Protect environmental rights defenders: UN experts urge govts

Protect environmental rights defenders: UN experts urge govts

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Three United Nations human rights experts have urged all governments to protect environmental and land rights defenders.They made the call ahead of World Environment Day that falls on June 5, according to a message received here from Geneva on Thursday night.
UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst and UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people Victoria Tauli Corpuz stressed that protecting environmental rights defenders is crucial to protect the environment and the human rights that depend on it.
“Being an environmentalist can be a dangerous, even deadly undertaking,” the experts said.
Every week, on average, two environmental and land rights activists are killed and the numbers are getting worse, according to the international NGO Global Witness.
They said the situation is particularly grave in Latin America and Southeast Asia, but it affects every region of the world. “It is truly a global epidemic.”
On this World Environment Day, the UN experts said they want to underscore that environmental human rights defenders should be lauded as heroes for putting themselves at risk to protect the rights and well-being of others. “Instead, they are often targeted as if they were enemies of the country.”
The brave men and women who work to protect the environment are routinely harassed, threatened, unlawfully detained, and even murdered, merely for opposing powerful economic and governmental interests bent on exploiting and destroying the natural environment on which all depend, the experts observed.
“Currently, they are failing to meet these obligations. Of the nearly 1000 reported murders over the last decade, fewer than 10 have resulted in convictions,” the UN experts said.

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