Property Rights

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African Commission advances corporate accountability for human rights abuses

In 2004, a small number of lightly armed rebels tried to take control of Kilwa, a remote fishing town in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo). About 50 km away from Kilwa there is a copper and silver mine, where Anvil Mining Company (Anvil Mining), a small Australian-Canadian mining company, had mining operations. Notably, the port in Kilwa was the only transport link to export the mine ore to processing plants in other countries.

Following extensive legal proceedings in Tanzania, this communication was submitted before the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Committee) in 2012. The case concerns the plight of two widows in Tanzania (E.S. and S.C.) who, under Tanzania’s customary inheritance law, were denied the right of inheriting or administering the estates of their late husbands. Thereafter they were, along with their minor children, evicted from their homes by their in-laws.

The dispute in this case consists of two elements and arose when the first respondent purportedly purchased a property, Angus Mansions, in Johannesburg. In the initial action, the first respondent sought the eviction of approximately 300 people who were residing on the property (the applicants). The opposing action called into question the validity of the sale agreement and, consequently, the eviction order.

In 2005, under the Article 26 procedure of the Constitution, the Irish Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of a bill referred to it by the President. This bill authorized charges for in-patient services, provided by the public health service, to be imposed on certain people, in most cases, elderly people of limited means.

The Xákmok Kásek indigenous community, who has originally lived in the Paraguayan Chaco area, filed a petition before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights requesting acknowledgement of their traditional territory. Paraguay sold and split up the land without taking into consideration the indigenous population. The Salazar ranch was founded in the land that had been the home of the Xákmok Kásek community for years.  The community’s ability to survive and to develop its way of life was restricted, and the State failed to fulfill its duty to guarantee the community’s territorial rights.

The Saramaka people, descendants of self-liberated African slaves, have been living on their traditional territory in Suriname since the early 1700s. This non-indigenous community lives in a traditional way by fishing, hunting and woodworking, and their relationship with the land is more than economic, but also spiritual and cultural. In 1986, Suriname adopted a new Constitution specifying that all non-titled lands and natural resources belonged to the State.

Appeal of South Gauteng High Court’s dismissal of application for interim relief brought by South African Informal Traders Forum and South African National Traders Retail Association. Appellants cited their right to access to courts under Section 34 of the South African constitution as a basis of their appeal.

The Sarayaku people form one of the oldest settlements of the Kichwa People in the province of Pastaza in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and include approximately 1,300 people. In 1996, Ecuador signed a contract with the Empresa Estatal de Petróleos del Ecuador (PETROECUADOR) and a group formed with CGC (Compañía General de Combustibles, a subsidiary of Chevron, in Argentina) and la Petrolera Ecuador San Jorge S.A. for oil exploration and exploitation in Sarayaku lands.

In July 2004, a group of residents of the Matanza/Riachuelo basin filed a suit before the Supreme Court of Argentina against the national government, the Province of Buenos Aires, the City of Buenos Aires and 44 companies seeking compensation for damages resulting from pollution of the basin, stoppage of contaminating activities, and a remedy for collective environmental damage.

The Applicants alleged that their property rights in agricultural lands had been infringed by a provision in the Zimbabwean Constitution which effectively vested the ownership of all agricultural lands compulsorily acquired under it to the State, as well as racial discrimination in the application of the provision. The provision additionally ousted the jurisdiction of the courts to entertain any challenge concerning such acquisitions of agricultural land.