By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – According to a report released yesterday (April 20th) by a UK-based NGO/non-profit organization, Global Witness, Brazil leads the list of countries with the highest number of activists murdered for defending the environment and land rights in 2014. The study found that in Brazil there were 29 activists killed last year, and acknowledged the number is probably much higher given the lack of reporting in remote areas.
The report states “Globally, it’s likely that the true death toll is higher. Many of the murders we know about occurred in remote villages or deep within the jungle, where communities lack access to communications and the media. It’s likely many more killings are escaping public records.”
Most of the murders reported were related to conflict over land ownership according to Global Witness. Colombia appears as the second largest number of deaths of activists (25 murders), and more than half Indian. Next are the Philippines (15), Honduras (12) and Peru (9).
The NGO says there were 116 deaths registered of activists in the seventeen countries surveyed. The number represents an increase of twenty percent compared to that recorded by the NGO in a report released in 2013.
Most of the killings occurred in Central America and South America (88). The second most affected region was the Southeast Asia. In addition to the deaths, the publication reports that activists face risks such as physical violence and restriction of freedom.
The organization calls on governments and the international community to investigate the crimes and punish the culprits. “National governments are not protecting the rights of environmentalists increasing threats of agribusiness projects, mining, timber and hydropower,” notes the text of Global Witness.
Since 2002 the organization says that Brazil has had 477 reported murders of activist, over four times as many as the next ranked country, Honduras (with 111). The interactive chart provided by Global Witness also lists the names of all the 29 activists killed during 2014 in Brazil.
According to the Department of Human Rights (SDH), the Presidency of the Republic, the Brazilian government has worked with pioneering a protection program to human rights defenders coordinated by the state. Currently, the Program to Protect Human Rights Defenders has 415 activists under protection.
Of these cases, 142 involved the struggle for land rights, 111 rights of indigenous peoples and fifty to fight for the protection of the environment. To join the protection program, there must be formal request and security measures include on-site visits in the defenders’ work environment and police protection in cases of serious risk and vulnerability.
The President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, was scheduled to sign a decree on Monday, April 20th, demarking three areas of land in the Northern region of Brazil as indigenous lands, two in the state of Amazonas and in one in the state of Para. Together the areas total 232,500 hectares and will house four indigenous ethnic groups.
The countries covered by the publication of the Global Witness are: Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala, Thailand, Paraguay, Mexico, Indonesia, Myanmar, Ecuador, Uganda, India, Costa Rica, South Africa and Cambodia.