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Justice for the Las Pavas community

May 2011

In a major victory for a Christian Aid spearheaded campaign, the 123 families in Las Pavas, Colombia, who were forced off their land at gunpoint two years ago, have won the legal right to return to the land.

The Colombian Constitutional Court has ruled that the Ministry of Agriculture must re-open their case for legal title to this land, the ownership of which was under dispute when it was sold to a company who wanted to exploit it for palm oil plantations.

Christian Aid partner, the Development and Peace Programme of Magdelena Medio, PDPMM, has been advising the community since the outset.

Following the court ruling, Banessa Estrada, a lawyer for PDPMM, said: 'It is a good ruling and the direction we were hoping for. Also, it gives INCODER (ministry for rural development) the opportunity to apply agricultural rules through a constitutional prism, that is to say in favour of displaced and uprooted communities.'

This is an emblematic case for displaced people that we expect to lead a genuine and extensive process of land restitution in Colombia. 'It is a good ruling and the direction we were hoping for...'

It began in July 2009, when Colombian riot police forced the community of Las Pavas off the land they had been living on and cultivating, leaving them no time to harvest their crops and telling them that the land had been sold to a palm oil company.

Christian Aid discovered that the Daabon group - a subsidiary of which was the Colombian company in the consortium who obtained the court order to throw the farmers off their land - was also a significant supplier of palm oil to The Body Shop.

We then brought the issue to the attention of The Body Shop and it agreed to co-finance an independent review into the case.

On the basis of the factual findings made following the nine-month probe, Christian Aid considers that the Daabon group had no excuse for being ignorant of the legal dispute surrounding the ownership of the land at Las Pavas.

The Body Shop gave Daabon two months to contact the farmers and begin to negotiate a settlement. But when the deadline passed with no contact having been made, The Body Shop decided to sever its trading relationship with the company.


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