and carrying army rifles," raising concerns that "armed settlers have been acting with the acquiescence and collaboration of Israeli forces and authorities."
Brazil's Supreme Federal Tribunal on Sept. 21 struck down the spurious thesis behind a legislative proposal advancing in the country's Congress, which would impose a marco temporal or "time limit" on indigenous land recovery claims. The marco temporal law would nullify any indigenous group's claim to traditional lands that they weren't physically occupying on Oct. 5, 1988, the day of the enactment of Brazil's Constitution, which for the first time recognized native peoples' territorial rights. Instead, these lands would be considered the property of those currently in occupancy, or of the state. The thesis ignores the forced displacements that occurred during Brazil's dictatorship in the generation before 1988, as well as the nomadic lifeways of some indigenous groups. Environment Minister Marina Silva declared the high court's annulment of the marco temporal thesis an "act of justice."
A Buddhist monastery carved out of a cave complex in the rainforest of Malaysia stands to be evicted after losing a legal appeal in its case against a cement manufacturer that seeks to demolish it to mine limestone Sept. 8. The Court of Appeal ruled for Associated Pan Malaysia Cement in the case brought by the century-old Dhamma Sakyamuni Caves Monastery, finding that the company has the right to evict "squatters" from the tract at issue on a limestone massif known as Gunung Kanthan—despite the fact that it lies within the Kinta Valley National Geopark. The forested massif is home to several endangered species of both flora and fauna, and most of it has already been cleared for quarries. After the appeals court ruling, the Perak state government formed a special committee to mediate in the conflict. The Dhamma Sakyamuni monks pledge they will resist eviction. (The Star, New Straits Times, NST, Free Malaysia Today)