Dead­li­est year on record for en­vi­ron­men­tal de­fend­ers

Wisconsin Gazette - - Front Page - By Lisa Neff Staff writer

At least 20 indige­nous lead­ers, com­mu­nity ac­tivists and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists were killed in 2017 for try­ing to pro­tect their homes and com­mu­ni­ties from min­ing, agribusi­ness and other de­struc­tive in­dus­tries, ac­cord­ing to the in­ter­na­tional Global Wit­ness or­ga­ni­za­tion

The to­tal num­ber of killings is prob­a­bly much higher, said Global Wit­ness in a state­ment that ac­com­pa­nied the re­lease of the re­port “At What Cost?”

The group also said mur­der is the most egre­gious ex­am­ple of a range of tac­tics used to si­lence de­fend­ers. Oth­ers in­clude death threats, ar­rests, in­tim­i­da­tion, cy­ber­at­tacks, sex­ual as­sault and law­suits.

Agribusi­ness has over­taken min­ing as the in­dus­try most as­so­ci­ated with the at­tacks.

The re­port links the vi­o­lence with con­sumer prod­ucts, in­clud­ing palm oil for sham­poo and tim­ber for fur­ni­ture.

The re­port also states some gov­ern­ments and busi­nesses are com­plicit in the killings.

Said se­nior Global Wit­ness cam­paigner Ben Leather: “Lo­cal ac­tivists are be­ing mur­dered as gov­ern­ments and busi­nesses value quick profit over hu­man life. Many of the prod­ucts emerg­ing from this blood­shed are on the shelves of our su­per­mar­kets. Yet as brave com­mu­ni­ties stand up to cor­rupt of­fi­cials, de­struc­tive in­dus­tries and en­vi­ron­men­tal dev­as­ta­tion, they are be­ing bru­tally si­lenced. Enough is enough.”

Some key find­ings in the pa­per:

Brazil recorded the worst year on record any­where in the world, with 57 mur­ders in 2017.

Forty-eight de­fend­ers were killed in the Philip­pines in 2017, the high­est num­ber ever doc­u­mented in an Asian coun­try.

Sixty per­cent of recorded mur­ders were in Latin Amer­ica.

For the first time, agribusi­ness was the blood­i­est in­dus­try, with at least 46 mur­ders linked to the sec­tor.

Killings linked to min­ing in­creased from 33 to 40, and 23 mur­ders were re­lated to log­ging.

Tak­ing on poach­ers be­came even more dan­ger­ous, with a record 23 peo­ple mur­dered for tak­ing a stand against the il­le­gal wildlife trade — mostly park rangers in Africa.

Global Wit­ness linked gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity forces to 53 of the mur­ders.

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