UK palm oil company accused of human rights abuses
British-based company, Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO), has been accused of human rights abuses and land-grabbing in Liberia.
According to campaign group Global Witness community members claimed that they had been arbitrarily arrested and assaulted after resisting the company's attempts to take their land.
A spokesperson for Global Witness said: “These communities appear to have had their land taken and cleared without their consent, and when they object it looks like they’ve been beaten up and arrested.”
Equatorial Palm Oil, which was listed on the London Stock Exchange, was said to hold two palm oil concessions in Liberia and to have taken steps to expand its operations on community customarily owned land, which, according to the article, would be “contrary to protections in international human rights law and EPO’s commitments to the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)”.
The RSPO was an industry body set up ostensibly to eliminate human rights abuses and environmental destruction in the palm oil industry. A complaint about Equatorial Palm Oil was reported to have been lodged with the RSPO in September 2013 on behalf of 363 affected households. This alleged that the company had cleared and planted on community land and was attempting to expand its plantation without the free, prior and informed consent of those who lived there.
According to the article, community members claimed to have been beaten by the police and the company's security personnel when they were walking to the capital, Buchanan, to lodge a protest against the company with authorities on 18th September.
Seventeen people were understood to have been arrested but released when the County Attorney found there were no grounds for their detention. The police denied assaulting community members and the company denied any knowledge of the incident. However, the company admitted to Global Witness that it provided logistical support to the Liberian police.
The affected communities were reported to suffer increased intimidation by the Liberian police and the company's security personnel, including driving through villages at night time with emergency lights flashing and causing women and children to flee into the bush.
Find out more about our palm oil campaign with the Rainforest Foundation.
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