The Strategist

2015 was the deadliest for environmentalists

06/20/2016 - 16:36

According to human rights organization Global Witness, 2015 became the deadliest for environmentalists. Number of killings of activists has grown by almost 60% compared to 2014, and reached a record mark of 185 people.

Human rights organization Global Witness published a report which shows that a record number of killings of environmentalists was recorded in 2015. There were 185 people murdered, which makes an increase of 59%. On average, more than three fighters for the salvation of nature were killed weekly, which is twice as much as journalists.

Brazil became the most dangerous country for defenders of land, forests and rivers, with 50 activists killed over the past year. Illegal farm workers and loggers invade previously untouched land in the country’s states washed by the Amazon. As a result, about 80% of timber shipped from Brazil, has been produced illegally. Its total share reaches 25% in the global market. Philippines (33 deaths) and Colombia (26 victims) followed Brazil in the ranking of countries where the largest number of killings of activists was committed. Mining industry was the most merciless towards environmentalists. At the end of 2015, it accounted for 42 deaths.

At the same time the study shows that often businesses and states have the same interests, so that no one looks for perpetrators of the murders. Authors of Global Witness’ report have counted a few dozen of such cases. Moreover, some governments did declare the activism illegal and anti-state. This practice has become particularly prevalent in Africa, especially in Cameroon, Madagascar, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

All murders of pro-environmental activists recorded in 2015 were marked only in 16 countries.

According to Global Witness, 116 environmentalists were killed in 2014. This is 20 percent more than in 2013. Nearly three-quarters of all homicides accounted for Central and South America, and the South-East Asia is in second place. Most often, environmentalists attacked in Brazil, Colombia and the Philippines.

Honduras had been called the most dangerous country for activists. In 2002-2014, 111 activists were killed there. At least crime 26 cases involved military, police, private security firms and paramilitary forces. Global Witness ties the high level of violence in Honduras with the military coup that took place there in 2009. According to the organization, it "led to an increase in the level of impunity and corruption in the judicial and law enforcement system."

In 2009, local generals organized a military coup. The army takeover was justified by a party purge conducted by President Manuel Zelaya in the top military leadership, and his attempt to hold a referendum on amending the constitution. Zelaya was accused of treason and abuse of power, and then was arrested and taken to the territory of neighboring Costa Rica. The United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) condemned the coup. Next presidential election was won by a candidate of the National Party Porfirio Lobo, who declared a political amnesty. In 2011, all charges against Zelaya were removed.