fyi – Note the reference to Tampakan, Palawan & also the last article on the Philippines being the deadliest Asian country for environment activists…

Global Witness have produced a report focussing on the rise in killings of those people defending environmental and land rights (including mining activists). A PDF version of the report and press release can be downloaded here: http://www.globalwitness.org/deadlyenvironment/

More than 900 people were killed while campaigning against land grabs, industrial logging and other causes in 35 countries. Only 10 people have been convicted in related cases.

As is noted below “Indigenous communities are particularly hard hit. Several in Guatemala and Honduras told the Guardian that they were unaware their territory has been sold until machinery and security guards working for mining or hydroelectric companies appeared overnight.”

Al Jazeera has produced a video reporting from Palawan in the Philippines.

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Surge in deaths of environmental activists over past decade, report finds

Investigation by Global Witness reveals there were nearly three times as many deaths in 2012 than 10 years previously

Nina Lakhani, The Guardian – www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/15/surge-deaths-environmental-activists-global-witness-report

15 April 2014

The killing of activists protecting land rights and the environment has surged over the past decade, with nearly three times as many deaths in 2012 than 10 years previously, a new report has found.

Deadly Environment, an investigation by London-based Global Witness documents 147 recorded deaths in 2012, compared to 51 in 2002. Between 2002 and 2013, at least 908 activists were killed in 35 countries – with only 10 convictions. The death rate has risen in the past four years to an average of two activists a week, according to the report, which also documents 17 forced disappearances, all of whom are presumed dead.

Deaths in 2013 are likely to be higher than the 95 documented to date, the environmental rights organisation warned, with under-reporting and difficulties verifying killings in isolated areas in a number of African and Asian nations. Reports from countries including Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, and Myanmar, where civil society groups are weak and the regimes authoritarian, were not included in the Global Witness count.

“Many of those facing threats are ordinary people opposing land grabs, mining operations and the industrial timber trade, often forced from their homes and severely threatened by environmental devastation,” the report said. Others have been killed for protests over hydroelectric dams, pollution and wildlife conservation.

Brazil, the report found, is the world’s most deadly country for communities defending natural resources, with 448 deaths between 2002 and 2013, followed by 109 in Honduras and Peru with 58. In Asia, the Philippines is the deadliest with 67, followed by Thailand at 16. More than 80% of the recorded deaths were in Latin and Central America.

There have been only 10 successful prosecutions connected with the killings in Brazil over the past 12 years. Isolete Wichinieski, national coordinator of the Brazilian group Commisão Pastoral da Terra, said: “what feeds the violence is the impunity”.

The investigation unearthed information on perpetrators in just 294 of the 448 deaths, of which 54 were identified as police or military units.

In Brazil, the Amazon is the main frontier and most violent conflicts take place in newly deforested areas where communities are first confronted by illegal loggers, closely followed by cattle ranchers and soy bean farmers.

In Honduras, the second most dangerous country, 93 peasant farmers in the fertile Bajo Aguan region have been murdered since 2010 amid land conflicts with agribusinesses expanding African palms plantations that are traded globally on the lucrative carbon credits scheme.

But the murder of Brazilian ecologists José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espírito Santo in May 2011 suggests high-profile campaigners are not immune from the violence. Two assassins in this case were convicted.

Killing of land rights and the environment actvists in Brazil : Maria do Espirito Santo da Silva
Laisa do Espirito Santo visits the graves of her sister Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva and brother-in-law José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva, rainforest activists who were murdered in Nova Ipixuna, Para, northern Brazil, on June 2011. Photograph: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

Oliver Courtney, senior campaigner at Global Witness, said: “There can be few starker or more obvious symptoms of the global environmental crisis than a dramatic upturn in killings of ordinary people defending rights to their environment and livelihoods from corporate and state abuse. Yet those responsible almost always get away with it, because governments are failing to protect their citizens and the international community is not paying enough attention to their plight.”

The insatiable global appetite for gold, silver and other minerals is powering extractive industries in countries with weak institutions, and is linked to at least 150 deaths since 2002. This includes 46 extrajudicial killings of demonstrators around mining sites across Peru. There were also deaths linked to protests against contamination, waste disposal and conservation of coastlines and wildlife.

Indigenous communities are particularly hard hit. Several in Guatemala and Honduras told the Guardian that they were unaware their territory has been sold until machinery and security guards working for mining or hydroelectric companies appeared overnight. Their resistance efforts have been denigrated as anti-development and dozens of community leaders face dubious criminal and civil charges.

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Deadly Environment: The Dramatic Rise in Killings of Environmental and Land Defenders

Global Witness – http://www.globalwitness.org/deadlyenvironment/

15 April 2014

This report looks at known killings of people defending environmental and land rights. It identifies a clear rise in such deaths from 2002 and 2013 as competition for natural resources intensifies. In the most comprehensive global analysis of the problem on record, we have found that at least 908 people have died in this time. Disputes over industrial logging, mining and land rights are the key drivers, and Latin America and Asia-Pacific particularly hard hit.

Deadly Environment also highlights a severe shortage of information or monitoring of this problem, meaning the total is likely to be higher than the report documents. This lack of attention is feeding endemic levels of impunity, with just over one per cent of the perpetrators known to have been convicted.

Overall, the report shows how it has never been more important to protect the environment, and it has never been more deadly. It calls on national governments and the international community to act urgently to protect the environment and the citizens who defend it.

Global Witness campaigns to end the unfair and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, so that all can thrive within the planet’s boundaries. We address the root causes of the exploitation that destroys lives and threatens life-supporting ecosystems.

*A time lag on reporting means killings for 2013 are likely to be higher than we have been able to show here.

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Killing of environmental activists rises globally

By Denis D. Gray (AP reporters Thanyarat Doksone in Bangkok and Jim Gomez in Manila contributed to this report), AP – http://bigstory.ap.org/article/killing-environmental-activists-rises-globally

14 April 2014

BANGKOK (AP) — As head of his village, Prajob Naowa-opas battled to save his community in central Thailand from the illegal dumping of toxic waste by filing petitions and leading villagers to block trucks carrying the stuff — until a gunman in broad daylight fired four shots into him.

A year later, his three alleged killers, including a senior government official, are on trial for murder. The dumping has been halted and villagers are erecting a statue to their slain hero.

But the prosecution of Prajob’s murder is a rare exception. A survey released Tuesday — the first comprehensive one of its kind – says that only 10 killers of 908 environmental activists slain around the world over the past decade have been convicted.

The report by the London-based Global Witness, a group that seeks to shed light on the links between environmental exploitation and human rights abuses, says murders of those protecting land rights and the environment have soared dramatically. It noted that its toll of victims in 35 countries is probably far higher since field investigations in a number of African and Asian nations are difficult or impossible.

“Many of those facing threats are ordinary people opposing land grabs, mining operations and the industrial timber trade, often forced from their homes and severely threatened by environmental devastation,” the report said. Others have been killed over hydro-electric dams, pollution and wildlife conservation.

The rising deaths, along with non-lethal violence, are attributed to intensifying competition for shrinking resources in a global economy and abetted by authorities and security forces in some countries connected to powerful individuals, companies and others behind the killings.

Three times as many people died in 2012 than the 10 years previously, with the death rate rising in the past four years to an average of two activists a week, according to the non-governmental group. Deaths in 2013 are likely to be higher than the 95 documented to date.

The victims have ranged from 70-year-old farmer Jesus Sebastian Ortiz, one of several people in the Mexican town of Cheran killed in 2012 while opposing illegal logging, to the machine-gunning by Philippine armed forces of indigenous anti-mining activist Juvy Capion and her two sons the same year.

Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr., who heads the Philippine military’s human rights office, told the Associated Press that a military investigation showed the three died in crossfire as troops clashed with suspected outlaws. “We don’t tolerate or condone human rights violations and we hope Global Witness can work with us to pinpoint any soldier or officer involved in those killings,” Tutaan said.

Brazil, the report says, is the world’s most dangerous place for activists with 448 deaths between 2002 and 2013, followed by 109 in Honduras and Peru with 58. In Asia, the Philippines is the deadliest with 67, followed by Thailand at 16.

“We believe this is the most comprehensive global database on killings of environment and land defenders in existence,” said Oliver Courtney, senior campaigner at Global Witness. “It paints a deeply alarming picture, but it’s very likely this is just the tip of the iceberg, because information is very hard to find and verify. Far too little attention is being paid to this problem at the global level.”

Reports of killings, some of them extensive, from countries like Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, and Myanmar, where civil society groups are weak and the regimes authoritarian, are not included in the Global Witness count.

By contrast, non-governmental organizations in Brazil carefully monitor incidents, many of them occurring in the Amazon as powerful businessmen and companies move deeper into indigenous homelands to turn forests into soya, sugar cane and agro-fuel plantations or cattle ranches. Clashes between agribusiness and the Guarani and Kuranji people in the Amazon’s Mato Grosso do Sul province accounted for half of Brazil’s killings during 2012, the report said. Human rights groups and news reports say killings are often carried out by gunmen hired by agricultural companies.

In Thailand, Sunai Phasuk of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch echoed the report’s assertion that an “endemic culture of impunity” was prevalent, and that governments and their aid donors must address this.

Prosecution of Prajob’s suspected killers, Sunai said, was a “welcome rarity” in a country where investigations have been characterized by “half-hearted, inconsistent, and inefficient police work, and an unwillingness to tackle questions of collusion between political influences and interests and these killings of activists.”

“The convicted tend to have lowest levels of responsibility, such as the getaway car driver. The level of impunity is glaring,” he said.

After Prajob’s murder, villagers lived in fear but in the end decided to sue the illegal dumpers and landfill owners, said the victim’s brother, Jon Noawa-opas.

“Prajob’s death has led us to fight for justice in this town,” he said. “We can be disheartened and we were, but we also know that we have to do the right thing for our community.”

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PH deadliest Asian country for environment activists – report

INQUIRER.net – http://globalnation.inquirer.net/102121/ph-deadliest-asian-country-for-environment-activists-report#ixzz2z1sf5Ve4

15 April 2014

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is the deadliest Asian country for environment and land defenders, a report from a London-based group said.

Global Witness, a group that seeks to shed light on the links between environmental exploitation and human rights abuses, said the Philippines is the third in the world with the highest number of killed environmental and land defenders, at 67 deaths since 2002.

The deadliest country is Brazil with a whopping 448 deaths while second is Honduras with 109 deaths, the report read.

“Parts of Asia also account for significant numbers of killings of defenders. A contributing factor could be that, like South America, some Asian countries have strong social movements and awareness of rights, with good civil society monitoring of environmental and land issues,” the report read.

“The Philippines is the worst-hit country in Asia with 67 known killings, the majority over mining conflicts,” the report added.

The report said of the 67 activists killed, 41 were opposing mining or extractive operations.

The report also said the violence stems from opposition to land-grabbing and deforestation.

Of the 67 deaths, only two were imprisoned, the report said. “The vast majority appear to enjoy total impunity for their crimes,” it added.

The report also said that there is evidence that the “killings were at the behest of private sector interests or political actors.”

“(S)tate forces are suspected of being behind the killings. Key state institutions, including the judiciary and law enforcement agencies, are weak and the military and police are known to commit human rights violations with little accountability,” the group said.

The group said 14 killings were attributed to armed forces, three to local government officials and two to the police.

The study cited the most famous environmentalist killing in the country – Dr. Gerry Ortega , a well-known environmentalist and vocal critic of illegal logging, who was shot dead in Palawan last January 2011.

Tagged as mastermind are former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother, former Coron mayor Mario Reyes, who both went into hiding after a regional trial court issued arrest warrants in March 2012. The appellate court cleared the former governor of the charges in October 2013, but the Reyes brothers have remained at large since.

The report also cited the “harrowing case” of Juvy Capion, who with her two young sons, was allegedly shot dead by members of the 27th Infantry Battalion in South Cotabato. The report quoted a fact-finding mission that said soldiers “peppered” Capion’s house with machine gun fire before bringing outside their bodies and leaving them outside to rot.

Juvy, an indigenous anti-mining activist, was the wife of Daguil Capion, a leader of the B’laans indigenous peoples in the province. Juvy’s husband Daguil, a member of the communist armed group the New People’s Army, has taken up arms against the Tampakan Gold Copper project, which has been condemned as it lies close to an active volcano, the report said.

In an Associated Press report, Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr., who heads the Philippine military’s human rights office, said a military probe showed the three died in crossfire as troops clashed with suspected outlaws.

“We don’t tolerate or condone human rights violations and we hope Global Witness can work with us to pinpoint any soldier or officer involved in those killings,” Tutaan said.

The Global Witness report also cited the case of couple Manuela and Expedito Albarrillo who were found dead in Mindoro Oriental on April 8, 2002, the report said, adding that eight armed men used force to remove the couple from their hut. Both were active in opposing mining operations in the province.

There is also the case of indigenous leader Jimmy Liguyon, who was shot dead in front of his family on March 5, 2012 in Pampanga. The report said Liguyon, who was also a barangay (village) chief, may have been killed for not signing a signing a certificate of ancestral domain to grant mining rights for an area of 52,000 hectares inhabited by the Matigsalog tribe in San Fernando.

Also, Romeo Sanchez, leader of the Save the Abra River Movement (STARM), was shot dead in Bagiuo City, Benguet, on March 9, 2005, the report said. Sanchez was a campaigner against mining in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions. – with The Associated Press

Andy Whitmore (Whit)
Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks)
Acting Coordinator
Finspace, 225-229 Seven Sisters Road, London, N4 2DA
Ph / fax: + 44 (0)207 263 1002
Email: comms@piplinks.org
Web: http://www.piplinks.org
Skype: mantissa88

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell

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