At least 312 human rights activists were killed in 27 countries during 2017, according to the Front Line Defenders’ annual report.
“More than two-thirds of these, 67 percent of the total number of activists killed, were defending land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights, nearly always in the context of mega projects, extractive industry and big business,” FLD said in their Human Rights Defenders At Risk report.
FLD said there were few repercussions for killing human rights activists and many of them were predictable. Only 12 percent of reported deaths resulted in an arrest and 84 percent of victims received at least one targeted death threat.
“Around the world, defenders continue to tell us that police and government officials refuse to respond to requests for protection following death threats to activists,” said FLD Executive Director Andrew Anderson. “Killings almost always occur following a series or pattern of threats, indicating that if preventive action were taken by police, and threats against defenders were taken seriously by authorities, HRD killings could be drastically reduced.”
Although killings occurred in 27 countries 80 percent of them occurred in just four countries: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and the Philippines.
“At least 212 HRDs were killed in the Americas in 2017, with 156 of these killings taking place in Brazil and Colombia alone,” the report states. “[Last year] also saw the highest number of killings of environmental defenders and journalists registered in Mexico in recent years, in the midst of a crisis of violence throughout the country.”
While human rights activists are being killed by mostly unknown assailants, they also face threats from governments of the countries they work in with criminalization of their work being used more often as a tool, sometimes even with the threat of death.
“In 2017, thousands of activists were detained on fabricated charges, subjected to lengthy, expensive and unfair legal processes or sentenced to long prison terms,” the report states. “In a number of countries, authorities accused HRDs of ‘waging war against the state’ and ‘secession’ charges, which carry the death penalty.”
By Ray Downs