At least 207 environmental activists were killed last year while trying to protect their land and communities from infrastructure development, mining, agribusiness, and other industries, according to a new report by the human rights group Global Witness. The murders, nearly four each week, were committed in 22 countries across the globe and make 2017 the deadliest year on record for environmental activists.
The annual report, “At What Cost?”, found that fighting agribusiness — such as palm oil or coffee — has overtaken mining as the deadliest activity for environmentalists, indigenous communities, and local residents. According to Global Witness: “These include the murder of Hernán Bedoya in Colombia, shot 14 times by a paramilitary group for protesting against palm oil and banana plantations on land stolen from his community; an army massacre of eight villagers in the Philippines who opposed a coffee plantation on their land; and violent attacks by Brazilian farmers, using machetes and rifles, which left 22 members of the Gamela indigenous people severely injured, some with their hands chopped off.”
Brazil was the deadliest country in the world for environmental activists last year, with 57 murders, and 60 percent of the killings recorded globally happened in Latin America. At least 46 murders worldwide were linked to activism against agribusiness, 40 murders to mining protests, and 23 each to combatting illegal logging and wildlife poaching.
“As brave communities stand up to corrupt officials, destructive industries and environmental devastation, they are being brutally silenced,” Ben Leather, a senior campaigner for Global Witness and one of the authors of the new report, said in a statement. “Enough is enough. Governments, companies and investors have the duty and the power to support and protect defenders at risk, and to guarantee accountability wherever attacks occur.”
For a Yale e360 special report on the rash of killings of environmental activists worldwide, click here.