Fifty land and environmental activists were killed in Brazil during 2015, the worst figure for any country according to a new report by Global Witness.
The report, called ‘On Dangerous Ground‘, notes that 2015 was the worst year on record for killings of people defending their land or local environment against destructive industries.
There were 185 known deaths worldwide last year – more than three people a week – in what marked a 59% increase on the figure in 2014.
The report adds that the actual number is probably much higher, noting that: “many of the murders we know about occurred in remote villages or deep within rainforests – for every killing we are able to document, others cannot be verified, or go unreported.”
According to the report, Latin America remains the most violent area for environmental activists, with two thirds of the victims (122) coming from the region. After Brazil (50) came Colombia (26), Peru (12), Nicaragua (12), Guatemala (10), Honduras (8), and Mexico (4).
There was “unprecedented” violence in Brazil’s Amazon region, says Global Witness, where the “fight to save the Amazon is increasingly a fight against criminal gangs who terrorise local populations at the behest of timber companies and the officials they have corrupted.”
It cites the recent killing of Isídio Antonio, who had suffered years of death threats for denouncing illegal logging on his land, adding that police have never investigated his murder.
The report also highlights how most killings (42) were related to the mining or extractive industries, while 40% of the victims were from indigenous communities trying to protect their ancestral land from business ventures.
In a press briefing, Global Witness called on governments around the world to: