(Article by PBI Canada)

On January 14, Front Line Defenders released its Global Analysis 2019 report.

Their analysis reports that 304 human rights defenders were killed last year, including 106 human rights defenders in Colombia, 31 in Honduras, 23 in Mexico, 15 in Guatemala, 3 in Indonesia and 2 in Kenya.

Some of the key observations in the report include:

Land defence

Land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights remained the most dangerous sector of human rights defence due to the profit-driven exploitation of natural resources, combined with rampant corruption, weak governments and systemic poverty.

In 2019, Front Line Defenders recorded the killing of 304 HRDs, 40% of whom were working on land rights, indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental rights.

In her statement to the Human Rights Council in September 2019, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples reported that, “extractive activities within indigenous peoples’ lands and territories undertaken without adequate consultation or consent are the main source of serious violations of their human rights, including violence, criminalisation and forced displacement”.

Climate change

The lack of binding regulatory frameworks [to address climate change] at the international level is a contributing factor to the risks faced by HRDs, as is the belief that mega-projects, even with environmental safeguards, are essential for ‘development’, despite objections from local communities.

Migrant rights

Defending the rights of those on the margins of society continued to be an unpopular and risky activity in 2019. Those promoting or protecting migrants rights were harassed, intimidated, arrested and attacked as political leadership on the issue remained sorely lacking.

Data from the IOM [International Organization for Migration] shows that the Mediterranean crossing was the most lethal ‘border crossing’ for migrants in the world, with the US-Mexico border the second most lethal in 2019.

Research by Front Line Defenders revealed that HRDs protecting migrant families, refugees, asylum seekers, and others along migrant routes from Honduras to the United States faced severe threats from both state and non-state actors.

LGBTI+ rights

The Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project confirms a total of 331 cases of reported killings of trans and gender-diverse people between 1 October 2018 and 30 September 2019. On 7 July, Honduran WHRD Bessy Ferrera was shot dead by unidentified men. Bessy’s murder attests to the climate of extreme violence under which LGBTI+ people, and especially trans and sex worker rights defenders, operate.


Further conflict appears inevitable as governments in the region, regardless of political persuasion, continued to embrace mega-development projects and grant major concessions to transnational companies in order to secure such projects.

In Mexico, President Lopez Obrador’s vow to fight poverty entails investing in extractive projects, while HRDs opposing them face enormous risks due to the high-powered corporate interests and potential profits involved.

This was exemplified by the case of environmental defender Samir Flores, who was killed in the state of Morelos after leading opposition to a thermoelectric power plant and pipeline over concerns that it would use and contaminate water supplies. The killing occurred three days before a referendum proposed by the President on whether the power plant should go ahead. The President had opposed the power plant before taking office.

Peace Brigades International

More than one-half of the human rights defenders killed last year were in countries where Peace Brigades International accompanies threatened human rights defenders.

Related to human rights defenders PBI has accompanies, the Front Line Defenders report notes that “members of the Nuevo Dia Chorti Indigenous Association (CCCDN) were subjected to numerous attacks” in Guatemala (page 8), the criminalization of the defenders of the San Pedro and Guapinol Rivers in Honduras (page 17), the “call for company executives and state officials identified in the trial [of those who killed Berta Caceres] to also be prosecuted” in Honduras (page 17), and the targeting of the LGBT organization Arcoiris in Honduras (page 18).

To read the full Front Line Defenders report, please click here.

News coverage of their report can also be found in The GuardianRTÉPink News, and Bloomberg.