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Report: More than 1,700 environmental activists targeted and killed over the past decade

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Environmental activism has become a primary target for organized crime in the early 21st century, with a new report by by Global Witness showing 1,733 environmental advocates were systematically killed over the past decade for threatening to expose corruption and abuses in some of the world’s most profitable industries. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/6a7ac7a248675e1ac44c8fc6da969118/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Environmental activism has become a primary target for organized crime in the early 21st century, with a new report by by Global Witness showing 1,733 environmental advocates were systematically killed over the past decade for threatening to expose corruption and abuses in some of the world’s most profitable industries. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Nearly 2,000 environmental activists were killed over the past decade for threatening to expose corruption and abuses in some of the world's most profitable industries, according to a new report by Global Witness, an advocacy group that tracks the wellbeing of environmental figures around the world.

The data, released Wednesday in a report titled "Decade of defiance," claims that at least 1,733 targeted murders had been orchestrated and carried out by hitmen, organized crime groups and even government officials between 2012 and 2021.

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The scale of executions has been most severe in Latin American countries like Brazil, Colombia, Philippines, Mexico and Honduras, the report said, adding that 39% of the victims resided in some of the world's poorest countries.

The pandemic offered no reprieve from the bloodshed, with an all-time annual high of 227 killings in 2020 alone, the report said.

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Eight park rangers killed in a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo highlighted another 200 killings that occurred in 2021.

Many of the murders appear to be financially motivated and intended to silence activism that threatens to impact lucrative industries such as logging, raw material mining, precious metals, and oil and gas extraction.

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Activism to protect forests, rivers and other ecosystems was just as perilous, accounting for more than two-thirds of such murders between 2012 and 2021.

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The report shows an unprecedented number of killings besieging Latin America over that time, with 342 dead in Brazil, another 322 in Colombia, 154 in Mexico, and 117 in Honduras.

Philippines was also notable with 270 activists killed in the same 10-year period.

At least 50 small farmers have also lost their lives around the world in the past year, while two environmental journalists were murdered in Brazil's Javari valley in June.

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Global Witness began tracking the deaths of environmentalists in 2012 following the shooting death of Cambodian logging activist Chut Wutty.

"Wutty prompted us to confront a range of questions," Global Witness CEO Mike Davis wrote in the report. "What was the global picture, what were the implications of such attacks and what could be done to prevent them?"

The report also recommended governments establish safe havens and other means to protect activists.

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