February 12, 2013. Source: Field Liberation Movement
Today the court of Dendermonde convicted 11 activists of gang formation. In doing so, the judge has criminalised their participation in the non violent direct action and debate on May 29th, 2011, which brought attention to the need for a sustainable agriculture system.
This is an extremely dangerous precedent which will have an impact on all kinds of civil action. With this verdict, the Belgian court has fundamentally undermined the right of citizens to freedom of speech. For example, one of the participants has been given a six month custodial sentence for talking to the press.
After it became known that the anti-GM activists were to be charged with forming a criminal gang, a large number of people from the environmental and agricultural sectors, academics and politicians rallied behind the defendants and put themselves forward to join them in the dock as voluntary defendants. A number of organisations ranging from trade unions to farmers’ organisations, and including Oxfam and Greenpeace, expressed their solidarity with the charged activists. Today’s ruling will further strengthen this solidarity.
By Nick Meynen, January 17, 2013. Source: ejolt
On May 29, 2011, some 400 mothers with children, biological farmers, environmentalists and scientists gathered around a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) potato field. In a symbolic and announced public action they ‘replaced’ some GMO potatoes with real ones. For the around twenty potatoes they managed to ‘replace’, the court is now asking eleven of the activists to pay 191.000 euro in damages. The public prosecutors made charges of conspiracy by a criminal organisation, theft and vandalism, which could lead to prison sentences of up to 8 months. This has caused much anger and a heated debate on the scope of activism and the role of science in society.
Mainstream media in Belgium are focusing on what they call a violent action by a few ‘vandals’ to interrupt scientific progress, hardly paying any attention to the GMO debate that the hundreds of activists wanted to make. National television just neglected the well-attended start of the process. The Flemish Green Party was quick to distance the party from the ‘violence’ – even though the only ‘victim’ was a policeman that got hurt … on one finger. A scientist that gave a television interview during the action was temporary suspended from her university. The Flemish Minister-President, Kris Peeters, made a point of reacting fast and hard, skipping the normal procedures and without appointing an independent investigation judge.
Note: Yet another example of how investment by northern countries in biofuels is leading to a massive land grab across the global south…
-The GJEP Team
December 4, 2012. Source: farmlandgrab.org
Photo: Green Scenery
More than a hundred representatives of landholding families from 36 villages affected by a large- scale investor in oil palm plantation in Malen Chiefdom, Pujehun District, have signed a resolution stating that they disassociate themselves from any lease agreement signed on their behalf by the Paramount Chief and chiefdom authorities of Malen Chiefdom with the Government of Sierra Leone. Furthermore, it says “…we will no longer allow the Socfin Agricultural Company personnel and or their machines to enter upon or operate on our land.” The resolution was issued with a letter written by MALOA, an association of affected landowners and users in Malen Chiefdom, on behalf of affected landholding families and addressed to the Human Rights Commission for their intervention against human rights abuses such as intimidation. The document was signed in Pujehun on 1st of December 2012 at a meeting of aggrieved landholding families from Malen Chiefdom.
In the letter the association complains about ongoing harassment, molestation and intimidation of landowners opposing the land deal by the Paramount Chief and chiefdom authorities. It says that land has been forcefully taken by the company with the authority of the Paramount Chief, ignoring the protest of the landholding families. “The present operations of the Socfin Agricultural company is against our progress and economic viability and a blatant disregard to our ownership of our respective family land in the Malen Chiefdom which we can no longer accept,” states the letter, and it announces peaceful resistance against any further company operation on their land.
Socfin Agricultural Company S.L. Limited (SAC) is a subsidiary of the Belgium company, Socfin. SAC leased over 6,500 hectares in Malen chiefdom, Pujehun District for over 50 years with a possible extension of 21 years to establish oil palm and rubber plantations. The company signed in March 2011 a sub-lease with the Government of Sierra Leone, which holds the lead lease with the chiefdom council. The company pays US$ 5 rent per year per acre, with only half of it going to the land owners. Land users, mainly women, are not compensated. Mainly casual and unskilled employment is offered to mostly young male Sierra Leoneans. The salary is 10,000 Leones per day. Extension plans for a second phase over 5,500 hectare for oil palm plantations under similar conditions to the first phase are in progress. Communities in the prospective lease area have already written letters stating that they will not agree to any lease arrangements with the investor.