Protecting those who stand up for justice and human rights

ByHarry Gardiner

Protecting those who stand up for justice and human rights

Grassroots activists who campaign against climate change, expose corruption or fight against illegal activities and land grabbing, are at growing risk of being killed, attacked and threatened over their work.

To many people they are heroes and defenders but these activists are being silenced in increasing numbers. Over 120 people have been killed in Honduras since 2010, according to Global Witness, who dubbed it the deadliest country in the world for environmental activism.

In 2015 it was Brazil where the most deaths occurred, with 50. The majority were fighting illegal logging in the Amazon. In the Phillipines 33 people were killed, 26 in Colombia. Those opposing mining operations were most likely to be killed. Almost 40% of those killed were indigenous people.

Overall Global Witness found 185 deaths in 2015 – that’s three a week and double the amount of journalists killed in the same year.

Aside from murder there are regular kidnappings, injuries and threats against those who stand up for human and environmental rights. Amnesty International is a well known charity supporting people attacked by governments for their activism, as well working to preserve human rights worldwide.

Global Witness carries out investigations, campaigns for transparency, and reports on environmental and human rights abuses. A recent moving article talks about the murder of Cambodian activist Chut Wutty, which was the catalyst for collecting annual statistics on the subject. Elsewhere, Sophia Pickles writes about how she was threatened with arrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo for exposing corruption over conflict minerals – another method of silencing activists.

Those standing up for human and environmental rights and who challenge illegal or corrupt practices should never be in fear for their life. But it is happening all too often and the Gardiner Foundation wants to do its part in recognising the dangerous and important work that these activists carry out on behalf of people all over the world.

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