Posts Tagged ‘killings’

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.

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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

Escazú Agreement to protect environmental human rights in Latin America stalling

December 23, 2019

Credit Wikipedia Commons

Despite being signed a year ago, the agreement hasn’t entered into force yet as it requires 11 of Latin America and the Caribbean’s 33 countries to ratify it. Only five have done that so far: Bolivia, Guyana, Saint Kitts, and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Uruguay. A group of 16 countries have signed it but not ratified it: Colombia, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Granada, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic and Saint Lucia. Another group of 10 countries has not signed it: Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, El Salvador, Honduras, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and Chile.

The NGO Global Witness tracks every year the number of people killed because of standing up for their rights and defending the environment. In 2018, the figure reached 164 people, with more than half taking place in Latin America – the most violent region for environmental defenders in the world. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/30/in-2018-three-murders-per-week-among-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]

A recent journalistic project called Land of Resistants, looked at the situation faced by environmental defenders in Latin America. They were subject to 1.356 attacks and incidences of violence between 2009 and 2019, according to the findings. Up to 50% of the attacks were targeted at people from ethnic minorities.

The Escazú Agreement wants to protect environmental human rights in Latin America — but not everyone is on board

Iran: nothing good to report in December 2019

December 20, 2019

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International says more than 300 people were killed in protests in Iran last month. In a report released on 16 December 2019 Amnesty says that according to reports it compiled, at least 304 people were killed and thousands injured between November 15 and 18 as authorities crushed protests with lethal force. The organization interviewed dozens of people inside Iran. It also analyzed video footage obtained by the group, which shows Iranian security forces opening fire on unarmed protesters who did not pose any imminent risk. The report said thousands of journalists and human rights defenders have also been arrested in an attempt to stop them from speaking out about Iran’s repression. Iran has yet to disclose details of the casualties.

On 18 December the European Union extended sanctions against Iran by another year over what the bloc says are serious human rights violations. The EU said in a statement it extended a travel ban and asset freeze against 82 people and also a ban on EU exports that might help in the repression of internal dissent. In 2011, the EU imposed the restrictions over the repression of peaceful demonstrators, journalists, human rights defenders and others. The sanctions also target those involved in torture, inhumane treatment and stonings or hangings. The extension prolongs the sanctions until April 13, 2018.

On 19 December 2019 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it is “appalled” by a Tehran court’s decision to uphold prison sentences for four journalists from the Gam (Step) online magazine. However, the appeals court in Tehran reduced the length of the jail terms from 18 to five years for each journalist — Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Sanaz Allahyari, Amir Amirgholi, and Assal Mohammadi — for a combined total of 20 years, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said on December 18. The journalists were arrested a year ago on what Amnesty International called “spurious” national security charges related to their reporting on workers’ rights protests in Khuzestan Province over grievances concerning unpaid wages and poor conditions.

RSF said on December 18 that the same appeals court in Tehran also upheld a prison sentence for Marzieh Amiri, a journalist for the reformist Shargh newspaper, but reduced her sentence from 10 years in prison and 148 lashes to five years in prison. Amiri was arrested in May after covering a demonstration outside parliament in the capital.

On 20 December 2019 UN human rights experts called on the Iranian authorities to release all individuals arbitrarily detained and mistreated during recent protests, and expressed concerns over the hundreds of people who have been killed. “We are shocked at reports of the ill-treatment of those detained during the protests that took place in November 2019, and deeply disturbed that the reported use of excessive force by the Iranian security forces led to an untold number of casualties, including deaths,” the experts said.

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https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20191216_26/

EU extends sanctions on Iran over human rights violations

https://www.voanews.com/press-freedom/rsf-appalled-five-iranian-journalists-get-total-25-years-prison

UN Experts Alarmed at Alleged Mistreatment of Detained Protesters

CAFOD starts “messages to the brave” campaign

December 3, 2019

Send a message to the brave this Christmas, says CAFOD

Three Brazilian women protest in the Netherlands against Brazil’s rainforest destruction Photo: Ana Fernandez / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

Samantha Aidoo – Campaigns Engagement Manager at CAFOD – explains the Messages to the Brave campaign:

Indigenous governor Cristina Bautista from Northern Cauca, Colombia, was passionate about defending the rights of the Nasa people and protecting their land and territory. But her courage and determination came at great personal cost. On 29 October, the 42-year-old and four unarmed indigenous guards who were with her were killed in a brutal attack near their Tacueyó reserve. Five other people were injured. The organisation which Cristina and her colleagues were part of, ACIN – the coordinating council for 22 indigenous reserves in the area which is supported by CAFOD – is no stranger to tragedy.

Just a few weeks earlier, Glabedy Gómez who worked alongside ACIN, her daughter, Karina, and four other people were ambushed and killed on their way back from a political event. Karina, 32, strongly believed that debate and political participation were important paths for building peace in Colombia and had been campaigning to stand in a local election. It is people like Cristina and her colleagues – known as human rights defenders – who are responding most acutely to what Pope Francis referred to in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ as “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”.

Across the world, indigenous communities are trying to stop big businesses from fencing off their land, tearing down forests and polluting rivers in the pursuit of mining, logging or large-scale agribusiness. But community members who dare to speak out and organise others to do the same may be harassed, threatened or even killed. To anyone here who has been following the climate strikes, or perhaps even taken part in one, it may seem unfathomable that people speaking out for the environment, peace and human rights could pay with their lives, but that is exactly what is happening. [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/global-witness-report-2018-on-environmental-defenders-bad-but-2017-was-worse/]

..

Their courage is helping to keep greenhouse gases in check and preserve key values like peace and human rights, but these communities are often left defending “our common home” on their own. In many countries, corruption, a lack of political will, or simply the fact that they live in a remote place means that communities who speak out often have no legal protection and no recourse for justice. That’s why this Advent, CAFOD is inviting people across England and Wales to send Christmas cards to those facing threats and attacks around the world in Brazil, Colombia, Uganda or the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The Messages to the Brave campaign highlights the tireless work of men and women like Jose Batista Afonso from Brazil. Born in the countryside to rural worker parents, Jose grew up deeply connected to the land. He hadn’t planned to be a lawyer, but this changed after he saw rural leaders around him being routinely assassinated. Despite receiving death threats, for more than 20 years Batista has worked for the Pastoral Land Commission, defending the rights of landless communities in the Brazilian Amazon with support from CAFOD.

.. a simple card will show them that they aren’t alone in their fight to protect “our common home”, they have a community of people in the UK who are praying and standing with them. Perhaps members of the Fuerza Mujeres Wayuu women’s movement in Colombia, who have received more than six threats already this year, put it best when they say that together, we can “weave little by little for the future, a world more just than the one we had to live in”.

https://www.thetablet.co.uk/blogs/1/1331/send-a-message-to-the-brave-this-christmas-says-cafod

UNESCO: 9 out of 10 killings of journalists go unpunished

November 4, 2019

The report, called Intensified Attacks, New Defences, covers the period 2014-2018. It assesses trends in the safety of journalists and media professionals around the world and provides an update on the status of journalist killings, based on condemnations issued by the Director-General and recorded in the UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists. 2Key findings include the rise in the number of journalist killings and other attacks, as well as the continued trend of widespread impunity. The report highlights the changing nature of violence against journalists, with more and more journalists being killed outside of conflict areas, and the growing prevalence of threats and harassment in the online sphere. It also highlights the specific risks being faced by women journalists, including online where they are disproportionately targeted by harassment and abuse. The intensified attacks against journalists are being met with a growing commitment to monitoring, protection, prevention and prosecution mechanisms for the safety of journalists. New coalitions, involving Members States, civil society, the media and academia reflect a stronger and more coordinated response to the protection of journalists, in line with the logic of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

The report also notes that killings of journalists have risen by about 18 percent in the past five years (2014-2018), compared to the previous five-year period.

The deadliest countres for journalists, according to the statistics, are Arab States, where almost a third of the killings took place. The Latin American and Caribbean region (26 percent), and Asian and Pacific States (24 per cent) are the next most dangerous. Journalists are often murdered for their reporting on politics, crime and corruption, and this is reflected in the study, which reveals that, in the past two years (2017-2018), more than half of journalist fatalities were in non-conflict zones. In his statement, the UN Secretary-General noted the rise in the scale and number of attacks on journalists and media workers, as well as incidents that make their work much harder, including “threats of prosecution, arrest, imprisonment, denial of journalistic access, and failures to investigate and prosecute crimes against them”….“Without the ability to protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and contribute to decision-making, is severely hampered.

A high-profile example is the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017. The case is being followed by independent UN human rights expert Agnes Callamard, among others, who has suggested that too little has been done by the Maltese authorities to investigate the killing. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/26/son-of-maltese-journalist-daphne-caruana-galizia-tells-un-impunity-continues/]

India has similarly horrifying stories to tell, where the brutal murder of Bangalore-based journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017 made headlines. Lankesh, the editor of Kannada weekly Lankesh Patrike, was shot dead in cold blood by religious activists at her residence, allegedly because of her liberal views. Though one of the six arrested gang members confessed to the crime last year, no convictions have been secured in the case. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/27/un-rapporteurs-ask-india-to-protect-journalist-rana-ayyub-and-refer-to-fate-of-gauri-lankesh/]

This year UNESCO has launched the #KeepTruthAlive social media campaign, which draws attention to the dangers faced by journalists close to their homes, highlighting the fact that 93 percent of those killed work locally, and featuring an interactive map created for the campaign, which provides a vivid demonstration of the scale and breadth of the dangers faced by journalists worldwide.

Carter Centre wants to preserve the stories of human rights defenders

October 22, 2019

On 15 October 2019, Ernie Suggs, reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the 12th Human Rights Defenders Forum in Atlanta had wrapped up and that former President Jimmy Carter said he’d like to see such defenders honored in a more permanent way at his namesake facility. According to the United Nations, 431 human rights defenders were killed worldwide in 2017. The Carter Center should tell those 431 stories, the former president said. Carter has been calling for the center to increase its presence in the human rights arena. “We ought to have a common place where we can get that information,” he said. “We ought to have a way to communicate with others so that, when people are abused or killed, their stories will be told.” However, there are already some serious projects on this area; see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/13/stop-the-killings-you-can-help-front-line/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/04/progress-report-on-i-defend-rights-project-in-2018/

Karin Ryan, the Carter Center’s senior policy adviser for human rights, said the narratives often get muddled. “The Carter Center has the ability to amplify the stories of human rights defenders, and the Carter Center has a reputation of speaking out and speaking truth to power,” Ryan said. “President Carter believes that we should be doing more and has challenged us to have a more comprehensive plan to get it done. When defenders start dying, what happens to society?”

About 50 activists, peacemakers and community leaders from 28 countries participated in the forum, which focused on “Building Solidarity toward Equality for All.” The group talked about global protection for activists, challenges faced by women fighting for human rights, and the best ways to support civil, economic, political and social rights. “Events like this are special because it makes us appreciate other agents and agencies that are doing good work around the world,” said Bashir Y. Mundi, a native of Nigeria and the director of the Development Initiative of West Africa. “This work can be under-appreciated and challenging, as evident by the stories you hear about the people who paid the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives and freedom.

Carter Center Statement from the 2019 Human Rights Defenders Forum:

Forum participants call on local and national governments and international organizations to:

1) Increase efforts to protect activists who are threatened and attacked. Offer activists political, moral,band physical support in times of crisis. Create robust programs to support women activists. Stop impunity for violators—hold accountable those who attack human rights and peace activists.

2) Increase meaningful long-term support for their work. Activists report that the difficult work of movements and civil society organizations is hamperedbydrastic funding cuts by previously reliable sources. In addition to issuingstrong statements about human rights abuses,governmentsshould also provide needed resources and other support. Philanthropic foundations also should increase flexible, long-term support. The Carter Center’s Human Rights Program has created a web-based platform to facilitate ongoing discussions and community building for human rights defenders and peacebuilders at forum.cartercenter.org

https://www.ajc.com/news/carter-wants-center-preserve-the-stories-human-rights-defenders/F5pFmpgVArA9XOgAnVoc8L/

Zimbabwe: two years Emmerson Mnangagwa have shown little difference from Mugabe

August 26, 2019

Anna Chibamu, writing in the New Zimbabwe of 26 August 2019, summarises the latest report of Amnesty International which shows that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has shown little difference with his predecessor Robert Mugabe and his near-two year reign has been replete with human rights abuses. In a statement, AI deputy director for Southern Africa Muleya Mwanawanda said Mnangagwa’s administration, since taking charge following the removal of Mugabe and the subsequent general elections last year, has been marred by a systematic and brutal crackdown on human rights and a decline in socio-economic conditions. “What we have witnessed in Zimbabwe since President Emmerson Mnangagwa took power is a ruthless attack on human rights, with the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association increasingly restricted and criminalised,” said the group.

Amnesty International said it has documented at least 15 killings by police when nationwide protests erupted mid-January this year and last week, 128 protesters were reportedly arrested with 400 having been convicted in the disturbances that rocked the country early this year. To date, the human rights organisation said 22 people including Evan Mawarire, a well-known local cleric and activist, and trade union leader Peter Mutasa – still face trumped-up subversion charges in connection with the protests. Some of the activists and human rights defenders were arrested at Robert Mugabe International Airport in May as they returned from a capacity-building workshop on non-violent protest tactics in the Maldives [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/21/four-zimbabwe-human-rights-defenders-detained-at-at-the-mugabe-airport-on-their-return-from-foreign-trip/]

On 24 August the Zimbabwean made similar statements.
That not everyone agrees is obivious and in a long anti-opposition rant in the Sunday Mail of 25 August one can find gems like:
The joint statement by the EU member states and the unashamed US was as condescending as it was patronising. Stripped to its bare essentials, the August 20 statement, without an iota of evidence, accuses Government of “intimidation, harassment and physical attacks” of hooligans disguised as human rights defenders.“…
and :“..they overly concerned with the rights of those who want to demonstrate — purportedly under the guise of freedom of assembly, association and expression, or any such gobbledygook — while ignoring the rights of those still nursing sutured, serrated and weeping wounds from the recent orgies of violence? Have these Excellencies, so besotted with human rights, ever lent an ear or a measly penny to those still counting losses and smarting from the recent violence, which destroyed their businesses and sources of livelihood? Is it not Mr Government who is picking up the tab? Hypocrites! But no sooner had the ink on the statement of these meddlesome Excellencies dried than we began discovering wholesale abductions, all played out to an excitable Twitter audience. Dear reader, it all happens on Twitter.”

For the diplomatic statement see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/21/statement-by-western-diplomats-in-zimbabwe-on-human-rights-defenders/

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https://www.newzimbabwe.com/ai-mnangagwas-horror-first-year-in-office-marked-by-repression/
https://www.thezimbabwean.co/2019/08/violence-in-zimbabwe-is-escalating/
https://www.sundaymail.co.zw/when-excellencies-grace-chitungwiza-shebeen

Environmental Human Rights Defenders: “More Deadly Than Being a Soldier in a War Zone”

August 6, 2019

The number of environmental human rights defenders murdered across the world has doubled over the past 15 years, climbing above the number of soldiers killed in some conflict zones, research has revealed. Between 2002 and 2017, as many as 1,558 people across 50 countries were killed while defending the environment, according to a study published in the journal Nature Sustainability,  The supply chain of violence”.

That is more than double the number of U.K. and Australian armed service personnel killed while on active duty in war zones during the same period, the researchers emphasized. Since 2004, the recorded number of environmental defenders dying has risen from two per week to four per week. Most were killed due to conflict over natural resources….

“Environmental defenders currently face a wave of violence that includes threats of physical harm, intimidation and criminalization,” the authors wrote. “Deaths represent the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the violence that environmental defenders face.”

indigenous woman, Brazil, protest, getty, Brasilia
An indigenous woman holds a Brazilian national flag stained in red representing blood during a march in Brasilia on April 26, 2019, on the last day of a protest to defend indigenous land and rights. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

In 2017, at least 185 activists were killed, with Indigenous peoples making up the biggest portion at around 30 percent, down from 40 percent in 2015 and 2016. At 36 percent, most deaths happened in Central America, followed by South American at 32 percent, and Asia at 31 percent. The most indigenous peoples died in the Philippines and Colombia between 2015 and 2017, with 36 and 22 deaths respectively. In 2017, 56 environmental defenders were killed in Brazil and 47 in the Philippines.

And the loved ones of victims struggle to seek justice, the authors said. Just over 10 percent of murders result lead to a conviction each year. This is likely due to corrupt police and authorities, who are sometimes involved in environmental devastation, and because murders are often carried out in remote areas. For instance, military and civil police are the main suspects after 10 land rights activists were killed in the city of Pau D’Arco, Brazil.

The researchers said the elections of populist leaders Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines are a further cause for concern. Bolsonaro has called activists terrorists, and plans to relax gun and environmental protection laws, while the Philippines’ president “has taken a violent stance toward human rights defenders, Indigenous peoples, environmentalists, women, drug users and others,” the authors wrote.

..

Companies and consumers also have a responsibility to “investigate the sources of products, publish the results and commit to eliminating violence from supply chains,” the authors said. Co-author Dr. Nathalie Butt, a researcher fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia, School of Biological Sciences commented in a statement: “The number of reported deaths of environmental defenders has increased, as well as the number of countries where they occur.” Butt told Newsweek she was surprised that corruption was the key driver of the deaths, rather than the resources themselves. “As a lot of the resource demand is driven by international markets, consumers in countries in the Global North need to make sure they are aware of where their products come from, and how they were obtained, and demand (through pressure on supply companies) ethical and transparent supply chain processes,” she said.

Butt continued: “In many cases they [environmental defenders] are trying to protect environments that are important for everyone on the planet such as the Amazon, which is critical in terms of buffering climate change and carbon emissions.”

….Christopher Jeffords, associate professor in the department of economics at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, told Newsweek: “These studies help shine a light on known instances of extreme violence committed against environmental defenders and thus help illuminate the notion that there are likely many cases which go unreported.” Eve Bratman, adjunct professorial lecturer at the American University Washington, D.C., School of International Service, told Newsweek: “The study tells us that the most important driving forces behind human rights abuses and the killings of environmental defenders are corruption and rule of law; when governments become more accountable, the benefits will likely be seen across the board. “In Brazil and several other countries, there is reasonable cause for concern that rates of violence will spike even higher given the dangers of today’s political climate.”

https://www.newsweek.com/more-deadly-being-soldier-war-zone-environmental-activists-killed-defending-planet-have-1452277

For the study mentioned see: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0349-4

In 2018 three murders per week among environmental human rights defenders

July 30, 2019

Taking a stand for environmental justice and protecting natural resources is a dangerous pursuit. A new report from the UK-based NGO Global Witness showed that 164 environmental human rights defenders worldwide were killed for their activism in 2018. That averages to just over three murders per week. And that’s an underestimation.

Global Witness said the true number was likely “much higher, because cases are often not documented and rarely investigated. Reliable evidence is hard to find or verify“. Also, murder is not the only way to quash dissent. Global Witness said, although killings are at a disturbing level, companies and governments were increasingly using other tactics like criminalization, non-lethal violence, harassment and threats, as the Guardian reported. One common tactic is for governments to label activists as terrorists. “Deaths were down last year, but violence and widespread criminalization of people defending their land and our environment were still rife around the world,” said Alice Harrison, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, as the HuffPost reported.

“The drop in killings masks another gruesome reality, ” said Harrison. “Our partners in Brazil and many other countries have noted a spike in other forms of non-lethal attacks against defenders — often attacks so brutal they’re just shy of murder.” [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/global-witness-report-2018-on-environmental-defenders-bad-but-2017-was-worse/]

The bulk of the murders took place in Asia or Central and South America. In fact, more than half were in Latin America and most of the victims were indigenous or rural campaigners standing up for their communities against mining, hydrocarbon development, damming and agribusiness. The mining sector was responsible for one-fourth of the murders.

The Philippines replaced Brazil as the most murderous country, with 30 victims, followed by Colombia with 24, India with 23 and then Brazil with 20. It’s the first time since the annual list began in 2012 that Brazil did not top the list, according to the Guardian. The number of reported murders there dropped from 57 the year before to 20 in 2018.

Guatemala had one of the highest numbers per capita and the sharpest increase with a five-fold increase, bringing the total number to 16 deaths in 2018, which Global Witness attributed to new investments in plantations, mining and energy projects, according to US News and World Report. “In general, the surge in killings is because Guatemala is witnessing a major setback with regard to democracy and human rights,” said Jorge Santos, executive director of the non-profit Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala, to Al Jazeera. His group has documented machete attacks and armed militias opening fire on indigenous people campaigning for land rights in areas that are home to mining operations, oil palm plantations and displacement of the Maya Q’eqchi’ community.

For the role of international financial institutions in al lthis see my post of roday: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/30/uncalculated-risks-attacks-on-human-rights-defenders-in-name-of-development/

https://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/spotlight-criminalisation-land-and-environmental-defenders/

https://www.ecowatch.com/environmental-activists-killed-2639511189.html?rebelltitem=3#rebelltitem3

https://www.euronews.com/2019/07/30/more-than-160-people-killed-for-defending-the-environment-campaign-group

https://timesofoman.com/article/1694919/World/Asia/Philippines-authorities-respond-to-Global-Witness-report

See also: Download the full report: Enemies of the State? (PDF, 3.8MB)