Website is currently under development. Thank You
Communities worldwide face evictions, land-grabs and other attacks on long-established land rights. Legal action can assert and enforce threatened land rights of entire groups or communities. This page provides practical steps for taking legal action in land disputes.
Generally, anyone may take legal action to enforce rights. This includes:
b) Particular groups
Some groups of people may have particular difficulties asserting their rights:
c) Establishing your right to sue: the problem of “standing”
Even if you are affected by a dispute over land, in many cases you can only bring a legal action if you have a sufficiently close connection with the land or the damage or wrong concerned (called “standing”in legal terminology). For more details on “standing” and related matters, see: “Who can take legal action?” (Going to court: questions and answers).
To enforce your rights or make a complaint regarding land rights, you can take legal action against any of the following:
Your can check national contact points in a company’s home state under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
For other complaints mechanisms, ombudsmen, etc.,
See also soft law
a) Local administrative procedures
Solving a land-related problem may not require any court action. A local or national land office, land commission or cadastre may be able to formalise your land rights. Registering your land or your rights over the land may give you more protection. It may also be a necessary first step before taking further, more effective action.
b) Register or declare protected or common status of land
c) A court order
If you go to court and you are successful, the court may be able to do all or any of the following:
d) Agreement or settlement
The best solution to your dispute may lie in a settlement resolving differences with your opponent before the matter ever gets to court.
Use of land is a complex subject so in any proposed settlement, you need to draw up clear agreements in writing on all important points.
Even if you do not agree a settlement or if the settlement agreed is not fully satisfactory, try to ensure your right to participate in future decision-making about the land in question. These issues should include:
Cases involving land problems may also involve corruption or suspicions of corruption (bribery or other improper use of influence) .
If so, the corruption itself or remedies for the corruption may invalidate contracts or concessions granted to foreign investors involved in the dispute.
See also the following video: “Cambodia – indigenous land rights”
Legal results of proving corruption could include:
Action may be easier in an investor-state court than in the courts of the host state.
Wikipedia RICO article on the United States Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). .
Examples of cases brought under these laws:
Prosecutions could possibly be brought in foreign courts (for example, under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or the United Kingdom Bribery Act 2010) in relation to land transactions for corruption, money laundering, tax evasion, or conspiracy to commit a criminal act abroad.
For a detailed treatment of this theme, see: Extraterritorial Jurisdiction: lessons for the business and human rights sphere from six regulatory areas (pdf) Jennifer Zerk, 2010, 222 p.
Prosecutions may result in a conviction and criminal sanctions but criminal investigations may also be effective in finding out facts and information which is not available publicly.
Sometimes, land is acquired in a way that is, or is said to be, lawful under local law (legal term: “doctrine of eminent domain”). You may be able to challenge the acquisition by:
You need accurate evidence about locations and boundaries of the land involved in your litigation.
Gather evidence such as mapping, photos, Googlemaps, drawings and plans. It is important that the maps describe not only the physical features of the land, but also document the land use.
In case of lack of proof of title or rights:
a) Evictions and threats
If you are unlawfully evicted from land or are threatened, it is important that you notify as many relevant people as possible with as much detail and evidence (film, photographs, and recordings ) as is available.
Inform a wide range of people about your cause: local authorities or police, representatives of the person or company responsible or of its parent company, directors, shareholders or insurers, the press, campaigning groups of NGOs and others.
For an illustration of pre-emptive tactics against land seizure, read about Greenpeace’s “Airplot” campaign. (They bought a plot of land slap in the middle of the proposed site of Heathrow’s third runway – to prevent its construction).
b) Protest and resistance: know your rights
What to do if in danger of arrest or assault:
Further reading on land rights legal cases:
Ground-breaking win for indigenous people in Colombia: the Constitutional Court of Colombia finds in favour of the Embera Chamí people. Forest Peoples Programme, 2017.
Colombian Constitutional Court: Amparo action against an oil project license, 1997. A landmark case on indigenous land rights in Latin America.