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Gabriel Paun

HRD, Environmental Rights Defender

“I challenge rotten mentalities & morally bankrupt beliefs to trigger the necessary change to live borderless as one, in peace as a single civilization, united in diversity.”

Gabriel Paun, born 1977, is a Romanian specialist in nature sciences, diplomacy and international relations who has been campaigning since 2001 for thriving nature and animal rights together with organizations such as Greenpeace, Agent Green, Four Paws and Animals International. He investigates and exposes wrong doings of governments and corporations worldwide, promotes viable solutions, advocates authorities and builds awareness until topics reach big media and political agenda.

His high profile campaigns often triggers a violent response from governments and corporations. He has been subject to physical attacks, sophisticated cyber attacks which resulted in identity theft, loss of data and equipment, public defamation by companies and politicians both online and on media, physical surveillance, judicial harassment and more. His work is not limited to his home country Romania but he investigates and exposes trophy hunting, ivory trade, abused farmed animals and illegal logging in many corners of the World.

He has suffered many assaults and received so many threats that eventually he had to leave his home and moved to a safe house.

In May 2015 he was attacked and severely beaten up while he was investigating the destruction of virgin forests and the riverbed in Retezat Mountains, where a company was building micro-hydropower plants illegally. 6 representatives of the company and local authorities attacked Gabriel while he was documenting the destruction. He managed to escape with multiple wounds and broken ribs. Eventhough the incident was filmed, the attackers were not prosecuted in due time, due to the slow administration of justice in Romania, and were prescribed in the summer of 2023 against the decision of EU Court of Justice which says that the statute of limitations for criminal offence is contrary to the EU legislation. Gabriel appealed the decision but on 20 December 2023, the court found the appeal unfounded and asked the environmental rights defender to pay the defendant’s lawyer’s fee (2500 Lei), while the defendant is ordered to pay compensation for damages (7000 Lei).

Gabriel managed to stop all governmental attempts (2006 – 2019) to build of a highway through Retezat mountains after a long campaign using a range of tactics from mass mobilization to lobbying the potential financiers such as the World Bank and EIB.

His persuasive work for forests contributed to strict protection of several tens of thousands of hectares with primary and old-growth forests in Romania. He also urged multinational corporations to strengthen their wood supply polices. Thanks to the work of his organisation Agent Green along with others, in 2021 the Romanian governments had to publish the full traceability of every cut tree from forest to the factory, which is a first worldwide.

Since its establishment, Agent Green has won hundreds trials on environmental matters. The trials helped building a case together with Client Earth and EuroNatur to bring Romania a systemic infringement at the EU Commission to improve forest governance and better application of EU nature directives in Romania in 2020.

In April 2022 Gabriel faced with a larger public smear campaign. Senator Daniel Zamfir, accusing him of violent actions and blocking the development of the country A national news channel where senator Zamfir’s wife works joined this campaign and revealed the location of the defender’s safehouse, putting him on the target. The campaign was condemned by Romania’s audio-visual authority and Gabriel filed a lawsuit for reparation against the TV channel, its director and the moderator.

In December 2023, a biomass company took Gabriel’s organization to court and demanding several milllions of euros for the loss caused by an expose in New York Times. This is a new level of intimidation that is threatening the entire existence of Gabriel and his team of advocates for nature.

Gabriel Paun has been working on a National Peace Park project on the Carpathian mountains at the border between Ukraine and Romania aiming to create bonds between these two nations and between East and the West in general, to consolidate peace, democracy, cohesion and resilience since 2022.

In 2016 Gabriel Paun received the EuroNatur Award 2016 for his persistent work to protect the Carpathian old-growth forests, with its nature conservation NGO Agent Green.

Paun is named as one of “The Influencers” on Europe’s Green Agenda at Politico’s Class of 2023


The right to freedom of assembly in practice is restricted in Romania. Human rights defenders participating in peaceful demonstrations often receive administrative fines. In the past, many of these demonstrations were devoted to the protection of people's environmental rights and prevention of unlawful land grabbing and took place in the context of entrance of big international gas and gold mining companies to the Romanian market. Several demonstrations were also linked to anti-corruption investigations.