Five months ago, a wave of heartbreak and outrage swept the world following the brutal assassination of Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental defender who mobilized thousands of people in defense of the rights of the indigenous Lenca people.
Her death was not an isolated event. Latin America is by far the most dangerous region in the world for environmental human rights defenders. A new report by CIEL and Article 19 reveals that Berta’s murder was part of an escalating pattern of attacks against people defending the environment, the right to land, and the rights of indigenous peoples.
A Deadly Shade of Green details how local governments and corporations are the most common perpetrators of human rights violations committed against environmental defenders, especially in extractive industries and large-scale development projects, where profits are on the line. Addressing the root causes of conflicts that lead to violence against environmental defenders offers an important way forward.
A Deadly Shade of Green: Threats to Environmental Human Rights Defenders in Latin America documents an atmosphere of violence and physical threats targeting individuals who engage in peaceful activities that bring to light environmental damage and human rights abuses. The report also details a range of tactics used, from surveillance and defamation campaigns, to judicial harassment including false charges and arbitrary arrests, and physical attacks such as torture and assassinations.
Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration lays out the rights of access to information, access to public participation, and access to justice. When communities are meaningfully engaged in environmental decisions from the start, conflicts surrounding projects can be avoided, reduced or addressed fairly and justly.
Latin American and Caribbean countries are negotiating an Agreement on Principle 10, environmental democracy, and access rights. It is expected that the regional Agreement may transform Principle 10 from a statement of principle into a binding rule of law for countries throughout the region. Effective recognition and enforcement of these human rights will reduce the number of attacks against environmental defenders and provide remedies for them.
Today, CIEL is in the Dominican Republic as negotiations on the regional Agreement resume. We’ll keep you updated on this vital process toward sustainable development and environmental rights.