On 3 November 2015 Cameroonian activist Nasako Besingi – environmental campaigner, human rights defender and director of the TAIGO prize-winning NGOStruggle to Economise our Future Environment (SEFE) – was imprisoned for defamation, because of the “injury to the reputation” of controversial palm oil company Herakles Farms.
Besingi must serve three years prison or pay fine of 2,400 USD, in addition to 17,000 USD in damages to plaintiff SGSOC, a local subsidiary of the US palm oil company Herakles Farms.
SGSOC sued Besingi after he denounced Herakles Farms’ activities and supported communities that opposed the illegal conversion of forests into agricultural lands; he has been personally threatened, physically attacked by Herakles Farms staff and judicially harassed.
Thanks to the mobilization of local groups such as SEFE, the controversial issue of illegal forest conversion has been discussed within the VPA process in Cameroon. Globally, the destruction of forests for agricultural purposes is rapidly expanding, driving deforestation. This cannot be ignored in the context of EU efforts to halt illegal logging and address climate change.
The conviction of Besingi resonates beyond Cameroon: it is an intimidating signal to all who dare to challenge the worrying trend of large-scale and corporate land-grabbing. Besingi will appeal against this judgment.