According to a global analysis of threats and attacks facing human rights activists, compiled by Front Line Defenders (FLD) and the Human Rights Defenders Memorial, 358 human rights defenders were murdered in 35 countries in 2021, many of them, according to the groups, could have been prevented, because preceded by threats and calls for protection, reports The Guardian. Most of the killings took place in the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region, with Colombia recording 138 deaths for the year, securing its position as the most dangerous country to be a human rights defender. The second deadliest country was Mexico, with 42 deaths, followed by Brazil, India, the Philippines and Afghanistan.
The majority of those killed, 59%, worked for land, environmental and indigenous rights, where their activities disrupted the economic interests of companies and individuals in mining, logging and other extractive industries. A greater proportion of murdered defenders were women and transgender women, 18% of the total number of people killed compared to 13% in 2020. Indigenous peoples make up only around 6% of the world’s population, but accounted for almost a third of all human rights defenders killed. A separate FLD report highlighted tactics including government surveillance and the use of counter-terrorism charges to criminalize the activities of human rights defenders, revealing an “ecosystem of counter-terrorism laws, security special investigations, militarized battalions and judicial systems” employed against defenders.