According to a report released by Global Witness, more than three people were killed a week in 2015 defending their land, forests and rivers against destructive industries, according to Global Witness. The organisation’s new report, On Dangerous Ground, documents 185 known deaths worldwide last year – by far the highest annual death toll on record and a 59% increase from 2014. Severe limits on information mean the true numbers are undoubtedly higher.
“We get threatened, vilified and killed for standing up to the mining companies on our land and the paramilitaries that protect them,” said Michelle Campos. “My father, grandfather and school teacher were just three of countless victims. We know the murderers – they are still walking free in our community. We are dying and our government does nothing to help us.”
On Dangerous Ground sheds light on the particular vulnerability of indigenous people, whose weak land rights and geographic isolation make them frequent targets of land and resource grabbing. In 2015, almost 40% of victims were from indigenous groups.
Thousands of illegal logging camps have sprung up across Brazil’s Amazon, where men armed with machetes and chainsaws cut down valuable Brazilian hardwoods like mahogany, ebony and teak. It’s estimated that 80 % of timber from Brazil is illegal, and accounts for 25% of illegal wood on global markets. Much of this is being sold on to buyers in the UK, US, Europe and China, and is contributing to one of the world's highest rates of forest loss.
Global Witness called the governments in affected countries to assure protection for land and environmental activists at risk of violence, intimidation or threats, investigate crimes, including their corporate and political masterminds as well as the triggermen, and bring perpetrators to justice.