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Latin America, Philippines Named as Most Dangerous Places for Human Rights Activists

First Posted: Jan 06, 2016 06:00 AM EST
Latin America, Philippines Named as Most Dangerous Places for Human Rights Activists

Photo : Getty Images/Dondi Tawatao

The latest statistical report released by advocacy group Front Line Defenders revealed the appalling reality that human rights defenders all over the world are at great risk to be victims of extreme forms of violence. And based on the organization's annual report, 157 human rights activists were killed or died in detention in 25 countries in 2015.

The figures tallied by Front Line Defenders during the first 11 months of 2015 showed that more than 50 percent of the killings (approximately 88 deaths) took place in Latin America. According to Irish Times, Colombia alone was already responsible for 54 deaths out of the 88 recorded. While outside the Americas, the organization named the Philippines as the most dangerous place for human rights activists, accounting for 31 targeted killings.

The statistical record also revealed that 45 percent of the killings were associated in defending environmental, land and indigenous people's rights. While other groups such as those fighting for corruption, journalists and those who used the media to denounce abuses were also targeted. The report also showed that human rights killings were more frequent and widely dispersed globally in 2015 compared to the previous year.

With the alarming record, Front Line Defenders' Executive Director Mary Lawlor acknowledged that the global environment for human rights activists and defenders was increasingly restrictive but international reaction remained weak. Lawlor also added that the most disturbing issue was still "extreme violence." She also accused sections of the international community of paying lip service to the problem, saying words must be supported with practical solutions.

Lawlor also emphasized that Ireland must adopt an "automatic policy" of publicly condemning such killings.

"The Irish Government, other EU member states and those countries who believe in democracy, the rule of law and human rights must adopt an automatic policy of publicly condemning the killings of human rights defenders," Lawlor said.

"The EU is quite happy to raise the situation in Burundi or Belarus, but when it comes to Ethiopia, China, Mexico, or Azerbaijan, it's a different story," Lawlor added, as per Irish Independent. "Ireland and the EU must be as strong, speaking up for human rights defenders in countries where they have political and strategic interests as they are when it comes to the usual suspects."

Meanwhile, the report has also discovered that arbitrary detention and judicial harassment were by far the most common tactic used to suppress human rights activists in Africa. With new laws and "greater government interference," human rights workers were given less space to work in Angola, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the organization cited problems facings NGOs as a result of increased state control of mainstream media and crackdowns on individual organizations. Legal restrictions and "smear campaigns" were also reported in both regions. However, significant numbers of activists in Latin America were linked to opposition to so-called "mega projects," which are mostly run by mining companies. LGBT rights defenders were also accounted for 15 percent of the killings recorded in the region.

In Asia, on the other hand, human rights activists continued to work in a hostile environment, reporting instances of surveillance, intimidation, arbitrary detention and torture. Judicial harassment have intensified in Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, China, India, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam. Whereas physical assaults by authorities were rampant in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Maldives, Nepal and Vietnam. 

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