Report Says Over 300 Human Rights Defenders Were Killed in 2019

Young woman standing outdoors with group of protesters at back. Woman with word warrior written on her arm.

Columbia was the deadliest country as 103 activities were murdered, followed by the Philippines, Brazil, Honduras, and Mexico.

According to a new report, 2019 witnessed the murders of over 300 human rights activists who were fighting for LGBTQ+ rights, environment, indigenous lands, and free speech.

Almost 70% of the murders occurred in Latin America where impunity from punishment is the order of the day.

Since the 2016 peace accords in Colombia, the country has witnessed a significant increase in violence targeted at the community leaders that are against large projects that are capable of damaging the environments. This country was the deadliest as 106 activists were killed in 2019. Next was The Philippines where 43 were killed. Honduras, Brazil, and Mexico were next on the list.

In 2019, there were several social insurgencies based on the need for economic and political changes in different parts of the world including Chile in South America, India and Hong Kong in Asia, and Lebanon and Iraq in the Middle East.

The Front Line Defenders (FLD) provides more data on defamation operations, judicial molestation, physical attacks, gender-based assaults and digital security threats that were targeted at human rights activities in different parts of the globe, who led the campaigns against longstanding inequalities, authoritarianism and corruption.

Based on the available information, the report noted that:

  • 85% of the individuals murdered in 2019 had received threats individually, or along with the group or community they were serving.
  • 13% of the murdered activists were women.
  • 40% of the murdered individuals were involved in indigenous, environmental and land problems.

In almost all nations that had mass protests in 2019, the main targets were human rights activists who recorded military and police violence, led protests, and assisted arrested or injured citizens.

For instance, in Chile, about 23 individuals were murdered, 2,300 injured and several others blinded by non-lethal weapons during the biggest anti-government marches that took place since the government of Dictator Augusto Pinochet.

In Iraq, October and November were characterized by anti-corruption protects that resulted in the death of over 300 people as well as the abduction of Saba Al Mahdawi by unknown gunmen for almost two weeks. She was probably a target because of how she was helping the injured protesters with water, food and medical assistance.

Since the military-supported coup led to uncontrolled violence in 2009, Honduras, which is a major geopolitical ally to the US, has become one of the deadliest nations around the globe for women, lawyers, environmental or land activists, and journalists. In 2019, there was a significant increase in targeted killings in Honduras in comparison to the previous year. Last year, tens of thousands of individuals ran away from the country filled with corruption, poverty, and violence and went to the southern border of the US through Mexico as they continued looking for security.

However, irrespective of the problems and scary situations that are facing, human rights defenders have not relented in leading campaigns for positive social changes.

For example, as the state of Oaxaca approved abortion legislation, there was a celebration among reproductive rights activities in Mexico. This was in line with what happened in Mexico City 12 years before then. In Jordan, the cybercrime bill was withdrawn due to prominent protests by civil society groups. The bill was targeted at restricting the right to privacy and freedom of speech.

As noted by the executive director of FLD, Andrew Anderson, 2019 was the year we witnessed how human rights activists stood their ground to defend and promote rights in different cities and countries including Chile, Hong Kong, Spain, Algeria, Iraq, and Zimbabwe. Although they are being subdued, they do not relent in their effort to realize their visions of their societies and the world that beat the imagination of their leaders, government and even the international community.

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