Three land rights activists named as award finalists as fight for land escalates

by Sally Hayden | @sallyhayd | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 31 March 2017 15:56 GMT

A women gestures at Lonmin's Marikana mine in South Africa's North West Province, in this 2012 archive photo. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

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The trio - from Nicaragua, South Africa and Kuwait - were among five finalists chosen from 142 nominations

By Sally Hayden

LONDON, March 31 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Three land rights activists from two continents were named as finalists for a prestigious human rights award on Friday as the global conflict around land rights turns bloodier.

The trio - from Nicaragua, South Africa and Kuwait - were among five finalists chosen from 142 nominations from 56 countries for the Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk that recognises courageous campaigners.

South African finalist Nonhle Mbuthuma is a founding member of the executive committee of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, formed to unite South African villages against mining projects.

Her group has been credited for a large shareholder withdrawing funding for a mine.

In Nicaragua, Francisca Ramírez Torres coordinates the National Council for the Defence of Land, Lake and Sovereignty, which educates locals on land rights.

In recent years, she has been campaigning against an inter-oceanic canal designed to rival the Panama Canal, which she opposes because of fears of its environmental impact.

This work has led to her children being attacked, the Dublin-based human rights campaign group Front Line Defenders said.

Finalist Abdulhakim Al Fadhli is currently serving a one-year prison sentence in Kuwait after campaigning for the rights of the stateless Bidoon and other minority groups.

Front Line Defenders said he has been held in solitary confinement and has staged hunger strikes in protest against his treatment and the conditions at the prison where he is held.

The other two finalists are Vietnamese blogger Pham Thanh Nghien and Crimean human rights lawyer Emil Kurbedinov.

"These five defenders demonstrate the tenacity and will to persist in the face of severe, often life-threatening risks," Andrew Anderson, executive director of Front Line Defenders, said in a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Honduran activist Ana Mirian Romero, who has received multiple death threats during her battle against a hydroelectric dam in the southwest of the country, was named winner last year.

The Front Line Defenders finalists announcement comes after a report by advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) showed treble the number of land rights defenders were killed in 2016 from a year earlier with fears the violence is getting worse.

From January to end-November, 171 people were killed in relation to land rights, PANAP's data showed.

(Reporting by Sally Hayden @sallyhayd, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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