COLOMBIA: Constitutional Court ruling changes the game in favour of Las Pavas


2 October 2015
COLOMBIA: Constitutional Court ruling changes the game in favour of Las Pavas 

Yesterday, the Colombian
Constitutional court removed two significant articles from the Agrarian Law. Large
landowners who have acquired land through illegal means have been using these
articles to prevent the Colombian state from recovering these lands. From now
on, the courts cannot suspend the rulings of INCODER—the Colombian institute
that regulates land titling—in the event of an appeal for revision.

An Aportes San Isidro palm oil worker tends to recently planted palm trees that surround young yucca and plantain trees.

 Two years ago, INCODER ruled that the disputed
territory of Las Pavas belonged to the state, through a process of imminent
domain. (The Las Pavas community had been working the land for more than thirty
years.) Aportes San Isidro, the palm oil company, appealed this ruling before
the Consejo del Estado, the highest administrative court, where the revision of
this ruling remains stuck to this day and the implementation of INCODER’s
ruling suspended.

In the meantime, the company with the use of
armed “security”—many of whom are former paramilitary members, has land grabbed
and increased its area of palm cultivation. In the last couple of months, armed
security hired by the corporation, burnt a farmer’s house, uprooted hundreds of
yucca plants, chopped down plantain trees, stole fence wiring and threatened
community members. The remaining twelve of over a hundred families, in spite of
threats, have chosen to assume the risk to build their homes and farm while the
company has surrounded their parcels of land with palm trees. 

Las Pavas community leader, Misael Payares
said, “This ruling means a lot to us. Its means our legal process can now move
forward and we can continue to return to the land. This also means the company
will need to leave.”

According to the Agrarian Law, lands declared “property of the
state” through the process of imminent domain, are redistributed with priority
given to indigenous, Afro-Colombian and campesino communities. This new ruling
will expedite the Las Pavas process and two hundred other land processes around
the country.

 For a brief background on Las Pavas, click here.

This legal ruling would not have happened without the committed
struggle of grassroots activists and their partners.  Many people put their lives at risk over the
years.  Some people died.  CPT-Colombia has been honored to accompany
the people of Las Pavas in their part of the struggle.  People like you made that accompaniment



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