By Black Powder | Red Power Media
A report entitled, “How Many More?” released by Global Witness, shows a 20 percent rise in the number of killings of Indigenous leaders and environmental activists last year.
The report states that 116 activists were killed in 2014.
Some 40 percent of victims are indigenous peoples, protesting against hydropower, mining, logging, water and land grabs.
Each week at least two people are being killed for taking a stand against environmental destruction. Some are shot by police during protests, others gunned down by hired assassins. As companies go in search of new land to exploit, increasingly people are paying the ultimate price for standing in their way.
The report noted that in 2014 alone, 116 cases of killings in 17 countries were recorded in Central and South America and Southeast Asia, with Brazil as the worst-hit with 29 people killed, followed by Colombia with 25, the Philippines with 15 and Honduras with 12.
At least 935 people were killed in 35 countries from 2002 to 2014, compared with 908 from last year’s figure (2002 to 2013), stated the study released Monday (April 20) in Washington DC at the announcement of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize winners.
The prize is the world’s largest award for grassroots environmentalists who protect the natural environment.
Honduras suffered 111 killings between 2002 and 2014. The case of indigenous activist Berta Caceres, this year’s winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, is emblematic of the systematic targeting of defenders in Honduras.
“They follow me. They threaten to kill me, to kidnap me, they threaten my family. That is what we face,” said Caceres. Since 2013, Caceres said three of her colleagues have been killed for resisting the Agua Zarca hydro-dam on the Gualcarque River, which threatens to cut off a vital water source for hundreds of indigenous Lenca people.
The Philippines leads countries in Asia with the highest number of people killed.
The report finds that 82 people were killed from 2002-2014, in the Philippines alone.
For Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the report is of a serious concern as many of the remaining forests and biodiversity hotspots are in indigenous peoples’ ancestral territories.
“One factor why this is so is because indigenous peoples protect and defend their territories from environmental destruction caused by corporate and state programs which pose high social and environmental risks,” Tauli-Corpuz told the InterAksyon.com.
“The use of paramilitary groups by corporations and the government to quell resistance against destructive projects should be stopped and the provisions of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act in relation to the need to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples should be effectively implemented.”
Tauli-Corpuz, who is also the executive director of the Tebtebba Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education, further said the government of the Philippines is a signatory to almost all international human rights conventions and adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, yet extrajudicial killings of indigenous leaders and activists persist.
“I urge the government to address these human rights violations and uphold its obligations to International Human Rights Law. Its reputation of being one of the most dangerous places for environmentalists and also for indigenous activists is a source of shame not only for the country but for its citizens. The State should seriously address many of the unsolved killings and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
On December 22, 2014, police at the Letpadaung copper mine in Myanmar (Burma) shot and killed a woman who had joined other protesters attempting to prevent the mine’s operator from fencing off land for the project.
More and more people are being killed protecting rights to land and the environment. 47 Indigenous peoples were killed in 2014. The actual number may be even higher as a victim’s indigenous identity is likely to be underreported and cases related to indigenous people often occur in remote areas.