Sunday 15 July 2018
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3 days ago

Antigua and Barbuda: Barbudans Fighting for Land Rights

(Washington, DC) – A draft law before the Antigua and Barbuda Senate would deprive Barbudans of communal land where they have lived for generations, Human Rights Watch said today. The Antigua and Barbuda government should consult with the people of Barbuda to determine the impact of repealing communal land ownership on their human rights, and to reach an agreement that fully respects and safeguards those rights. Since 1834, when the British emancipated their slaves, Barbudans as a community have owned all their island’s land. Barbuda, the smaller of the two biggest islands of Antigua and Barbuda, with a population of approximately 2,000, codified this long-existing communal ownership in 2007 in the Barbuda Land Act. The law states, “All land in Barbuda shall be owned in common by the people of Barbuda,” and, “No land in Barbuda shall be sold.” “A change in land ownership in Barbuda could harm Barbuda’s most vulnerable people, including women, children, and the elderly,” said Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu, researcher on women and land at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to consult with Barbudans before any such drastic change to make sure that their rights are protected.” Barbudans who oppose the change have for months been battling Prime Minister Gaston Browne, a businessman from Antigua, over communal ownership. Browne wants to repeal the Barbuda Land Act to open the palm-fringed island to foreign investment to ease post-Hurricane Irma recovery. With only one of 19 members of the House of Representatives representing Barbuda, the House passed the repeal bill on May 3, 2018. It is now before the Senate. If the Senate passes it, Barbudans have retained a law firm to challenge it in court. Browne has called the Barbuda Land Act unconstitutional – and denigrated Barbudans who defend it to the media as “deracinated Imbeciles, Ignorant [sic] elements.” Lawmakers had already weakened the Land Act. In 2017, a set of amendments watering down protections related to communal ownership sped through both the House and the Se

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