Sharp increase in murders of forest and land defenders

The number of people killed for defending their land, forests and rivers from destructive industries rose sharply in 2015, making it the deadliest year on record according to a report published today by Global Witness.

A wooden cross marks the spot where the body of the leader of a farming community was found by Lunae Parracho, Global Witness

In 2015, the death toll reached at least 185 – up by 59 percent from 2014. Forty percent of the victims were from indigenous communities. The report identifies killings in 16 countries and says most of the murders related to mining, agribusiness, logging and hydropower.

The deadliest countries were Brazil (50 deaths) and the Philippines (33), followed by Colombia (26), Peru (12), Nicaragua (12) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (11).

 

Of particular interest to the FLEGT community are the reports of 15 deaths linked to logging activities, notably in Brazil where indigenous communities face violence for reporting on and opposing illegal loggers.

In 2015, illegal loggers were also linked to the killing of forest authority officials in Cambodia, Guatemala, India and the Philippines.

The report describes the how a Forestry Administration ranger called Sieng Darong and a police officer called Sab Yoh were shot dead on 7 November 2015 at their campsite during a patrol in the Preah Vihear Protected Forest in north-western Cambodia.

“Earlier that day they had confiscated chainsaws from an illegal logging site,” says the report. “Amongst the six loggers arrested, one was a soldier from the armed forces. Much of the illegal logging in Cambodia is driven by the trade in high-value rosewood, which is facilitated by powerful political interests that put officials at risk.”

The report includes recommendations for governments, companies and the international community, as well as a five-point plan for environmental defenders.

Global Witness campaign leader Billy Kyte says: “For every killing we document, many others go unreported. Governments must urgently intervene to stop this spiralling violence.”