"This is not random violence. I have become convinced that the incidents in question are not isolated acts but concerted attacks against those who try to embody the ideal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
Michel Forst, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
Front Line Defenders and the HRD Memorial Network have documented more 1000 targeted killings of peaceful human rights defenders (HRDs) since 2014, according to a new joint report, Stop the Killings, which analyses lethal attacks on activists in six countries. Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the Philippines collectively account for more than 80 percent of all documented murders of HRDs. In Colombia alone, nearly 100 human rights defenders have been killed already this year.
The killings are not random. According to Front Line Defenders, the targeted elimination of peaceful activists defending human rights has become an epidemic. In its 2017 Annual Report, Front Line Defenders reported the killing of more than 300 HRDs in 27 countries. Two-thirds of those killed were defending the environment, land and indigenous peoples’ rights, often in remote, rural areas with little access to protection, documentation, reporting, and justice. Based on available data, a mere 12 percent of murders resulted in the arrest of suspects.
“In each of the countries where death tolls are soaring, economic corruption and collusion between state and business have resulted in political system designed to keep elites on top and the disenfranchised silent,” said Jim Loughran, Head of the HRD Memorial Project at Front Line Defenders. “For decades, the governments of Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the Philippines have been using the same tired and disingenuous excuses to justify their inaction – terrorism organised crime, drug gangs. They peddle the myth that with increased arms they will be able to fix the situation. This simplistic and dangerous analysis ignores corruption as the root cause of violence.”
Stop the Killings includes a chapter on each of the six countries written in collaboration with at-risk activists on the ground, who on a daily basis face severe threats for documenting and advocating against the rising violence. Despite social and political differences, each of the six countries suffer the violent repression of peaceful dissent and justice systems co-opted by corporate interest. The report also calls out the hypocrisy of Western governments who ostensibly support democracy and human rights, but continue to provide direct financial and security assistance to some of the most repressive regimes in the world.
For additional information or interviews, please contact Front Line Defenders Media Coordinator Erin Kilbride at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jim Loughran who authored the report and manages the HRD Memorial Project at email@example.com.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of violence against human rights and human rights defenders in Brazil and a reduction in the protection of human rights by the state.
The climate of impunity that prevails in the Philippines, combined with the administration’s encouragement of extrajudicial killings of alleged drug users, as well as the increasingly hard line taken by the army towards the national democratic front of the Philippines, has resulted in the serious deterioration in the situation for human rights defenders in the country.
In 2018 the Colombian government faces many obstacles to achieving the implementation of the peace agreements, the creation of true peace and the protection of human rights, including: breaches of the peace agreements by the Colombian state itself; refusal by the traditional political class to engage in any process of political reform; aggressive extraction of natural resources in spite of local opposition and the impact on climate change; corruption in the country’s political and economic elites; and a culture of hate exacerbated by extreme right wing segments of the population, all of which are leading the country to a state of social polarisation from which it will be difficult to return.
Recent Mexican leaders have expounded on the need for economic growth and opportunity for the country’s 121 million people. They have sought economic progress through a comprehensive free trade pact with the United States and Canada, oil exploration, the privatisation of state enterprises, and reforms in such areas as education, energy, telecommunications, mining and justice, which have prompted large scale protests.
In Guatemala, an institutional crisis in the state has intensified in recent years, which has brought the country to a political and social crossroads. Debates have begun between those who favour transition from old, violent and corrupt structures entrenched in state institutions and those sectors that seek to return to a clientelist model of privilege for a small but powerful economic elite.
Human rights defenders (hrds) in honduras suffer extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment as well as judicial harassment, threats and stigmatisation. Journalists, lawyers, prosecutors, those defending the rights of the LGBTI community, indigenous and Afro- Honduran communities, and those working on environmental and land rights issues are particularly at risk.