Five years ago, Chut Wutty was murdered in Cambodia. He was one of Cambodia’s leading campaigners against illegal logging and land grabs. He was killed in the Cardamom Mountains in Koh Kong province, while researching illegal logging with two journalists from the Cambodia Daily.
Wutty’s murder was not unusual. Every week at least two people are killed for speaking out against environmental destruction. In 2014, according to research by Global Witness, 116 environmental activists were murdered. 40% of them were indigenous. All of the killings were related to land disputes.
In 2015, the number of environmental activists murdered reached 185. Of these, 50 murders were in Brazil. Isídio Antonio was one of the victims. He tried to defend his land against powerful landowners who wanted to log the forest, and convert it to cattle ranches or tree plantations. For years he had suffered death threats and attempts on his life. In December 2015, he became the fourth person from his small community in Maranhão state to be murdered.
The violence is increasing in Brazil as Sue Branford and Maurício Torres report on Mongabay. Recent violence includes the following:
- 19 April 2017: ten peasants, including children, were tortured, then murdered in Colniza district, in Mato Grosso state.
- 30 April 2017: More than two dozen Gamela Indians were injured, after an attack by a large group of armed men sent in by farmers. Four were hospitalised in critical condition. Two had their hands lopped off and their legs cut at the joints.
- 24 May 2017: military and civil police killed nine men and one woman on the Santa Lúcia estate in Pau D’Arco district, in the state of Pará. Landless families had occupied land, which they argued had been stolen by the owner of the estate.
In Honduras in 2016, indigenous and human rights activist, Berta Cáceres was murdered. She was murdered less than a week after being threatened for her opposition to a hydropower project. In 2015, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her campaign against the Agua Zarca dam, part of a cascade of four dams on the Gualcarque river basin.
Days later, another Honduran activist, Nelson Garcia, was murdered. He was murdered after a violent eviction of an indigenous Lenca community in Río Chiquito, carried out by Honduran security forces. Local politicians claimed the land did not belong to the indigenous community.
Forest Defenders Conference
On 21 June 2017 in Oxford, British Ecological Society, SEED, Not1More, and the Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests will be holding a Forest Defenders Conference. The event will also be livestreamed on Not1More’s Facebook page:
Forest Defenders Conference 21-22nd June, Oxford
Focusing on the risks faced by environmental activists and investigators led by powerful speakers from the front lines of environmental protection.
Ouch Leng – Cambodian Human Rights Task Force (CHRTF), front line forest defender, Cambodia, Winner of the Goldman Prize for Asia 2016
Claudelice Silva dos Santos – Pará, Brazil, sister of murdered forest activists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espírito Santo
Justino Sá – Founder of Our Resources, forest defender and Principal Legal Advisor for the National Assembly of Guinea-Bissau
John Knox – UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment
Richard Rogers – Global Diligence, ‘Creative cases at the International Criminal Court’
Billy Kyte – Global Witness, ‘Exposing drivers of attacks against environmental defenders’
Sir Ian Redmond – The Ape Alliance, ‘Defending the #GardenersoftheForest – 50 years of Gorilla Conservation and carrying on Dian Fossey’s Legacy’
The conference will bring together attendees from Transparency International, the Environmental Investigation Agency, LandRightsNow!, Tactical Technology Collective, The Guardian, freelance filmmakers, lawyers, security specialists, and journalists with activists and investigators focused on environmental issues. We will be focusing on the risks faced by front line environmental defenders and identifying priorities to respond to their needs.
On 22nd June there will be a full day workshop on digital security from Tactical Technology Collective.
Originally posted on Conservation-Watch, 5 June 2017.