207 environmental activists killed last year

‘State actors responsible for 53 deaths’

More than 200 environmental activists were murdered last year as government-sponsored killings linked to lucrative projects by vast agriculture multinationals soared, a global rights watchdog warned on Tuesday.

Global Witness said it had documented 207 cases where activists were killed while trying to protect land from development, often for the production of consumer staples such as coffee and palm oil, making 2017 the deadliest year on record for environmentalists.

“As global demand for these products increases, there’s a scramble by business actors to get the massive amount of land they need to grow these products,” Ben Leather, senior campaigner at Global Witness, said.

“When people dare to stand up for their rights and demand that the environment be protected they are silenced in the most brutal way.”

The watchdog said it had found evidence that government actors — soldiers or police — were responsible for 53 of the deaths.

“We can guess that in the cases where criminal gangs or other non-state actors carried out the attacks, the State may well have been involved,” Leather said.

Complicity in killings

“While in a shocking number of cases state actors pulled the trigger, in other cases where the government allowed businesses to enter without protecting local rights, they’re also complicit in the murders of these activists.”

These include murder, but also death threats, intimidation, arrests, cyber attacks, sexual assault and lawsuits. It links the violence to what we put on our shelves: mass-scale agriculture, mining, logging and poaching all produce ingredients for everyday products such as palm oil for cosmetics, soy for beef and timber for furniture.

Brazil was the most dangerous country for land activists in 2017 with 57 killed, while the Philippines accounted for 48.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 10:11:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/207-environmental-activists-killed-last-year/article24505059.ece

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