Tag Archives: human rights

2017 Was the Deadliest Year on Record for Land and Environmental Defenders

2017 Was the Deadliest Year on Record for Land and Environmental Defenders

Global Witness today reveals that at least 207 land and environmental defenders were killed last year – indigenous leaders, community activists and environmentalists murdered trying to protect their homes and communities from mining, agribusiness and other destructive industries.

  1. Global Witness annual figures show at least 207 land and environmental activists were killed in 2017 across 22 countries, almost 4 a week, making it the worst year on record.
  2. The report shows a huge rise in killings linked to consumer products. Brutal attacks on those defending their land from destructive agriculture – such as land grabs for palm oil, used in household goods like soap, and coffee – are on the rise.
  3. It critically urges government and business to take action to end the attacks and support defenders, with campaigners such as Yuri Herrera, Margaret Atwood, Lily Cole, George Monbiot and Ben Fogle speaking out against the killings.

Severe limits on the data available mean the global total is probably much higher. Murder is the most egregious example of a range of tactics used to silence defenders, including death threats, arrests, intimidation, cyber-attacks, sexual assault and lawsuits.

The report At What Cost? shows that agribusiness has overtaken mining as the industry most associated with these attacks.

These include the murder of Hernán Bedoya in Colombia, shot 14 times by a paramilitary group for protesting against palm oil and banana plantations on land stolen from his community; an army massacre of eight villagers in the Philippines who opposed a coffee plantation on their land; and violent attacks by Brazilian farmers, using machetes and rifles, which left 22 members of the Gamela indigenous people severely injured, some with their hands chopped off.

The report links this violence with the products on our shelves: large-scale agriculture, mining, poaching, logging all produce components and ingredients for supermarket products such as palm oil for shampoo, soy for beef and timber for furniture.

The report also reveals that some governments and businesses are complicit in the killings, with Global Witness calling for urgent action if the trend is to be reversed. As well as being part of the problem, governments and business can be part of the solution. They must tackle the root causes of the attacks, for example ensuring communities are allowed to say ‘no’ to projects, like mining, on their land; support and protect defenders at risk and ensure justice is served for those suffering from the violence.

Ben Leather, Senior Campaigner, Global Witness said:

“Local activists are being murdered as governments and businesses value quick profit over human life. Many of the products emerging from this bloodshed are on the shelves of our supermarkets. Yet as brave communities stand up to corrupt officials, destructive industries and environmental devastation, they are being brutally silenced. Enough is enough.

“Governments, companies and investors have the duty and the power to support and protect defenders at risk, and to guarantee accountability wherever attacks occur. But more importantly, they can prevent these threats from emerging in the first place, by listening to local communities, respecting their rights, and ensuring that business is conducted responsibly.

At least 48 land and environmental defenders were murdered in the Philippines in 2017 – the highest total ever recorded in Asia, and a 71% increase in the country since 2016. | Photo Credit: Thom Pierce, Guardian, Global Witness, UN Environment

“Despite the odds they face, the global community of land and environmental defenders is not going away – it’s only getting stronger. We invite consumers to join us in campaigning alongside defenders, taking their fight to the corridors of power and the boardrooms of corporations. We will make sure their voices are heard. And we will be watching to ensure that defenders, their land, and the environment we all depend on are properly protected.”

Other key findings include:

  1. Brazil recorded the worst year on record anywhere in the world, with 57 murders in 2017.
  2. 48 defenders were killed in the Philippines in 2017—the highest number ever documented in an Asian country.
  3. 60% recorded murders were in Latin America. Mexico and Peru saw marked increases in killings, from 3 to 15 and 2 to 8, respectively. Nicaragua was the worst place per capita with 4 murders.
  4. For the first time, agribusiness was the bloodiest industry, with at least 46 murders linked to the sector. Killings linked to mining increased from 33 to 40, and 23 murders were related to logging.
  5. Taking on poachers became even more dangerous, with a record 23 people murdered for taking a stand against the illegal wildlife trade – mostly park rangers in Africa.
  6. Global Witness linked government security forces to 53 of last year’s murders, and non-state actors, like criminal gangs, to 90.
  7. There was a large decrease in killings of land and environmental defenders in Honduras, though repression of civil society in general worsened.
  8. Recent years has seen some increased recognition and action taken by governments and business, but much more must be done, and urgently, to tackle this issue.

The campaign has gained support from a number of high profile environmental campaigners including Yuri Herrera, Margaret Atwood, Lily Cole, George Monbiot, Ben Fogle, Paloma Faith and Martin Freeman. Quotes available on request.

Notes to editors

The report can be found here.  High-quality imagery and video testimony can be found here.

Whilst Global Witness maintains a real time data base with the Guardian this reports represents a consolidated data set of all killings from 2017 that have been through an additional verification process that has been complemented by an in-depth analysis, case studies and recommendations.

Severe limits on available information mean the global total is likely far higher. Murder is the sharp end of a range of tactics used to silence defenders, including death threats, arrests, sexual assault, abductions and aggressive legal attacks.

No Separate Justice: Advocates & Families Impacted by the “War on Terror” Launch New Campaign Challenging Prosecutorial Overreach & Unjust Incarceration

No Separate Justice: Advocates & Families Impacted by the “War on Terror” Launch New Campaign Challenging Prosecutorial Overreach & Unjust Incarceration

[NEW YORK, NY]   On January 7, 2014, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Educators for Civil Liberties, CUNY School of Law’s Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) Project, and Amnesty International USA will host a panel discussion to launch  “No Separate Justice: A Post-9/11 Domestic Human Rights Campaign.” This new campaign aims to shed light on and end a pattern of human rights and civil liberties abuses in “War on Terror” cases in the criminal justice system.

A focal point of this new effort will be monthly vigils held outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in lower Manhattan, a federal detention center where people accused of terrorism-related offenses have been held in solitary confinement for years, even before they have been tried.

The panel will include discussion of the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi, who is currently serving a 15-year sentence at the federal “supermax” prison in Colorado on material support charges, after three years of pre-trial solitary confinement and Special Administrative Measures at the MCC in New York. It will highlight efforts by the Center for Constitutional Rights and allies to challenge Fahad’s inhumane conditions of confinement, and show how Fahad’s treatment is part of a pattern of rights violations in other “War on Terror” cases, based on extensive research into terrorism prosecutions. Family members of other federal terrorism prisoners will also participate on the panel.

This January 7 campaign-launch event dovetails with a year-long series, “America After 9/11” – a collaboration between The Nation and Educators for Civil Liberties – which features monthly articles examining facets of the domestic “War on Terror.”



Liliana Segura
Specializing in the prison industrial complex and harsh sentencing Liliana is a former editor at The Nation magazine and is currently a founding partner at Glenn Greenwald’s new public service journalism venture, First Look.


Pardiss Kebriaei
Pardiss is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center Constitutional Rights, which she joined in 2007. Her work focuses on challenging government abuses post-9/11, including in the areas of “targeted killing“ and unjust detentions at Guantanamo and in the federal system. Pardiss represents Fahad Hashmi.


Tamer Mehanna

Tamer’s brother, Tarek Mehanna, was convicted under broad allegations of “material support to terrorists” for 1st amendment protected activities, and is currently imprisoned at the Federal Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, IN.

Sonali Sadequee

Sonali’s brother, Ehsanul “Shifa” Sadequee, was held for three years in pre-trial solitary confinement while charged under the “material support” statute and is currently incarcerated at the Federal Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, IN. As a member of the Sadequee family and Free Shifa Campaign, Sonali organizes and speaks publicly to expose the inherent injustices of the War on Terror and the prison complex.

Sarah Khasawinah

Sarah is a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a friend of the Abu-Ali family and will be speaking on behalf of Ahmed Abu-Ali (sentenced to life in prison based on a confession he maintains was coerced through torture while in a Saudi prison). Since 2005 Ahmed has been in held in solitary confinement. He is currently at the federal “supermax” prison in Florence, CO.

Tarek Ismail

As a fellow at Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute Tarek develops research and policy at the intersection of human rights and U.S. counterterrorism policies, with a particular focus on issues affecting Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities in the United States, including racial profiling, selective prosecution, and the use of informants and sting operations.

Faisal Hashmi

Co-founder of the Muslim Justice Initiative. Faisal’s brother, Fahad, was accused of providing material support to Al-Qaeda. He is currently being held in solitary confinement at the Federal “Supermax” Prison, ADX-Florence, Colorado.

WHAT: Panel Discussion & Launch Event
WHEN: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 | 7:00pm-9:00pm
WHERE: Judson Memorial Church | 55 Washington Square South, New York 10012
INFO: Facebook RSVP | media RSVP andy@sparrowmedia.net

To arrange an interview with any of the speakers & presenters please email or text Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010

The Corporate Theft of Water

It is essential to all forms of life, covers a third of the earth, makes up over half of the human body and yet I can’t find a way to begin my discussion of water.  Maybe it’s for the very reasons I just mentioned. The fact that water is all around us, is us and we can’t live without it makes the global water crisis a very scary one indeed.   I didn’t really grasp the complexity and severity of the matter until I saw a documentary on the issue called Flow: For the Love of Water.  You can watch the trailer here (although you really should watch the whole film).

While many aspects of the crisis merit discussion, I’d like to focus on the growing rate of water privatization through corporate control of municipal water systems and bottling.  To introduce the topic, here is a nice and short interview with Maude Barlow who co-authored Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop Corporate Theft of the World’s Water, which has now been turned into an award-winning documentary: Blue Gold: World Water Wars.

Water for Profit not for People

Want to know how a city loses its’ most precious natural resource?  Here’s how it happens:  A multi-national corporation (which by law is required to put its own interests — generating profits for its shareholders — above all others) creeps into an area, gains control, and privatizes the water at a pittance.  Then they sell it back to you for a bundle.  You can’t survive without water so you don’t have a choice but to buy at whatever price they are selling (or obtain even more contaminated water from other sources).

But the rising privatization of water shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  The common rally cry is that water is an essential human right and thus should not be held in private hands — but are land and food not also essential human rights? It would be very difficult to live if you didn’t have something to live on or something to eat while you’re living there!  So, while we cannot live without land and food, we pay for both.  To capitalism and corporations, water is no different.

Pumping Water

More specifically, what happens is a corporation moves into an area where water infrastructure is either lacking or entirely absent — this can happen both domestically and abroad — and entices the local government to sell or lease their water to the corporation in exchange for cash and promises of improvements to the system.   In the 1990’s there was a resurgence of privatization of water systems in the U.S., but private ownership of water was nothing new.   Private companies controlled much of the U.S. water supply in the 1800’s, but the same problems that arise when water is privatized today were issues then.  Businesses were unwilling to invest the needed capital into water systems for booming cities, people were unable to access water, and as a result government stepped in and took control over water infrastructure.  The problem now is the reverse: local governments lacks the capital to make the necessary upgrades and expansions to water works for a growing population.  Corporations attempting to control water in the U.S. today include French-owned Suez (aka United Water) and Veolia.  The largest company in the U.S. is American Water.

Food and Water Watch has an in-depth report on water privatization in the U.S. called Money Down the Drain, so I’ll just give you the highlights of what citizens can expect if their government sell the local water system, they include: rate hikes, water contaminants and service cutbacks.  History has shown that privatization of water fails again and again in every important way, yet in the U.S. alone, lured by an ostensible fix massive budget short-falls, hundreds of cities have turned over control of their drinking and sewer water systems to corporations.  Right now, my hometown of Milwaukee is reviewing bids from “ten firms seeking an advisory mandate on the monetization of the city’s drinking water system.”  I’m not exactly sure what that means, so I called Food and Water Watch for their take on the situation.

According to Jon Keesecker, a senior organizer for the Take Back the Tap campaign at Food and Water Watch, it’s one of the first concrete steps in selling the city’s water.  The Comptroller will review the 16-17 applications that were turned in, interview the applicants and eventually hire an advisor to help the city move forward with privatization.  In theory the financial advisor is impartial body which values the system and gives the city expertise to study proposals.  In reality, the financial advisor greases the wheels to make privatization happen more quickly and they do so because their payment is often dependent on it.  Milwaukee should know better, the city’s sewer system is already privately controlled, currently by Veolia.  Because of so many problems, including dumping raw sewage into Lake Michigan seemingly every time it rained, the city ended its contract with Suez in 2007.

So, what can be done? A lot.  People are fighting back against corporate control of municipal water systems all over the U.S.  Last year in Felton, CA activists with the grassroots organization Felton Friends of Locally Owned Water successfully won back public control over the city’s water supply from California-American Water after a six-year battle.  Folks in Emmaus, PA stopped a bid for privatization quickly after it began by taking out full-page ads in the local newspaper demanding a public hearing on the issue, getting 300 people to attend the hearing and over 50 to speak out against it.  The group’s work changed the minds of three previously pro-privatization council members and the proposal subsequently died.  In Milwaukee right now, water, public policy and union groups are already mobilizing to prevent the City Council from selling Milwaukee’s most valuable resource to the highest bidder.

National groups studying privatization and working to stop it include: Food and Water Watch, Clean Water Action and Corporate Accountability International.  If you live in Milwaukee and want to get involved in the anti-privatization work there, contact John Keesecker at Food and Water Watch by emailing  jkeesecker [at] foodandwaterwatch.org.