A noted logging activist in Cambodia, a tribal chief opposing ranchers in Brazil, a Italian Catholic priest fighting mining in the Philippines — these are just a few of the 106 environmental activists who were killed in 2011 for their work.

 

And it’s a trend on the rise. A new briefing compiled by international NGO Global Witness, suggests a sharp rise in the murders of activists, journalists and community members who stick up for the land and forests.

 

More than 711 people appear to have been killed in the name of the environment over the last decade. And the numbers are steadily increasing, last year’s toll of 106 is double the number from three years ago.

 

According to the Associated Press, targeted assassinations, disappearances followed by confirmed deaths, deaths in custody and during clashes with security forces are being reported. The killers are often soldiers, police or private security guards acting on behalf of businesses or governments. Credible investigations are rare; convictions more so.

 

Billy Kyte, a campaigner for Global Witness said, “This trend points to the increasingly fierce global battle for resources, and represents the sharpest of wake-up calls for delegates in Rio. Over one person a week is being murdered for defending rights to forests and land.”

 

More than 75 percent of the killings took place in three South American countries: Brazil, Colombia and Peru. 50 more deaths happened in the Philippines. What do these countries have in common? Violent struggles over land-rights between indigenous groups and powerful industries.

 

"It's so easy to get someone killed in some of these countries. Decapitate the leader of the movement and then buy off everyone else — that's standard operating procedure," says Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch.

 

"It is a well-known paradox that many of the world's poorest countries are home to the resources that drive the global economy. Now, as the race to secure access to these resources intensifies, it is poor people and activists who increasingly find themselves in the firing line," Global Witness said.

 

Read the whole report here: A Hidden Crisis?