Central and South America and 40% of were of indigenous people. The investigation shows that most of the activists were killed whilst involved in disputes over hydropower, mining and agri-business, either shot by police during protests or by hired assassins. 2014 saw a spike in killings related to hydropower programmes, with 14 people killed campaigning for defending their land against dam projects. Honduras, has the most environmental activist killings per capita, with 101 deaths between 2010 and 2014, the report says. It is likely that the true death toll is greater than what is on public record, as the killings often occur in remote under-reported areas or in countries with restricted human rights monitoring.
The report also investigated trends in violence and intimidation, and has received testimony from activists who have been threatened and attacked or even charged with criminal activity or terrorism. Many campaigners are aware of the risks, “They follow me. They threaten to kill me, to kidnap me, they threaten my family. That is what we face,” Berta Cáceres, an indigenous Lenca activist and winner of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, told Global Witness.
Image credit: Rainforest Action Network / Flickr
Many of the reported killings have not resulted in convictions, and Global Witness states that it is “calling on governments and the international community to monitor, investigate and punish these crimes, and for Honduras to address abuses in the upcoming review of its human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council.”
If this issue gains more awareness as a human rights concern, it could put pressure on authority bodies to pass tighter regulations and ensure greater enforcement of the protection of the environment and people’s land. In countries where poverty, corruption or political instability result in little monitoring of commercial environmental activities, more support from the international community may be needed.
Global Witness (2015, April 20) How many more?