By Jonathan Watts & John Vidal
The Guardian (7/13/17)
Last year was the most perilous ever for people defending their community’s land, natural resources or wildlife, with new research showing that environmental defenders are being killed at the rate of almost four a week across the world.
Two hundred environmental activists, wildlife rangers and indigenous leaders trying to protect their land were killed in 2016, according to the watchdog group Global Witness – more than double the number killed five years ago.
And the frequency of killings is only increasing as 2017 ticks by, according to data provided exclusively to the Guardian, with 98 killings identified in the first five months of this year.
John Knox, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said: “Human rights are being jettisoned as a culture of impunity is developing.
“There is now an overwhelming incentive to wreck the environment for economic reasons. The people most at risk are people who are already marginalised and excluded from politics and judicial redress, and are dependent on the environment. The countries do not respect the rule of law. Everywhere in the world, defenders are facing threats.
“The conflicts are happening worldwide now because of globalisation. Capitalism is violent and global corporations are looking to poor countries for access to land and resources.”
“There is an epidemic now, a culture of impunity, a sense that anyone can kill environmental defenders without repercussions, eliminate anyone who stands in the way. It [comes from] mining, agribusiness, illegal logging and dam building.”
Mexican indigenous leader and opponent of illegal logging Isidro Baldenegro López was killed in January.
In May, farmers in Brazil’s Maranhão state attacked an indigenous settlement, hacking with machetes at the hands of their victims in another land conflict that left more than a dozen in hospital. There have also been killings of environmental defenders and attacks on others in Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and many other countries since the new year.
Most environmental defenders die in remote forests or villages affected by mining, dams, illegal logging, and agribusiness. Many of the killers are reportedly hired by corporations or state forces. Very few are ever arrested or identified.
This is why the Guardian is today launching a project, in collaboration with Global Witness, to attempt to record the deaths of everyone who dies over the next year in defence of the environment. We will be reporting from the world’s last wildernesses, as well as from the most industrialised countries on the planet, on the work of environmental defenders and the assaults upon them. …
Five Park Rangers Killed In Congo During Rescue Of U.S. Journalist
KINSHASA, July 16 (Reuters) – Five park rangers were killed in a joint operation with the army to rescue an American journalist and three park rangers, who went missing in a wildlife reserve in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a local official said on Sunday.
Gunmen attacked the group late on Friday in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Mambasa territory. Some others in the group, including two Dutch journalists, escaped.
Cosma Wilungula, the head of Congo’s park service, confirmed that the journalist and rangers had been rescued from a group of Mai Mai militia fighters involved in mining gold inside the reserve.
The U.S. State Department said it was aware of the reports, but did not identify the journalist who was rescued because of privacy concerns. …
- Global Witness – Many of the world’s worst environmental and human rights abuses are driven by the exploitation of natural resources and corruption in the global political and economic system. Global Witness is campaigning to end this. We carry out hard-hitting investigations, expose these abuses, and campaign for change. We are independent, not-for-profit, and work with partners around the world in our fight for justice. Learn More HERE.
- Murdered Honduran Environmental Activist Berta Cáceres’s Daughter Speaks Out After Surviving Assassination Attempt – Last week, there was an attempted assassination on the life of Bertha Zúniga Cáceres, the daughter of murdered Honduran indigenous and environmental leader Berta Cáceres. Bertita Zúniga Cáceres was driving back with two colleagues from a community visit in central Honduras when a black pickup truck blocked their path. Three assailants jumped out of the truck … Link to Story and 11-Minute Video.