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Criminalizing environmental activism

Moira Birss

As threats to the environment increase across Latin America, new laws and police practices take aim against the front line activists defending their land and resources.

Berta Cáceres, assassinated in her home on March 3, 2016, was just one of hundreds of Latin American environmental activists attacked in recent years. At least 577 environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) were killed in Latin America between 2010 and 2015—more than in any other region—as documented by Global Witness. But in addition to physical violence, EHRDs face threats and harassment through judicial proceedings, severely impeding their work. Before Cáceres’ murder, she faced trumped-up charges stemming from her leadership in opposition to hydroelectric dams on her indigenous community’s territory.

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