• 20 April 2015
  • From the section World
Edwin Chota, indigenous leader, killed 8 September 2014
Anti-logging activist Edwin Chota was murdered in Peru along with three other indigenous leaders

Killings of environmental activists have risen by 20% in the last year, according to campaign group Global Witness.

A report published by the organisation said there were 116 deaths worldwide in 2014, including 29 in Brazil, 25 in Colombia and 15 in the Philippines.

Activists also faced abduction and other threats if they interfered in corporate or state interests, it added.

Last year saw a spike in killings related to hydropower programs.

Fourteen people died defending their land and rivers against dam projects.

‘Hidden crisis’

Global Witness named Honduras as the most dangerous country for environmental activists, because of “regressive laws” and a climate of “near total impunity”.

It has the highest number of killings per capita, with 111 deaths recorded since 2002.

Environmentalists protest against the judicial sentencing for the murder of Costa Rican environmentalist Jairo Mora, in front of the Supreme Court in San Jose 29 January, 2015
Protesters have demanded justice for conservationist Jairo Mora who was murdered in Costa Rica in May

Members of indigenous groups were increasingly involved in the “scramble for land and natural resources” and accounted for 40% of all deaths last year, it said.

In September four Peruvian tribal leaders were murdered on their way to a meeting to discuss ways to stop illegal logging.

Berta Caceres, an indigenous Lenca woman, told the report’s authors that she had she had received numerous death threats because of her opposition to a dam that would force her community off their ancestral land.

She claims she has been forced to live a “fugitive existence”.

Activists are often portrayed as enemies of the state, with some countries using anti-terror legislation to target them.

The campaign group urged governments and the international community to monitor, investigate and punish those behind what it called a hidden crisis.