Posts Tagged ‘resource extraction’

Documenting the Killings of Environmental Defenders (Guardian and Global Witness)

July 15, 2017

Last Friday I asked attention for Front Line’s project Memorial that tries to honor all human rights defenders who have been killed since 1998 []. Now the Guardian announces that this year, in collaboration with Global Witness, it will attempt to record all of the deaths of people who are killed while defending their land, forests, rivers or wildlife – most often against the harmful impacts of industry. The project will also document the stories of some of the land and environmental defenders still under attack

Activists, wildlife rangers and indigenous leaders are dying violently at the rate of about four a week, with a growing sense around the world that ‘anyone can kill environmental defenders without repercussions’

Environmental defenders being killed in record numbers globally, new research reveals.

    • The Guardian pieces addresses also the crucial question of methodology.” Environmental defenders: who are they and how do we decide if they have died in defence of their environment?” [see:]

      Amazon rainforest activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo were murdered by gunmen in Brazil’s Pará state in May 2011
      Amazon rainforest activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo who were murdered by gunmen in Brazil’s Pará state in May 2011. Photograph: Stringer, Brazil/Reuters

      Some excerpts:

      Who are land and environmental defenders?

      Land and environmental defenders are people who take peaceful action, either voluntarily or professionally, to protect the environment or land rights. They are often ordinary people who may well not define themselves as “defenders”. Some are indigenous or peasant leaders living in remote mountains or isolated forests, protecting their ancestral lands and traditional livelihoods from business projects such as mining, dams or luxury hotels. Others are park rangers tackling poaching or illegal logging. They could even be lawyers, journalists or NGO staff working to expose environmental abuse and land grabbing.

      How does Global Witness document killings of defenders?

      Global Witness uses online searches and its extensive network of local contacts to source evidence every time a land or environmental defender is reported as murdered, or as having been abducted by state forces. A number of criteria must be fulfilled for a case to be verified and entered into the Global Witness database. A credible online source of information is required with the victim’s name, details of how they were killed or abducted (including the date and location), and evidence that s/he was a land or environmental activist. In some cases, specialised local organisations are able to investigate and verify the case in-country, meaning that an online source is not necessary. Global Witness includes the friends, colleagues and family of defenders if either they appear to have been killed as a reprisal for the defender’s work, or because they were killed in an attack which also left the defender dead. While Global Witness endeavours to keep its database updated in real-time, verification of cases can be time-consuming, meaning that the names of some individuals are added weeks, or even months, after their death.

      Honduras: Julia Francisco Martinez, widow of indigenous activist Francisco Martinez Marquez who was killed in January 2015
      Honduras: Julia Francisco Martinez, widow of indigenous activist Francisco Martinez Marquez who was killed in January 2015 after months of death threats. His killers have not been brought to justice. Photograph: Giles Clarke/Global Witness

      Why does Global Witness say that its data is incomplete? There are a number of reasons why the information in Global Witness’s database is likely to be incomplete. Many killings go unreported, and very few are investigated by the authorities, which is part of the problem itself. Suppression of the media and restrictions on human rights in some countries reduces the number of organisations and outlets documenting killings. In high-conflict countries it can be difficult to verify that a killing was linked to somebody’s activism. Some countries are likely to be under-represented because principal searches are currently limited to English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Global Witness’s network of local sources is also stronger in some regions than others.

      For full details of Global Witness’s methodology, visit

      see also:


Source: The defenders | The Guardian


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 Both were organizers with the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA). Read the rest of this entry »

Violence against Environmental Human Rights Defenders: one of the worst trends in recent years

September 1, 2016

The chilling trend of attacking human rights defenders working on environment and land rights continues. The help keep an overview here a summary of a number of relevant items:
On 26 August 2016 Patricia Schaefer of the Center for International Environmental Law posted a blog in the NonProfitQuarterly website under the Title “International Collaboration Reports on Violence against Environmental Activists”, summarizing two recent reports (On Dangerous Ground by Global Witness and a more recent “Deadly Shade of Green” by Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), British NGO Article 19, and Vermont Law School).

Read the rest of this entry »

Mongolia: human rights defender Beejin Khastamur on trial on 8 July

July 5, 2016

According to Front Line Defenders a rather curious case seems to have been construed against a human rights defender in Mongolia. The trial of human rights defender Mr Beejin Khastamur will start on 8 July 2016 at the Songinokhairkhan District Court in Ulan Bator. He was arrested on 16 March 2016 and denied bail on 22 March. He was eventually released pending trial on 31 March. Beejin Khastamur is the founder of a non-governmental organisation Delhiin Mongol Nogoon Negdel (DMNN), which advocates for the protection of environment and the rights of the nomad people of Mongolia. The organisation has exposed many violations of Mongolia’s environmental laws by foreign and domestic mining companies, in which Mongolian politicians had a stake. It has also organised numerous workshops, public gatherings and demonstrations to educate the public on environmental issues.

According to the police Beejin Khastamur allegedly attacked the driver of another car using a knife. On 6 February 2016, Beejin Khastamur was indeed involved in a car accident, during which no one was killed or injured and the material damage caused was minimal. The human rights defender was driving in Ulan Bator when a Nissan car tried to pass him on the wrong side twice and eventually hit his vehicle. Its driver got out of the car and attacked Beejin Khastamur kicking him and hitting the human rights defender in his head. Subsequently, during the forensic examination it was revealed that Beejin Khastamur sustained bruises all over his body and had a brain concussion, while the second driver had only small scratches on one of his knees. When police arrived at the scene, they concluded that the accident had been the fault of the second driver and left. However, they subsequently returned and brought Beejin Khastamur to the police station for questioning. The actions of the police have given rise to the suspicion that the accident may have been used as a pretext to target Beejin Khastamur for his human rights work.

[On 21-23 December 2015, Beejin Khastamur organised a sit-down strike protesting the illegal permit given to a Canadian and Mongolian joint company enabling it to mine gold right on Onon River. Since then he has received multiple threats. On several occasions people came to his house, banging on his door at night, cutting his electricity, puncturing his car tires, threatening his wife and children. The human rights defender also received death threats on the phone.]


Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped





Profile of Pedan Marthe Coulibaly, human rights defender from Côte d’Ivoire

May 27, 2016

Pedan Marthe Coulibaly human rights defender Côte d'Ivoire.







Pedan Marthe Coulibaly, human rights defender from Côte d’Ivoire

Ms Pedan Marthe Coulibaly is the national coordinator of the “Coalition Ivoirienne des défenseurs des droits humains” (human rights defenders coalition from Côte d’Ivoire). She was part of the NGO delegation sent by ISHR to participate in the 58th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. On 11 April 2016 ISHR published the following interview on her work

The Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des droits humains (CIDDH) was founded in 2004 and gathers together more than a dozen national civil society organisations. Its two main missions are to protect human rights defenders and to promote their rights. This work mostly involves raising awareness of and increasing the capacity of defenders to make use of human rights protection mechanisms. A founding member of the Centre féminin pour la démocratie et les droits humains (Women’s centre for democracy and human rights) in Côte d’Ivoire, Ms Coulibaly has been advocating for human rights in general, and women’s rights in particular, for over a decade. She started engaging on these issues immediately after graduating, when she realised that during the 2002 national crisis women were among the most exposed to human rights violations.

What does the coalition do?

The first activity of CIDDH is to ‘connect with the member organisations on a regular basis and seek information about the realities of their work’. The aim is to stay in tune with the challenges facing grassroots human rights defenders and, when needed, to identify ways of assisting them.

When informed about a difficulty facing a defender, the coalition carries out a risk analysis of the situation. If the risk is deemed high, the coalition can decide to alert partners, such as the West African human rights defenders network; send communications to the United Nations and African Commission Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders; or collect resources among its network in order to ‘move the defender to a safe place’.  Sometimes, the coalition may also publish press releases for distribution at press conferences.

Who are the most exposed defenders in Côte d’Ivoire? 

Given her pivotal role within CIDDH, Ms Coulibaly has been able to identify some of the most at risk defenders in Côte d’Ivoire, who are typically those working on sensitive issues, such as extractive industries. 

‘When they go to the field, defenders working on extractive industries are often forced to hide their true identity and the name of their organisations. (…) They can be subject to intimidations or threats from industries, sometimes with the support of administrative authorities.’

Defenders who question certain cultural practices, such as female genital mutilation, are also often the targets of  hostile community reactions.

The role of the coalition in the development of the HRD law

CIDDH was at the frontline throughout the drafting and adoption process of the recent law on human rights defenders in Côte d’Ivoire. The coalition was first invited by the Ministry of Human Rights to participate in the validation session of the draft law. CIDDH then initiated an intensive advocacy campaign to ensure the recommendations and concerns they shared at the validation session had been taken into account.

CIDDH also intended to check if the parliamentarians targeted during the advocacy campaign had appropriated the recommendations as their own and shared them during the adoption process. One of the concerns exposed by the coalition was the need to include the notion of ‘threat’ in the list of dangers facing women human rights defenders. This concern was duly included in the adoption process. Regretfully, the coalition’s opposition to the obligation for human rights defenders to submit annual reports to the State fell on deaf ears.

The coalition subsequently attended, as an observer, the parliamentary session to adopt the law, where they were relieved to witness that most of the recommendations made by human rights defenders had been retained.

Following the adoption, CIDDH focused on training human rights defenders so they could get to know the content of the law and ‘make it theirs so as to promote their own rights’. The coalition intends to continue advocating for the adoption of an implementation decree for the law, as well as for an implementation mechanism to be put in place.  

More proactivity for better protection 

While recognising the crucial role of ‘emergency funds’ provided by partners such as Frontline Defenders when defenders’ rights are violated, Ms Coulibaly insists on the need for and the difficulty in achieving a more proactive approach.

 ‘We should not wait to see real dangers before starting to collect resources to protect defenders (…) If the coalition had permanent resources for a staff member dedicated to the protection of defenders, this would make the work of defenders a lot easier.’

Ms Coulibaly also calls for the international community to step in for the protection of human rights defenders. She stresses that ‘collaboration with the international community should go beyond exchange of information, communications or reports’ and take the form of ‘concrete measures’ to protect defenders.

Putting defenders at the heart of the African Year of Human Rights

With 2016 being declared the African Year of Human Rights by the African Union there is an opportunity to make an assessment of the situation of human rights defenders in Africa, says Ms Coulibaly. The progress made to date and remaining challenges should be identified. It is also essential that each country sets up strategies to implement laws protecting human rights and that these laws have a real effect on the ground.  

‘It is a real problem: protocols are being adopted, legal instruments are being adopted, but these documents have no impact on real life. No one can feel any change.’

Source: Defender profile : Pedan Marthe Coulibaly, woman human rights defender from Côte d’Ivoire | ISHR

Human Rights Defender Profile: Pedro Sica from Guatemala

April 21, 2016

Pedro Tzicá (or Sica) is a K’iche’ Guatemalan human rights defender working on human and environmental rights, as well access to justice and the right to development of indigenous peoples. Tzicá spoke to ISHR about his work, including organising community consultations to defend the indigenous peoples’ rights to land and natural resources in the face of mega-projects. The profile appeared in the ISHR Monitor of 7 March 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

500 signatories demand release of Indian filmmaker Sarangi

April 4, 2016

A remarkably large and diversified group of some 500 film makers, writers, professionals in the area of art & culture, academics, activists and social organisations demand the release of Indian filmmaker and human rights defender Deba Rajan Sarangi in an open letter published on 3 April 2016.

They state that they are deeply shocked to hear about his arrest on 18 March, 2016, by plainclothes policemen from the Kucheipadar village of Rayagada District, Odisha. Debaranjan was in Kucheipadar to attend a funeral. He was arrested with a non-bailable warrant issued by the court of JMFC, Kashippur in pursuance of a case registered in Tikri police station of Rayagada district in 2005, when Debaranjan was actively involved in the struggle of the Adivasis in Kashipur to protect their lands from the invasion of the bauxite mining companies…

Deba Ranjan Sarangi has highlighted and critiqued policies of destructive development, unbridled mining practices, displacement, police impunity, atrocities on Dalits, Adivasi issues , growth of communal fascism in Odisha, violence on women and farmers’ suicide in the context of acute agrarian. Deba Ranjan has been put behind bars because he had the courage to show what he witnessed to the world through his expressions of film making, writing and speech. He is neither a Maoist nor a terrorist. We call upon the Odisha government to address the issues raised by the human rights defenders in the State of Odisha rather than imprisoning them and crushing the voices of film makers. We call upon the Odisha government to desist from such disgraceful attempts of violating the Indian Constitution and Indian democracy.
The link below gives a partial list of signatories:

Source: 500 Artists, Activists And Writers Demand Filmmaker Sarangi’s Release

Alarming criminalisation of human rights defenders in Latin America

February 27, 2016

The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of the extraction of natural resources and megaprojects is becoming a very worrisome phenomenon in Latin America, denounces the Observatory in a report published today in Mexico. Entitled “The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of industrial projects: a regional phenomenon in Latin America”, this document points to the role of businesses, civil servants, public prosecutors, judges, and the State. The report issued by OMCT and FIDH (in the context of their Observatory for Human Rights Defenders) on 25 February 2016 describes the specific cases of human rights defenders criminalized in eight Latin American countries (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru).


The report especially stresses two core issues common to all the countries studied: Read the rest of this entry »

Latin America, Philippines most dangerous places for Human Rights Defenders

January 6, 2016

The latest statistical report released by Front Line Defenders revealed the appalling reality that human rights defenders all over the world are at great risk to be victims of extreme forms of violence. And based on the organization’s annual report, 157 human rights activists were killed or died in detention in 25 countries in 2015. Latin America, Philippines are named as most dangerous places for Human Rights Defenders. Read the rest of this entry »

Human Right Defender Jean-Pierre Okenda, Democratic Republic of Congo

November 29, 2015

On 26 October 2015, the ISHR published a profile of human rights defender Jean-Pierre Okenda, Democratic Republic of Congo. It was conducted on the margins of a meeting of the African Commission. ISHR-logo-colour-high

Jean-Pierre Okenda has taken his own route toward improving human rights impacts of extractives projects in his country. His role, as coordinator for a platform of civil society organisations in the mining sector, involves a great deal of immersion in books and texts, but also with people.

In the context of the DRC, it was absolutely critical that I redirect my work to make clear the connection between human rights and the extractive sector, and that meant research. It means understanding the global stakes of the issue. It meant explaining how bilateral relations and investment treaties really impact ordinary citizens and their rights.” Research for research’s sake is not Mr Okenda’s goal. He aims to develop networks, training, and tools to empower affected communities and other organisations to better document, understand, and evaluate the human rights impacts of a project.  He also emphasises the role of research in strengthening peoples’ understanding of the links between human rights, extractives industries, and taxation, incomes, and other ‘technical’ issues. He also urged legal reforms to help protects human rights at the local level.

Building relationships with the government and enterprises is a challenge – but it is possible, if one understands where they start from. I sent a questionnaire on human rights to local and national authorities, and you know what? There was, aside from a small amount of general familiarity at the central level, a total gap in terms of human rights knowledge. This made it clear that – sometimes – violations arise because of this lack of awareness or training. And yet, they are still responsible for protecting and realising these rights!” It is important,’ he added, ‘that they know what we are looking for when we come and ask for such and such a document’.

With corporations, it is the same. They limit themselves to two things: to the legal framework, and to the business’s internal priorities and policies. If they don’t have an internal policy, it’s likely that they don’t know a thing about human rights. To get them to think about human rights, it is critical to use another language they will understand, the language of professionalism.To further insist on empowering local communities and civil society to act, Mr Okenda noted the critical importance of having decentralized human rights institutions, so that even communities far from Kinshasa could seek resources and assistance to combat violations and abuses. ‘There is a growing global move toward more participation of civil society, in decisions related the politics and planning, in addition to the implementation. We need to see this apply in the area of extractives as well.’ The participation at the global level of local communities in the conversation about human rights and businesses is important. But the ability to participate is limited, says Mr Okenda, and so while human rights are central to the resolution of the issue, they will always be limited by governments’ hypocrisy, by neoliberalism, the financial crisis, and other geostrategic concerns.

Mr Okenda is clear: risks do exist, for all human rights defenders, including intimidation, violent attacks, denunciation, and abusive prosecutions. For those working on investment and extractives issues, the problem is that these might sometimes be the very same individuals or institutions (e.g., government agencies) that are meant to be protecting the people.So, according to Mr Okenda, defenders face every day a personal dilemma – to do what they think is right and defend a community’s interests, or to protect their property and the lives of themselves and their families.  In addition to overt risks, some defenders face pressure from their families themselves, who worry about the impact of rights defence work on safety and security. ‘When the family becomes vulnerable, you are really weakened, too.’ Nonetheless, concludes Mr Okenda: Even if there are risks, even if we human rights defenders face failure or lose patience, it is essential to keep speaking out. Silence is the biggest threat.Mr Okenda remains optimistic in his work. Efforts to encourage the government to recognize human rights defenders, and – along with corporate actors – see defenders as partners as opposed to adversaries, will be key.

Source: Defender Profile: Jean-Pierre Okenda, Democratic Republic of Congo | ISHR