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Roundup on Repression: On the continuing IPHRD attacks



Our challenges against the vicious attacks on Indigenous People’s Human Rights Defenders (IPHRDs) endure.

Indigenous Lumad sanctuaries attacked by state-sponsored tribal paramilitaries, Wet’suwet’en land defenders arrested for defending their territories, and the list of Indigenous leaders, activists and defenders victimized by criminal violence and repression grows.

From targeted harassment to cold-blooded killings, the reported attacks point to Indigenous communities and non-indigenous supporters’ defense of rights.

Most of the cases, if not all, remain unsolved until now. Impunity seems to benefit giant private corporations, powerful State agents, military, paramilitary and vigilante forces. In silencing all resistance to big corporate foreign and local developments and State-sponsored projects on Indigenous lands, violence through criminalization, harassment and barbaric assault become the norm.

IPMSDL continues to call on all indigenous communities and non-indigenous defenders to contribute their voice to amplify our call: Stop the attacks!

IPMSDL’s overview of documented IP human rights violations since the start of 2020.
Photo: Daniel Pascual via Peoples Dispatch

Persecution of Daniel Pascual Hernandez
Coordinator-General, Comité de Unidad Campesina (CUC)

This January 14, Maya K’iche leader Daniel Pascual Hernandez of Committee for Peasant Unity (CUC) goes to court to face defamation, slander and injury charges filed by a businessman, right-wing columnist and founder of “Foundation against Terrorism,” Ricardo Méndez Ruiz. Daniel Pascual received death threats and survived assassination plans in 2013 while defending the land of indigenous peasants from a cement manufacturing plant by company in San Juan Sacatepequez .

Daniel Pascual has criticized the “Foundation against Terrorism” for spreading misinformation about CUC and other leaders. The case was suspended in 2016 and currently resurfacing amid questions of irregularities, and the prevalent atmosphere of criminal persecution, assassination, and incarceration of indigenous leaders and human rights defenders in Guatemala.

Photo: retomada Nhu Vera via Conselho Indigenista Missionario

Assault and forced eviction of Guarani Kaiowá 
Dourados Indigenous Reserve in Mato Grosso do Sul

Morning of January 16, houses of indigenous Guarani Kaiowa in Dourados Indigenous Reserve in Mato Grosso do Sul were crushed by a tractor used in planting soybeans. The houses and belongings of the residents were even set ablaze by the perpetrators after demolition. When indigenous Guarani Kaiowa tried to stop the tractors, the police came and retaliated with gunshots. The shooting resulted in one resident losing his sight and another one paralyzed.

The Dourados Indigenous Reserve is targeted by a private soy plantation company. Last January 2 to 3, Guarani Kaiowa families were assaulted by the private security guards of the company resulting in injuries of multiple residents, and a 12-year-old boy who lost three fingers after handling a dropped grenade. Given the escalating violence, the public defender’s and human rights group requested police intervention but to no avail.

Photo: Karapatan-Southern Tagalog via

Killing of IP advocate Jay-ar Mercado
Volunteer, Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo sa Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK)

Last January 25, Jay-ar Mercado was in Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro in an indigenous Mangyan community when he was arrested and murdered by suspected state agents of 4th Infantry Battalion ng Armed Forces of the Philippines. For days, his family searched for his body going through the delaying tactics of the military and government units, and only recovered it on February 5. Mercado’s death follows the Duterte government’s crackdown on indigenous and human rights defenders including those who work against development aggression and militarization of indigenous communities.

Photo: Oskar Epelde via

DR Congo
Illegal incarceration of five villagers
Tshopo province, DR Congo

For five long months, five villagers of Tshopo province were put behind bars without any formal charges in relation to their defense of land against Canadian palm oil company Feronia Inc. Among those arrested was the village chief of Yalifombo. Only last January 28 were the five villagers learned of their cases — damages to Feronia’s property and physical injury. The villagers’ arrest last September 2019 was prompted when they confronted Feronia for dumping toxic wastes, causing death and serious illnesses. Much earlier, villagers and rights group forwarded their complaints to DEG (German development bank) citing human and labor rights violations of Feronia, including the complicity of British, American and European development aid agencies supporting the company.


Killings of Mayangna Indigenous
Indigenous Alal community, Bosawás Biosphere Reserve

Six indigenous Mayangna leaders were killed in Alal community located inside the Bosawás, Nicaragua, last January 29. The killings came after the series of attacks against indigenous communities linked to land grabbing. Two others were injured10 were kidnapped and 16 houses were set on fire forcing the community to evacuate. The attack was carried out by at least 80 armed men alleged to be working for illegal loggers and big cattle farmers.

Bosawás, Central America’s largest and protected rainforest, is under siege with the influx of non-indigenous settlers hired by ranchers. Thousands of hectares have been illegally cleared for timber logging and gold mining while the Nicaraguan government remains slow in addressing environmental plunder and previous cases of killings, kidnapping and assault against indigenous rights.

Photo: Neingulo Krome via The Wire

Travel blockade on Neingulo Krome
General-Secretary, Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR)

On February 5, while boarding a flight to Bangkok, rights activist and general secretary of the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) was prevented by the Indian Central government from traveling without any explanation. Krome is a known national and international activist speaking for the Naga movement for self-determination and human rights.

Peoples’ movement in Naga, civil society groups, indigenous and human rights groups continue to assert their self-determination and territory for years. With the Peace Talks between India’s Central government and the liberation movements of Naga, repression on social movements, resource plunder and economic exploitation, political and military domination have strongly affected communities and development of peace negotiations.

Costa Rica
Shooting of Costa Rican IP Defenders
Indigenous Bribri and Brörán in Térraba

Indigenous Bribri Mainor Ortiz Delgado was shot in the leg on February 9 while tilling his land in the Térraba, Salitre indigenous territory southeast of Costa Rica. Two weeks later, Yehry Helmut Rivera, from the Brörán community, was shot late at night by a group of angry mobs on February 24. Mainor Ortiz, a member of Rio Azul community, and Rivera, actively works in protecting indigenous lands facing threats of occupation from non-indigenous trespassers. Mainor Ortiz has been a constant target of harassment, death threats, and frustrated murder in 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Similarly, Rivera experienced brutal beating in 2013 from illegal loggers.

The attack on Mainor Ortiz and the murder of Rivera seems to be a repeat of Bribri leader Sergio Rojas’ assasination. In Costa Rica, the laws governing the recognition of the land and rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the search for justice for indigenous leaders killed, remain unsolved.

Photo: Bill Oketch via Witness Radio

Forced eviction on 35,000 Kiryandongo natives
Kiryandongo District, Uganda

Around 35,000 Kiryandongo natives occupying more than 9,000 acres of land were evicted in the first week of February to pave way for large scale farming. Primary schools, churches and health centers were demolished following the large-scale plantation’s expansion. Agribusiness companies, including US-based Agilis Partners and its company Joseph Initiatives, are supported by the Uganda government’s claim that the native’s territory was an “empty space and unoccupied public land” open for private businesses.

But the natives assert customary ownership. Since 2018, reports said that companies started evicting residents without consultation, proper compensation and reported police harassment.

Photo: Kaleb Yamarua via The Jakarta Post

Arrest of Maluku indigenous
Sabuai village, Siwalat district, Eastern Seram

Twenty-six Maluku indigenous peoples from Sabuai village were arrested last February 24 after staging a protest to block a logging company operating in their customary area. Four of them were released while 22 remain incarcerated. During the blockade, Maluku indigenous protesters chained the heavy transport equipment but the police immediately arrested them. Mount Ahwale forest area in East Seram is rich in high-value wood. But this mountain is also the site of historical and legacies of residents’ ancestors. Under the customary laws of Sabuai indigenous community, the logging activity is illegal, yet the forestry agency insists that the land is open for business and development.

Photo: Karen Information Center

Burma Army attacks displacing 300 Karen Families
Mutraw District, Kawthoolei State in Burma

Fighting between Karen soldiers and Burma Army forced the displacement of 300 villagers this February. According to Karen National Union (KNU) Mutraw District, around 2,000 more villagers are on the brink of running to escape the fighting. The firing of artillery shells in Taku Der village, which started early February, is ignited by the Burma Army to forward the Burma government’s road construction projects.

A total of 2,137 people from 253 households, including 417 children under five are at severe risk from the shelling and fighting. The KNU and Burma central government has signed a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, which the Burma Army violates, according to KNU.

Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator

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Breaking: Witness Radio and Partners to Launch Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy Project Tomorrow.



By Witness Radio Team.

Witness Radio, in collaboration with Dan Church Aid (DCA) and the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD), is set to launch the Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy for Human Rights in Uganda (MDA-HRU) project tomorrow, 22nd February 2024, at Kabalega Resort Hotel in Hoima District.

The project, funded by the European Union, aims to promote the protection and respect for human rights, and enable access to remedy where violations occur especially in the Mid-Western and Karamoja sub-regions where private sector actors are increasingly involved in land-based investments (LBIs) through improved documentation, and evidence-based advocacy.

The three-year project, which commenced in October 2023, focuses its activities in the Mid-Western sub-region, covering Bulisa, Hoima, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibale, and Mubende districts, and Karamoja sub-region, covering Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nabilatuk, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, and Karenga districts.

The project targets individuals and groups at high risk of human rights violations, including Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs). It also engages government duty bearers such as policymakers and implementers in relevant ministries and local governments, recognizing their crucial role in securing land and environmental rights. Additionally, the project involves officials from institutional duty bearers including the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Equal Opportunities Commission, and courts, among others.

Representatives from the international community, faith leaders, and business actors are also included in the project’s scope, particularly those involved in land-based investments (LBIs) impacting the environment.

The project was initially launched in Moroto for the Karamoja region on the 19th of this month with the leadership of the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD).

According to the project implementors,  the action is organized into four activity packages aimed at; enhancing the capacity and skills of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs) in monitoring, documentation, reporting (MDR), and protection, establishing and reinforcing reporting and documentation mechanisms for advocacy and demand for corporate and government accountability;  providing response and support to HRDs and marginalized communities; and lastly facilitating collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagements that link local and national issues to national and international frameworks and spaces.

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Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.



By Witness Radio team.

Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.

The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.

During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.

Participants attending the dialogue.

In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.

According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.

The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.

The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.

“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.

Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.

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Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes



The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.

Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.

Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”

She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.

The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.

“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.

According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.

“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.

“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.

Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.

Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.


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