More than 164 land and environmental activists were killed in targeted attacks last year, according to a new Global Witness annual report.
According to the environmental advocacy organization's findings, an average of more than three people were slain per week while “Defending their land and environment from invasions by industries like mining, logging and agribusiness” while “countless more were silenced through other tactics designed to crush protest, such as arrests, death threats, lawsuits and smear campaigns.”
However, Global Witness mandates that the number killed is likely much greater, as many cases across the globe go underreported or not adequately investigated, if at all.
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The report, titled "Enemies of the State?", Additionally accuses countries' courts and legal systems of misusing existing national security legislation intended to prevent terrorists, to go after land activists and to legitimize their actions. It also noted that “widespread impunity makes it difficult to identify perpetrators,” but at least 40 were killed by state actors while private actors also played prominent roles ̵
"Vicious attacks against land and environmental defenders are still happening, despite growing momentum behind environmental movements over the world," Alice Harrison, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, said in a statement. "It is a brutal irony that while judicial systems routinely allow killers of defenders to walk free, they are also being used to brand activists themselves as terrorists, spies or dangerous criminals."
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The report listed the Philippines as having clocked in the most deaths – a total of thirty – in 2018, while Guatemala bumped up from just three deaths in 2017 to 16 in 2018, making it the most dangerous per capita.
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Overall, more than half of targeted killings took place in Latin America and the largest recorded massacre of the year occurred in India, amid a demonstration Against a copper mine in which 13 lives were lost.
Moreover, mining was shown to be the most dangerous sector, with 43 defenders killed while protesting mineral extraction.