Unmitigated rise in attacks on Human Rights Defenders in Latin America, especially in the environmental area

October 31, 2016

Photo Credit: The Goldman Environmental Prize

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet and 30 October 2016 she summarized the findings of the latest OXFAM report under the appropriate title: There Is an Epidemic of Assassinations Targeting Human Rights Defenders in Latin America.

Michel Forst – the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders – wrote on 21 October in the Guardian equally alarmingly about the problem faced by land rights defenders under the title: “Police and hired assassins are killing land rights defenders. Let’s end this violence.” He ends with the conclusion: “In a resource-constrained world heading towards a climate emergency, we urgently need to rethink our approach to land use, which pivots on short-term profit regardless of human and environmental cost. Working more closely with environmental defenders is not just about protecting individual lives; it’s about protecting our planet.”

Many (including HRW, AI and Front Line) have reported on the 18 October 2016 killing of human rights defenders José Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionisio were murdered after they left a meeting of peasant farmers in the Bajo Aguán region of [AGAIN https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/honduras/Honduras. Both were organizers with the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA).

On September 18, indigenous environmental defender Máxima Acuña de Chaupe said she was attacked at her remote farm in the northern Andean highlands of Peru by private security under the employ of the Yanacocha mining company, a local subsidiary of the Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation.

According to Oxfam’s report such attacks reflect a record-high surge of violence targeting human rights defenders across Latin America. This trend, Oxfam says, is “related to the expansion of extractive industries as a national revenue model for Latin American and Caribbean countries.” When the state fails to fulfil its role and allows the rights of some to be violated while increasing the economic and political power and impunity of others and granting them privileges, it appears that government institutions have been captured for the benefit of economic elites”.

The report confirms what the organization Global Witness reported earlier: that 2015 was the most deadly year for human rights defenders yet. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/violence-against-environmental-human-rights-defenders-one-of-the-worst-trends-in-recent-years/]. The Oxfam briefing notes “This trend appears to be continuing in 2016, given that 24 defenders were murdered in Brazil in the first four months of the year; 19 defenders were killed in Colombia between January and March; seven were murdered in Guatemala between January and June and at least six defenders in Honduras and two in Mexico were assassinated between January and April.”

Many of those killed had repeatedly warned of threats against them or were even under government protection, raising questions about state inaction and complicity. The briefing states that “of the 63 human rights defenders murdered in Colombia in 2015, 21 had previously reported threats and four were under the protection of the National Protection Unit. In Honduras, 14 people under IACHR precautionary measures have been killed in the past four years.”

We are witnessing an unmitigated rise in attacks, including killings of leaders who fight in their own countries for basic human rights such as equality, access to water, or access to water or land,” said Asier Hernando, the Oxfam´s regional deputy director in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Even international recognition or support for human rights defenders has offered little protection, as seen in the cases of Berta Cáceres, murdered in Honduras, or Máxima Acuña, who continues to suffer ongoing attacks in Peru. If they can kill and threaten these recognized figures, the level of exposure and vulnerability for lesser known leaders is that much greater.” [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/berta-caceres/]

Front Line keeps reporting on other countries with recent killings such as in Colombia and Madagascar.

No surprise that the UN Special Rapporteur, Michel Forst, calls on businesses to adopt zero-tolerance policy towards attacks on environmental defenders!

Sources:

There Is an Epidemic of Assassinations Targeting Human Rights Defenders in Latin America | Alternet

https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/bn-el-riesgo-de-defender-251016-en.pdf

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/10/21/honduras-investigate-killings-land-rights-leaders

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/assassination-of-jose-angel-flores

Some telling pictures on this subject in: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2015/jul/02/persecution-and-violence-life-for-minority-and-indigenous-communities-in-pictures

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/oct/21/police-hired-assassins-killing-land-rights-defenders-end-violence-michel-forst

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/special-rapporteur-on-human-right-defenders-new-report-on-environmental-defenders-calls-on-businesses-to-adopt-zero-tollerance-policy-towards-attacks-on-hrds

https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/laura-carlsen/honduras-battle-to-protect-women-human-rights-defenders

https://business-humanrights.org/en/how-can-we-strengthen-mechanisms-to-protect-human-rights-defenders

One Response to “Unmitigated rise in attacks on Human Rights Defenders in Latin America, especially in the environmental area”


  1. […] Unmitigated rise in attacks on Human Rights Defenders in Latin America, especially in the environmen… […]


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