Violence Against Environmentalists Spikes Worldwide, Shows New Report

A new report highlights the increasing violence faced by environmental activists around the world.

A new report by the nonprofit group Global Witness highlights the increasing dangers that environmentalists face around the world. At least 200 people were murdered last year for protecting the land, water and wildlife of their communities.

The report documents abuses in 24 countries, citing that these murders are rarely prosecuted.

One of the worst incidents involved the murder of park rangers in Virunga National Park in Africa’s Democratic Republic of the Congo. More than 150 rangers have been killed there in the past decade, as they try to guard against poaching. The park is home to some of the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world. 

“We have strict criteria for documenting murders of land and water defenders but many other killings go unreported,” said Billy Kyte, campaign leader for Global Witness, to National Geographic. “Our report is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s really happening.”

He pointed out that there’s little data on similar travesties taking place in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Europe and Africa.

The report also points to the growing criminalization and harassment of protestors in the U.S. It specifically singles out the standoff at the Standing Rock Indian reservation in North Dakota last year for the number violent episodes involving militarized police and the National Guard. North Dakota is actually close to passing a law that would allow drivers to run over and kill environmental protesters without jail time. 18 other states are considering similar actions aimed at protestors.

Military veterans march in support of the 'water protectors' at Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 5, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Globally, the killings of environmental activists fits into the picture of governments increasingly using violence to curb dissent. Countries with pro-business governments is where the murders of protestors can be found most commonly, with one of the worst being Brazil. Global Witness found that 49 people were murdered by loggers and large land owners in the Amazon last year. Other nations cited were Nicaragua, Colombia, India and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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