358 human rights defenders killed in 2021: Front Line Defenders & HRD Memorial
The Guardian: “Mourners carry the coffin of a 14-year-old Colombian environmental activist, Breiner David Cucuñame, who was shot while on patrol with an unarmed group, the Indigenous Guard, in January. Photograph: AFP/Getty.”
In 2021, 358 human rights defenders (HRDs) were killed in 35 countries, including Colombia (where 138 defenders were killed), Mexico (42 killed), Guatemala (11), Honduras (11), Nicaragua (10) and Kenya (1).
The analysis from Front Line Defenders and HRD Memorial found that:
– 59% of HRDs killed worked on defending land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights (where their activities disrupted the economic interests of corporations and individuals in mining, logging and other extractive industries)
– 26% of HRDs killed were Indigenous (though they comprise 6% of the global population)
– 18% of HRDs killed identified as women (including trans-women).
Andrew Anderson, the director of Front Line Defenders, says: “In most cases, human rights defenders are threatened. If there was a response when threats are reported and protection measures taken, then surely some of these killings could be prevented.”
He adds: “A lot of the killings in Colombia and Mexico are entirely preventable. They are planned assassinations of people who the perpetrators want to get rid of. They do it with impunity.”
Anderson further notes: “In Colombia, there is a national protection mechanism where the state provides bodyguards and armoured cars to human rights defenders. But that is mainly in the cities. The presence of the Colombian state is limited in rural areas.”
The Global Analysis report also notes:
“In Colombia, massive protests in the context of a national strike against a tax reform promoted by the government of President Iván Duque and against police brutality were harshly repressed by police. Local organizations documented at least 47 killings during the nationwide protests.”
“In Mexico, HRD Memorial project partners Comité Cerezo and Red TDT documented a stark rise in the number of killings of HRDs in 2021, with more than 30 dedicated to the defence of land rights, the environment or indigenous peoples’ rights.”
“In Honduras, the attacks against and murders of members of the Afro-descendent Garifuna community of Corozal occur at the intersection of various forms of discrimination and stigma against indigenous and Afro-descent people in the country.”
“Communities across the Americas continue to be displaced to make way for corporations to develop large-scale agribusiness plantations, such as for sugar cane and oil palm. In the Petén region of Guatemala, HRDs have been subject to raids in their homes, threats, and criminalisation for defending their land and territories against the expanding palm oil industry.”
“The regime of President Daniel Ortega [in Nicaragua] continued to take extreme steps to shut down civil society organizations, close civic space and ensure that there was no strength left in the opposition or social movements.”
You can also see The Guardian article: More rights defenders murdered in 2021, with 138 activists killed just in Colombia.
Partners in the HRD Memorial include: ACI-Participa (Honduras), Comité Cerezo (Mexico), El Programa Somos Defensores (Colombia); Red TDT (Mexico), UDEFEGUA (Guatemala), Amnesty International, Global Witness and Front Line Defenders.