BHRRC report documents nearly 2,000 attacks against human rights defenders in Latin America and the Caribbean

Published by Brent Patterson on

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has released its report: Guardians at risk: Confronting Corporate Abuse in Latin America & the Caribbean.

Among the key findings in the 20-page report:

– “Between January 2015 and December 2022 (inclusive), the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (the Resource Centre) identified nearly 2,000 [specifically 1,976] attacks against HRDs [human rights defenders] in Latin America and the Caribbean, representing 42% of total attacks (4,700) recorded worldwide.”

– “This included killings, judicial harassment, death threats, disappearances and other forms of intimidation. Indigenous defenders experience a disproportionately high level of attacks and, while defenders of all genders are targeted due to their human rights work, women defenders often face specifically gendered attacks.”

– “Many attacks against HRDs in the region involve collusion between states, security forces, companies and other non-state actors, including illegal miners and loggers, paramilitary forces and organised criminal groups who often facilitate harmful business operations.”

– “While attacks occur across Latin America, 86% of attacks are concentrated in just six countries: Honduras (353), Mexico (322), Brazil (302), Colombia (267), Peru (252) and Guatemala (209).”

– “The five most dangerous sectors for HRDs in the region are based on natural resources: mining, agribusiness, renewable energy, logging & lumber, and oil, gas & coal.”

– “Data from the Resource Centre’s Transition Minerals Tracker reveals the extraction of six commodities vital to the clean energy transition (cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc) are often linked to attacks against HRDs, highlighting the urgent need for a shift away from the extractive sector’s historical model of operation, particularly in the context of the global energy transition.”

Climate, land and environmental defenders

– “Climate, land and environmental defenders in Latin America are particularly at risk. Since January 2015, nearly 86% of attacks have been against HRDs protecting their land rights and right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment in the face of harmful business practice. They are combating deforestation, pollution, water scarcity, destruction of livelihoods and biodiversity, as well as and protecting cultural heritage.”

Indigenous defenders

– “Between January 2015 and December 2022, more than 200 Indigenous defenders in Latin America and the Caribbean were killed in relation to their human rights work challenging harmful business practices. The second most common type of attack was judicial harassment (24%), followed by various forms of intimidation and threats (17%).”

Women defenders

– “More than one-fifth of total attacks against HRDs in the region were against women defenders; 38% of these attacks were against Indigenous women.”

Guiding Principles

– “Under the [United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights] and subsequent guidance, states must protect against human rights abuse within their territory and/or jurisdiction by third parties, including business enterprises.”

– “Companies and investors also have a responsibility to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to identify, prevent and remedy any harm against HRDs – and proactively engage with them and any stakeholders who might be affected by their operations. Even in cases where there are no apparent direct links between companies or investors and attacks, business actors with operations, supply chains, business relationships and/or investments are expected to proactively use their leverage to promote respect for the rights of defenders and civic freedoms.”

Binding Treaty

– “In July 2023, an updated draft of the legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises was released. Its publication comes ahead of the October 2023 session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights.”

Case studies

The report also cites case studies including: the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the Morelos Integral Project (PIM) in Mexico (page 7), the Cerrejón open pit coal mine in Colombia (page 9), and attacks against OFRANEH in Honduras including the police intimidation of participants in the “Viva Berta” feminist camp (page 13).

PBI-Honduras at the Viva Berta camp, May 2021.

The full report can be read in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

At PBI-Canada we are particularly interested in taking the findings of the BHRRC report and cross-referencing with Canadian extractive corporations in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico (countries where PBI physically accompanies threatened defenders) and furthermore looking at Canadian arms exports to the security forces that repress defenders in these countries.

Further reading: Trudeau Government Touted ‘Reconciliation,’ Then Lobbied To Arm States Repressing Indigenous Peoples (The Maple, October 3, 2023).

Categories: News Updates

1 Comment

Wet’suwet’en and Otomi land defenders unite against the TC Energy Coastal GasLink and Tuxpan-Tula fracked gas pipelines - Peace Brigades International-Canada · October 18, 2023 at 9:40 am

[…] goods to Mexico over the last five years (2018 to 2022). This is in a context where there have been 322 attacks against human rights defenders in Mexico between January 2015 and December 2022 and where 31 land […]

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