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Malaysia court blocks development company from destroying indigenous homes

[JURIST] Malaysia's Kuching High Court [official website] has issued an injunction to stop a company from destroying the homes of indigenous Malaysians. Last week, state-government agents began tearing down [BMF report] Iban houses on land controlled by the native Iban people [backgrounder] at the request Tatau Land Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of ASSAR Group [official website], a government-owned holding company seeking to develop the land. Between 25 and 30 houses were destroyed. The injunction [Bintulu report], issued Monday, prohibits Tatau Land and government agencies from entering the Iban land until at least February 9, when the court will conduct a full hearing.

A number of indigenous people have attempted to assert land rights in recent years. In August, an indigenous Indonesian tribe sued a subsidiary [JURIST report] of US mining company Freeport-McRoRan Copper & Gold [corporate website], claiming it owned the land the company was mining. In May, the Swedish Sami Association [advocacy website, in Swedish] brought a lawsuit [JURIST report] against Sweden's government, claiming the state was violating Sami hunting rights. In March, Brazil's Supreme Court expelled 200 rice farmers [JURIST report] from an area of land, ruling that the land belonged to indigenous peoples. In 2008, the New Zealand government and several Maori groups signed a deed of settlement [JURIST report] worth nearly NZ $196 million to resolve certain indigenous claims concerning land taken by British settlers in the 19th century.

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