Evictions of Indigenous Population

What is affected
Land Private
Type of violation Forced eviction
Date 27 April 2007
Region LAC [ Latin America/Caribbean ]
Country Guatemala
Location San Pedro Carch?, Alta Verapaz

Affected persons

Total 150
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Proposed solution
Details Forced Resettlement of Tibetans through Comfortable Housing Program.htm
Forced eviction

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Private party
Zhou Zhengyi, Chen Liangjun, District Government Officials
Brief narrative Eighteen years of struggle: the case of Soledad Sayaxut community\r\n\r\nOn 27 April 2004, 60 police officers evicted some 30 indigenous Q’eqchi families who make up the Soledad Sayaxut community, located in the municipality of San Pedro Carch?, Alta Verapaz. The community has lived on what it believes is vacant land for several generations, working the land communally. Neighbouring landowners, however, have also declared themselves owners of the same land. An eviction order was issued and the families were evicted from their homes, despite the failure of the alleged landowners to confirm their ownership and significant flaws in their claims.\r\n\r\nThe 60 police officers arrived at 9am and actual notice of the pending eviction was given at that moment. Police officers allegedly used chainsaws to destroy the community’s houses and then men allegedly hired by the landowner burned the remains. Maize reserves, clothes, kitchen utensils, fertilizer and fumigating equipment were lost; the community was only able to save the chickens and pigs. Crops of cardamom, beans, plantain, coffee and tomatoes were also destroyed by a tractor provided by the neighbouring landowner.\r\n\r\nCaption\r\nBrothers Emilio and Santo Poou C? from the Soledad Sayaxut community. Emilio (right) has been imprisoned three times for attempting to seize land illegally © AI\r\n\r\nHomeless and vulnerable\r\nFollowing the eviction, the community fled to a nearby area where the majority are still renting temporary accommodation. They have no land to grow their own crops, to feed their families or to sell at local markets. \r\n\r\nEfforts thwarted at every stage\r\nThe community had begun seeking official recognition of its land in 1988. The basis for their request was that the land belonged to no individual or private company and that, as vacant land, it belonged to the state of Guatemala. All attempts to clarify the status of the land have been thwarted at every stage. The landowners who claim ownership of Soledad Sayaxut have consistently failed to submit professional measurements of the land to clarify the boundaries. \r\n\r\nIn 1995 the government land agency FONTIERRAS confirmed that the land was vacant. To make this official, a formal procedure had to be followed including legally measuring the land. However, the neighbouring landowners, who lay claim to Soledad Sayaxut, refused to allow any physical surveys to be carried out. After many attempts to gain access to the area, in January 2004 FONTIERRAS requested the Solicitor General of the Nation to initiate legal proceedings in order to obtain a court order to enter the land. Over two years later, however, the request is still languishing in the Solicitor General’s offices. Meanwhile, the local judge issued the eviction order. \r\n\r\n\ After 18 years, we are tired, said one member of the community as he described how they are close to giving up their struggle for their right to the land. \r\n\r\nCriminalization of activism\r\nMembers of the community have reported being intimidated by individuals linked to the neighbouring landowner, including being fired at. Several members of the community have been accused of usurpation (attempting to seize land illegally) and stealing timber from the area -- a charge that the community denies. Three members of the community spent five days in jail in 2001 and had to sign a police ledger every 15 days for two years as a condition for their release. \r\n\r\nNo investigations have taken place into the criminal destruction committed during the eviction.\r\n\r\nIt is over two years since the government land agency FONTIERRAS requested that the Solicitor General of the Nation initiate legal proceedings to allow for the legal measurement of the land. As of November 2005 the Solicitor General had not initiated any legal proceedings. \r\n\r\n\r\nOriginal at:http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engamr340022006
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