Posts Tagged ‘killings’

Two more defenders killed in Honduras

October 16, 2020

Arnold Joaquín Morazan was shot dead in his home in Guapinol, a small low-income community on Honduras’s north coast, earlier this week in what is being reported as a murder by local media.

Morazán Erazo belonged to the Guapinol environmental group, whose imprisoned activists were recently shortlisted for the EU’s Sakharov Prizefor freedom of thought. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/guapinol-activists/]

On 27 September 2020, in the central Honduran city of Comayagua, two unidentified individuals on a motorcycle shot Almendares, a local freelance journalist, three times and then fled the scene; bystanders brought the journalist to a local hospital, and he was then transferred to the Escuela Universitario hospital in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, where he died yesterday morning, according to news reports and a report by Honduran free expression organization C-Libre.

“Honduran authorities must do everything in their power to conduct a credible investigation into the killing of journalist Luis Alonzo Almendares, determine whether it was related to his work, and prosecute those responsible,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Violence against journalists is happening with terrifying frequency in Honduras, and impunity prevails in almost all cases. The government must act urgently to show that the killers of journalists will be held to account.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/22/honduran-defender-iris-argentina-alvarez-killed-by-private-security-guards/

https://euobserver.com/foreign/149771

Colombia”s human rights defenders: ‘We’re being massacred’

October 8, 2020

Joe Parkin Daniels in Bogotá Colombia reports for the Guardian of 8 October 2020 on the latest Amnesty International study entitled “Why Do They Want To Kill Us?” and published on Thursday. It identified four areas of the country as particularly dangerous for activists: Buenaventura; the Amazonian province of Putumayo; the war-torn Catatumbo region on the Venezuelan border; and the Kubeo-Sikuani indigenous settlement in the eastern planes

Activists in Colombia have warned that they continue to face extermination despite the coronavirus pandemic, as Amnesty International accused the country’s government of doing little to protect them.

At least 223 social leaders – community activists defending human, environmental, and land rights – have been murdered this year, according to local watchdog Indepaz.

“We are being massacred, drop by drop,” said Danelly Estupiñán, who leads the Black Community’s Process (or PCN), an activist group dedicated to Afro-Colombian rights, in Buenaventura, an Afro-Colombian port city on the Pacific coast. Estupiñán has received countless death threats, been followed by suspicious men, and had her house broken into in recent months

For years, Colombia has been one of the world’s most dangerous countries for people who are defending human rights, territory, and natural resources,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty, said in a statement to media on Thursday.

Defenders will continue to die until the government effectively addresses structural issues such as the deep inequality and marginalization suffered by communities, ownership and control of the land, substitution of illicit crops, and justice,” Guevara-Rosas went on to say.

Human rights defenders across the country told Amnesty International’s researchers that the Covid-19 outbreak has also prompted authorities to reduce the protection arrangements – including state-provided bodyguards and armoured vehicles.

A historic 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and what was then Latin America’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (or Farc), was supposed to end decades of the bloodshed.

But though the accord formally ended five decades of civil war that killed 260,000 and displaced over 7 million, only a small fraction of its provisions have been implemented, while violence continues to rattle the countryside as Farc dissidents, other rebel militias, and cartels jostle for control.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/20/colombia-21-january-2020-civil-society-begins-a-much-needed-patriotic-march/


https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/10/debemos-proteger-quienes-defienden-tierra-ambiente-colombia/

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/oct/08/colombia-activists-murder-amnesty-international

Killing of journalists in Mexico: Juan Carlos Morrugares the latest victim

August 24, 2020

The BBC reported on 23 August that a man in Mexico has been given a 50-year prison sentence for ordering the killing of a prominent journalist, Miroslava Breach, who covered drugs violence and corruption in the country and was one of 11 journalists murdered in 2017 in Mexico. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/30/in-depth-investigative-report-on-journalist-miroslava-in-mexico/]. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/24/new-national-award-to-honor-slain-mexican-journalists/

Prosecutors said the lengthy prison term for Juan Carlos Moreno set a precedent in cases involving crimes against free expression. This “good news” comes amidst continuing killings of journalists also in this year. Reporter Pablo Morrugares was shot and killed in the city of Iguala in early hours of 2 August 2020, according to news reports and officials.

Pablo Morrugares was the fifth journalist to be killed in Mexico this year, in attacks which are increasingly also killing police guards assigned to the victims. More than 140 journalists have been killed over the past 20 years.

We are dismayed that Mexican journalists are being killed while supposedly under federal protection,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, CPJ’s Mexico representative. “Authorities must do everything in their power to curb this impunity in attacks on the press, bring the culprits in Pablo Morrugares’ murder to justice, and guarantee the safety of reporters it has committed to protect.

Morrugares, the founder and editor of news website PM Noticias, was attacked shortly before 1:00 a.m. on August 2 in a restaurant in Iguala, some 120 miles south of Mexico City in the state of Guerrero Two heavily armed men entered the restaurant and fired more than 50 rounds at Morrugares, who died instantly. A police officer assigned to Morrugares as part of a federal protection program also died in the attack. The gunmen left the scene immediately after.

Before founding PM Noticias, Morrugares worked as a spokesperson for the Iguala municipal government during the administration of José Luis Abarca. The former mayor was arrested on November 4, 2014, for his alleged involvement in the mass abduction and suspected assassination of 43 students from a Guerrero rural teachers’ college on September 26 of that year. In 2016, Morrugares and his wife were targets of an attack by unidentified gunmen in Iguala, according to news reports. Following the attack, the reporter was placed in a protection program overseen by the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which operates under the auspices of the federal Interior Secretariat (Segob). An official of the Mechanism, who asked to remain anonymous as he is not authorized to speak on the matter, told CPJ today that his institution relocated the journalist to a safe house at an undisclosed location in 2018, where he stayed under federal protection until the end of 2019. The official said that Morrugares returned to Iguala at his own request in January of this year and was assigned two state police officers as bodyguards, one of whom died in this week’s attack.

https://cpj.org/2020/08/mexican-journalist-pablo-morrugares-killed-in-iguala/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-53880211

The killing of “Randy” Echanis and Zara Alvarez put the Philippines under more pressure

August 22, 2020

The Philippines government’s practice of ” red tagging” – i.e.  labelling HRDs as communists or terrorists – has been repeatedy criticised by human rights defenders, NGOs, government and the UN.  “We are saddened and appalled by the ongoing violence and threats against human rights defenders in the Philippines, including the killing of two human rights defenders over the past two weeks,” said Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  Randall “Randy” Echanis, an agrarian reform advocate and peace consultant, was killed in his home in Quezon City, located just outside capital Manila, on 10 August, added the OHCHR spokesperson, noting that reports indicated that he suffered brutal treatment before he died, including blunt force trauma to the head and stab wounds. On 17 August, the day that Mr. Echanis was buried, another long-standing human rights defender, Zara Alvarez, was shot dead in Bacolod City on Negros Island, some 490 kilometres south east of Manila. Investigations into both cases are underway.

According to OHCHR, both Mr. Echanis and Ms. Alvarez had been repeatedly “red-tagged” – labelled as communists or terrorists – in relation to their work. Ms. Alvarez’s name appeared, for example, on a list of 649 people that the Government sought to designate as terrorists on 28 March 2020. “While the list was later truncated, many who were removed from the list, including Ms. Alvarez, continued to report harassment and threats, as highlighted in the High Commissioner’s human rights report on the Philippines published in June this year,” added Ms. Throssell.

Ms. Alvarez’s photo also appeared in a publicly displayed poster purporting to depict terrorists. She was pictured alongside two other human rights defenders who had been killed – Benjamin Ramos Jr. and Bernardino Patigas, both of whose murder cases remain unsolved. She had also spent two years in prison on murder charges before she was acquitted in March for lack of evidence. Following the murder of Ms. Alvarez, her colleague Clarizza Singson, received a death threat on Facebook warning her that she would be next. “This is particularly worrying as Ms. Singson’s name also appeared on the abovementioned list of suspected terrorists and her photo is included in the same poster,” added Ms. Throssell.

We have raised our concerns with the Government and the Commission on Human Rights on these cases, and look forward to continuing to engage with them,” said Ms. Throssell.

Eighty-nine cases involving the deaths of human rights activists from 2017 to 2019 are now being investigated by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an official said Friday. “The data that we have from 2017 to 2019, we have a total of 89, not to include the ones happening now. We call them human rights defenders,” CHR commissioner Leah Armamento said over ABS-CBN News Channel when asked about the number of killings of activists and members of progressive groups being investigated by the commission.

‘The endless killings of activists in the Philippines have become systematic in Duterte’s regime, and demonstrate the continuing impunity in the country. The government should end these killings immediately and take genuine steps towards ensuring justice for victims and their family members,’ said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director at FORUM-ASIA.

Global Witness: 2019 worst year ever for land rights and environmental defenders

July 29, 2020

On Wednesday 29 July 2020 Global Witness revealed the highest number of land and environmental defenders murdered on record in a single year, with 212 people killed in 2019 for peacefully defending their homes and standing up to the destruction of nature. 2019 is thus the deadliest year since the advocacy group began compiling data in 2012. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/30/in-2018-three-murders-per-week-among-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]

More than half the killings were in Colombia and the Philippines and indigenous people made up 40% of the victims, the Britain-based group said inn its report. It was a significant rise on 2018, when 164 killings were recorded.

The threat from mining and large-scale agriculture caused the most number of deaths, with these sectors also responsible for worsening climate change impacts, Global Witness said.

Insecure land tenure, irresponsible business practices and government policies that prioritise extractive economies at the cost of human rights are putting people, and their land, at risk,” said Rachel Cox, a campaigner at Global Witness.

Land and environmental defenders play a vital role in protecting climate-critical forests and ecosystems. When they take a stand against the theft of their land, or the destruction of forests, they are increasingly being killed,” she said.

Latin America accounted for more than two-thirds of all victims last year, with Colombia the deadliest country of all, with 64 killings.

In Asia, the Philippines had 43 killings compared to 30 the previous year, with six in India, three in Indonesia and one in Cambodia, according to Global Witness.

Many more were attacked, arrested, threatened and sued, said Global Witness, which recorded killings in 21 countries.

In the Philippines – which was the deadliest country in 2018 – “relentless vilification” of activists by the government and impunity for attackers may be spurring an increase in killings, it said.

A spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte did not respond to requests for comment.

At least 119 activists and farmers have been killed since Duterte took office in 2016, according to Global Witness, while local campaign groups put the figure at about 200.

Dozens of United Nations experts last month called for an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines, including killings of farmers and indigenous people.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the “downward spiral of the human rights situation”, and a new anti-terrorism bill could be used to target activists, they said.

“Days after the act was signed, the harassment of human rights defenders has visibly worsened,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Philippine human rights advocacy group Karapatan.

“While rural communities, including indigenous peoples, grapple with the impact of COVID-19, they are constantly hounded by military operations that benefit mining corporations encroaching on their ancestral land,” she said.

Two of the country’s biggest agribusiness brands – Dole Philippines and Del Monte Philippines – earlier this year said they would review their processes to better protect land rights.

But attacks against activists during coronavirus lockdowns signalled more violence worldwide, Cox said.

“Governments around the world have used the crisis to strengthen draconian measures to control citizens and roll back hard-fought environmental regulations,” Cox told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“This a more worrying time than ever.”

ttps://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/global-witness-records-the-highest-number-of-land-and-environmental-activists-murdered-in-one-year-with-the-link-to-accelerating-climate-change-of-increasing-concern/

https://news.trust.org/item/20200728231459-86pra

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/07/dangerous-day-land-rights-defenders-killings-surge-200729022143251.html

UN Representative for Colombia: killing of human rights defenders most serious threat to peace

July 16, 2020

Some former combatants in Colombia, have now turned to farming following the historic 2016 Peace Agreement – UN Verification Mission in Colombia/Marcos Guevara.

On 14 July 2020 UN News made public the following assessement:

The killing of former combatants, human rights defenders and social leaders of communities devastated by decades of conflict, remains the most serious threat to peace in Colombia since the signing of a landmark peace agreement in 2016, the top UN official in the country told the Security Council on Tuesday, meeting in-person at UN Headquarters in New York, for the first time in four months.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, said authorities on 6 July arrested an individual allegedly behind the killing of Alexander Parra, a former member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army, and leader of the former territorial area for training and reintegration in Mesetas, “These arrests are an example of the results that the mechanisms in the Peace Agreement can deliver”, Mr. Massieu said, and a reminder of the need to provide them with the support required to carry out their tasks. e.

Safety essential for those who laid down arms

After months of uncertainty and mounting security risks from illegal armed groups, Mr. Massieu said operations are now underway to transfer the former territorial area for training and reintegration in Ituango – where 11 former FARC-EP members and seven of their relatives were killed – to a new location in Mutatá…..

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the Mission, he said the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the vulnerable situation of roughly two-thirds of accredited former combatants who currently reside outside the former territorial areas for training and reintegration.

Offering a perspective from her own life, Clemencia Carabalí Rodallega, of the Municipal Association of Women, in Cauca, introduced herself as a survivor of a 4 May 2019 attack, which also threatened the lives of 25 other people working to defend the ethnic and territorial rights of communities in Colombia.

“Ethnocide in Colombia has not stopped,” she said. Not a day has passed since the Spanish invasion 528 years ago that a black or indigenous person has not been killed, a member of the indigenous or cimarrona guard has not been threatened, a woman has not been raped, or a human rights defender has not died by violence.

She said that since the signing of the Peace Agreement, 686 leaders and human rights defenders have been murdered, 160 of them in this year alone.  She described the 2019 assassinations of a mayoral candidate from Suárez municipality and a governor of the Nasa indigenous community, along with the dismemberment, earlier this month, of a member of the Renacer Afro-Colombian Community Council, in Cañón del Micay.

“These situations have increased exponentially due to the COVID-19 pandemic”, she stressed.

She urged the President to fully implement the Comprehensive Programme of Safeguards for Women Leaders and Human Rights Defenders, and the Comprehensive Protection and Security Programme for Communities and Organizations in the Territories.

More broadly, she said the Government must comply with the entire Peace Agreement – especially its Ethnic Chapter and provisions on gender – and effectively investigate and prosecute those behind the violations.

She invited the international community to “put yourselves in our shoes” and visit the territories, accompanying Colombians in their peacebuilding initiatives, “not only through technical and economic support, but also with political commitment, as guarantors.”

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/20/colombia-21-january-2020-civil-society-begins-a-much-needed-patriotic-march/

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/07/1068371

Land rights defenders are the main target of those destroying the environment

April 24, 2020

The world has come together in the fight against a common enemy in COVID-19; a force so strong that it has knocked economies to the ground, turned our daily lives upside down and made us reflect on what really matters. Yet amidst the world’s lockdown, there are land grabbers and investors looking to take advantage of the situation. For them, there is no better time to strike than now.

This Earth Day, more than any other, it’s time to shine a spotlight on the everyday guardians of our planet, land and environment defenders, who stand at the front line to defend their land and territories from corporate or state abuse and unsustainable exploitation.  They protect lands, forests and water sources, which provide their communities with good and healthy food, shelter and medicine.

By protecting such resources for the common good, they find themselves directly in the way of others who want to profit from these natural resources. If their lives were at risk before, this global pandemic has only exasperated an already difficult situation. When a community goes into lockdown, defenders not only become easier to target, they lose their right to protection and the world’s attention and that of the media, is elsewhere.

A Miskito woman in Nicaragua. Photo: Jason Taylor/ILC.

Defending land, ecosystems, and Indigenous rights has always come with immense risks.

More than three people were murdered each week in 2019 for defending their land and environment. Countless more were attacked or threatened. Only a year ago, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a landmark resolution, recognizing the importance of environmental human rights defenders and urging States to ensure their protection. Yet, as governments call states of emergencies and enforce new containment measures, even where national protection mechanisms for defenders exist, they are rendered futile.

Even worse, lockdowns are being used by irresponsible companies to further suppress defenders and by governments to give industries a free pass.

We saw evidence of this as the first cities in Colombia went into lockdown and three social activists were killed. Marco Rivadeneira, a high-profile activist, was murdered in the southern Putumayo province, Ángel Ovidio Quintero was shot dead in the western Antioquia region, and Ivo Humberto Bracamonte was killed on the eastern border with Venezuela. These follow more than six hundred murders of social activists in Colombia since the Peace Accords were signed.

While in Indonesia, two local land defenders have been killed and four arrested in connection with land disputes in Sumatra and Borneo, as mining and palm oil operations in rural areas continue on with business as usual and activists are told to stay home.

In Brazil, the country’s environment agency is withdrawing its enforcement staff because of the risk of contracting the virus. This move coincides with a 70 percent increase in deforestation compared to 2019. Many fear that loggers and land grabbers will take advantage of the lax policing, hoping for impunity. We are observing the same trend in other countries, all over the world.

The increased vulnerability of these defenders is palpable, and what’s happening, alarming. We must ask ourselves how we can ensure and promote their safetyUN Human Rights Experts have expressed grave concern on “the rise of reports of killings and other instances of excessive use of force targeting in particular people living in vulnerable situations”.  Amnesty International has issued a series of recommendations to states in the Americas to ensure that their responses to COVID-19 are in line with their international human rights obligations.

In addition to appealing to States to maintain and reinforce their promises and protection schemes, there are some urgent steps that we need to take.

Develop an urgent real-time alert system for crisis situations to help people in danger. Where data is available, 80 percent of killings are preceded by a non-lethal attack or a threat on the affiliated group or community.  So while environmental human rights defenders receive daily death threats, usually a sign for what’s to come, who will hear their cries for help?

A group of organizations belonging to the Defending Land and Environmental Defenders Coalition – among them, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Frontline Defenders, Global Witness, the World Resources Institute and the International Land Coalition – are systematically monitoring COVID-related incidents in order to identify trends. Cases can be securely collected beginning Friday via LANDex, a global monitoring system dedicated to democratizing land data.

Particularly vulnerable are many of the world’s 320 million Indigenous peoples, whose territories are often rich in natural resources. Despite protecting more than 50% of the world’s land surface, they have formally recognized ownership over just 10%, which leaves them especially exposed. Governments and corporations should heedcalls for a moratorium on external activities in Indigenous territories without their express consent.

Beyond urgent measures, building longer-term resilience for these communities is essential so that they are not as vulnerable to increased harassment, threats, criminalization and eventually, killings. Secure land rights for local communities gives greater control over their own territories, and provides them with legal recourse when faced with harassment and attacks.

On this Earth Day, as we look forward to re-building a more sustainable world, we cannot forget those who have dedicated their entire lives – putting themselves and their families at risk – to do just that.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/14/front-line-defenders-global-analysis-2019-is-out-304-hrds-killed/

Land and environmental defenders are sitting ducks, while world goes into lockdown

Defending the Monarch Butterfly in Mexico costs lives

February 7, 2020

Mexican authorities are investigating the death of an employee of one of Mexico’s largest butterfly reserves. Raúl Hernández Romero was the second person connected to the reserve found dead in less than a week. The first death was Homero Gómez González — an environmental activist and well-known defender of the Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve in the Michoacan state. The deaths have alarmed environmental activists and human rights defenders in the country.

Amnesty International said it is alarmed. Twelve environmental defenders were already killed in Mexico in 2019. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/30/in-2018-three-murders-per-week-among-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]. The World’s host Marco Werman spoke with Erika Guevara Rosas, director of Amnesty International Americas, about the killings. Marco Werman: Homero Gómez González was very well-known for his protection of the monarch butterfly in Michoacán. He administrated sanctuaries to protect the monarch butterfly. But he was also a protector of the environment. He denounced, many times, illegal logging in the area and the increased presence of groups of organized crime that were trying to take over certain territories and land and threatened the environment where these monarch butterflies arrive every year in Mexico. Erika Guevara Rosas: We get a nice sense of his commitment to what he was doing with a video he posted just last month on Twitter. He’s in his butterfly sanctuary and thousands of butterflies are swirling all around him. He’s pretty happy and proudly declares in his tweet that the sanctuary in Michoacan is the biggest in the world. It’s kind of a sad video in retrospect, shot a couple of weeks before Gomez Gonzalez was killed. [https://twitter.com/miblogestublog/status/1222901129199009798]

Hernández Romero’s death, “along with the death of Homero Gómez, demands immediate investigation and full accountability,” tweeted Richard Pearshouse, head of crisis and environment at Amnesty.

‘Horrific’, adding that Raúl Hernández Romero’s family says he received threats regarding his work campaigning against illegal logging in the weeks before he disappeared. El Rosario sanctuary provides a home for millions of migrating monarch butterflies each year and draws thousands of tourists annually. But the reserve has also drawn the ire of illegal loggers in Mexico, who are banned from cutting down trees in the protected area. Before the ban, more than 1,000 acres of the woodland were lost to the industry between 2005 and 2006.

https://www.wvxu.org/post/killing-environmental-activists-has-become-norm-mexico-activist-says#stream/0

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/03/horrific-human-rights-advocates-call-investigation-death-second-monarch-butterfly

Colombia: 21 January 2020 civil society begins a much-needed Patriotic March

January 20, 2020

The United Nations’ mission chief told the Security Council on Monday 13 January that Colombia will not achieve peace “if the brave voices of social leaders continue to be silenced” and urged government action. In his address to the council, UN mission chief Carlos Ruiz dismissed President Ivan Duque‘s recent claim that violence against human rights defenders and community leaders dropped 25% last year. In the course of 2020, already 15 social leaders have been assassinated in an exceptional spike in political killings, according to independent think tanks. “On December 23, artist and social leader Lucy Villareal was killed in the Nariño department after conducting an artistic workshop for children and the killings of former FARC-EP combatants resumed on the very first day of the year with the death in the Cauca department of Benjamin Banguera Rosales,” Ruiz highlighted. Ruiz additionally warned that “the pervasive violence in conflict-conflicted areas continues to threaten the consolidation of peace as illustrated by several profoundly worrying developments in the last few weeks.”

According to conflict expert Camilo Gonzalez of think tank Indepaz, 368 community leaders and human rights defenders have been assassinated since Duque took office in August 2018. Gonzalez confirmed social organizations’ claims that “there is an omission or even complicity by elements of the public force, by agents of the state” with illegal armed groups accused of many of the killings. While Duque has blamed drug trafficking for the killings, think tanks and the United Nations have said that also land disputes and mining are among the main motives for the killings.

——-

https://www.plenglish.com/index.php?o=rn&id=50838&SEO=illegal-wiretapping-of-journalists-denounced-in-colombia

https://reliefweb.int/report/colombia/security-council-press-statement-colombia-3

15 community leaders assassinated in Colombia in 2020

UN mission chief says Colombia should ‘urgently’ and ‘fully’ implement peace deal

https://www.newsclick.in/colombia-stories-pain-and-resistance

https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/latin-america/united-nations-envoy-for-colombia-peace-depends-on-stopping-killings.phtml

Colombia’s human rights defender Leyner Palacios threatened by armed group

Front Line Defenders Global Analysis 2019 is out: 304 HRDs killed

January 14, 2020

The most dangerous and deadly sector of human rights defenders remains land, environmental and indigenous rights, according to the Global Analysis report 2019 by Front Line Defenders. 304 people across 31 countries were targeted and killed last year and the document starts by listing their names.

Front Line Defenders said this was due to “the profit driven exploitation of natural resources, combined with corruption, weak governments and poverty“. Speaking to RTÉ News, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, Andrew Anderson, described the scale of the killings as “horrific” ..almost one person a day is being killed around the world because they are working “peacefully to defend land rights, environmental rights” and to “hold the powerful to account”.  “The true scale of the problem is probably much higher” he said.

In the cases for which the data is available, the report found:

  • 85% of those killed last year had previously been threatened either individually or as part of the community or group in which they worked
  • 13% of those reported killed were women
  • 40% of those killed worked on land, indigenous’ peoples and environmental issues

Last year saw mounting pressure on activists defending LGBTI rights, as well as women’s rights and migrants’ rights. Female activists faced online smear campaigns, trolling and defamation to intimidate, shame or harass in order to push women activists out of online spaces. The statistics show that 13% of human rights defenders killed in 2019 were women. The report also notes some positive developments, including the male guardianship system being revoked in Saudi Arabia, women from the Sulaliyat tribe in Morocco being able to inherit and own land, and Sudan removing a law where women could be arrested if found dancing, wearing trousers or mixing with men who were not their relatives.

With massive protests in Iran, Hong Kong and Chile, Front Line Defenders said that 2019 was characterised by waves of public uprisings of “remarkable magnitude”, which demanded change of how people are governed. However, it said there were restrictions on freedom of expression and authorities often invoked “security” as a justification to ban all peaceful demonstrations Physical assaults, defamation campaigns and digital attacks were major issues.

Internet shutdowns, restricting access or blocking communication tools, such as social media, were common. Messaging app WhatsApp, which is popular for organising and communications, became a “serious threat” when it was used against human rights defenders in a number of cases.

As the role of human rights defenders ranged from organising and mobilising to monitoring and documenting human rights violations, the human rights organisation said it provided more than 620 protection grants to activists at risk in 2019.

For last year’s report see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/

https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2020/0114/1107280-front-line-defenders/

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2020/jan/14/300-human-rights-activists-killed-2019-report