Brazil: Human rights defenders are in the line of fire

SOURCE: LatAm Dialogue

AUTHOR: Jim Loughran

When the disappearance and murder of British journalist, Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous rights defender, Bruno Pereira spread across international media in June 2022, it may have seemed that this incident was another random killing in Brazil; a country beset by poverty, inequality and a climate of violence. The reality, however, is that the bullets that killed Dom and Bruno did not originate that day on the banks of the Amazon, but travelled from Brasilia to the state of Amazonas. These brutal killings were the inevitable consequence of the Brazilian government’s policies designed to exploit the country’s natural resources, prioritise private economic interests, and intimidate as well as silence critical voices. The government has, through various policies and messaging techniques created a climate in the country in which certain individuals feel emboldened to attack and often murder human rights defenders.

Since being elected in January 2019, Bolsonaro has stayed true to his election promises including that he “would not grant one more centimetre of land to indigenous peoples”, that he would “develop the resources of the Amazon”, “purge leftists from government”, and “end affirmative action in Brazilian universities”. From day one he has facilitated a corrupt, authoritarian system that gives free rein to land grabbers as well as illegal miners and loggers. He has given the green light for the illegal occupation and exploitation of public and indigenous lands and removed many of the legal protections for indigenous peoples. He has even described human rights groups working in the Amazon as a “cancer” that he “can’t kill”. He has used the courts to stifle critical voices — including journalists, politicians, Indigenous leaders and activists — many of whom have been investigated under the dictatorship-era National Security Law, which is widely considered unconstitutional. While traditionally Brazil has a well-developed system of environmental protection, Bolsonaro has worked systematically to undermine it, introducing at least 57 pieces of legislation to reduce environmental protection.

At all levels of the political system key officials charged with implementing environmental protection legislation have been removed and replaced with police or army officers. The politically motivated dismissal of indigenous rights expert Bruno Pereira is a case in point. In 2019, Bruno was unceremoniously removed from his position in FUNAI (the government agency established to protect indigenous rights), following his successful campaign to shut down one of the largest illegal mines in the country, which had been operating in Roraima state in an area reserved for the Yanomami people.

The Yanomami reservation in Roraima and Amazonas is the largest indigenous reservation in Brazil, covering over 9.6 million hectares; an area the size of Portugal. It is home to the Yanomami and 6 other uncontacted peoples, and because of illegal mining activity, which increased by 46% in 2021, it is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster. According to the Hutukara Yanomami Association, the “illegal extraction of gold [and cassiterite] inside Yanomami territory led to an explosion in cases of malaria and other infectious diseases and a shocking escalation of violence against indigenous people”. Illegal miners reportedly give alcohol and drugs to the indigenous people and their presence has also resulted in a wave of sexual violence.

Further threats come from the Brazilian army building barracks in the Yanomami heartlands. Soldiers have prostituted Yanomami women, some of whom have been infected with sexually transmitted diseases. Indigenous leaders who speak out against the threats to the Yanomami have been put under investigation, including by FUNAI itself, for spreading fake news. In 2021, Sônia Guajajara, the head of Brazil’s largest indigenous organisation, the Association of Indigenous Peoples (Apib), and indigenous rights defender Almir Suruí were put under investigation over social media campaigns raising awareness of the threat that Covid-19 poses to Brazil’s indigenous population. The case against them was eventually dismissed because it was, in the judge’s view, “a legal embarrassment.”

In its Global Analysis 2021, Front Line Defenders reported that “In Brazil, deforestation and mining activities have significantly increased. The protection of natural resources and traditional territories are being neglected as government structures established to safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples and the environment are being dismantled and weakened. Attacks against and killings of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), indigenous peoples, members of Quilombolo (Afro-descendent) communities and environmental defenders have increased”.

This stigmatisation of human rights defenders and the dismantling of legal protections by the current administration has had deadly consequences. As Senator Randolfo Rodrigues, who is in charge of the investigation into the murder of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, said recently: “Jair Bolsonaro’s demolition of Brazil’s Indigenous and environmental protection services and surrender of the Amazon to crooks played a direct role in the murders. Jair Bolsonaro spoke about not surrendering the Amazon – but he has surrendered it to the worst kind of banditry there is”.

While Bruno and Dom’s killing made headlines around the world, it is distressing to note that, in most cases, the names of killed indigenous and human rights defenders will never appear in print, and almost 100% of the killings remain in impunity. Killers target indigenous leaders safe in the knowledge that after an initial flurry of publicity the investigation will dry up and the case will be filed away.

An example is the story of indigenous leader and human rights defender Zezico Rodrigues Guajajara who was shot dead as he was driving a motorbike near his home village in Maranhao in late March 2020. To this day, no one has been brought to justice for the killing. A member of the Guajajara people, he had worked for years to protect land in the Amazon belonging to his ancestors and other uncontacted, or isolated, indigenous peoples. For Zezico, fending off illegal incursions on indigenous lands had become increasingly dangerous as emboldened logging and mining groups, who feel they have been given a green light by Bolsonaro, targeted him and other Indigenous environmental activists. He was the fifth Guajajara to be killed in a five-month period and one of over two dozen forest protectors killed in Brazil since 2019.

This is a pattern of violence that is repeated across the Amazon. In order to prevent invasions of their territory and illegal exploitation of the rainforest, the Ka’apor indigenous people have established zones of protection and agro-forestry production in areas bordering indigenous land, near clandestine roads opened by illegal miners and loggers. Despite the fact that this work has contributed to an 80% recovery of the degraded areas of forest, the Ka’apor have been repeatedly attacked by the miners and loggers. Bolsonaro sees the protection of indigenous rights and land as an obstacle to economic development. In April 2019 he provoked an international backlash when he stated: “Let’s use the riches that God gave us for the well-being of our population. You won’t get any trouble from the Environment Ministry, nor the Mines and Energy Ministry nor any other because our ministries, for the first time in the Republic, all understand and speak the same language: A better Brazil for all of us.”

In 2020, the Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) Documentation Centre – Dom Tomás Balduino recorded 18 deaths as a result of rural conflicts, and in 2021, recorded 35 deaths; an increase of 75%. The Human Rights Defenders Memorial project which documents the killings of human rights defenders worldwide has reported the killing of 16 indigenous rights defenders in Brazil between 01 January 2019 (when Bolsonaro took office) and the end of 2021.

With elections looming in October 2022, Bolsonaro’s continued war on environmental protections is threatening the very existence of indigenous peoples in the Amazon as well as the people trying to protect these areas. It is imperative that Brazil’s international partners and investors send a clear signal that all financial and political support for Brazil is dependent on respect for the democratic process and commitment to a clear, rights-based programme of legal and social reform.

According to Global Witness, 39 indigenous rights defenders were killed in Brazil between 2016 and 2021. These killings have been accompanied by a devastating increase in deforestation which increased 74% in the period 2018/19 and yet, according to Amnesty International, the Brazilian programme to protect defenders “has not introduced any mechanisms for the meaningful participation of civil society; has not yet managed to minimally develop a comprehensive policy of protection that includes gender and racial perspectives and the needs of groups and collectives; and has failed to ensure the implementation of state-level protection programmes.” The protection of the indigenous rights defenders in the Amazon would be a good place to start. So far, Bolsonaro’s administration has not only failed to protect indigenous and human rights defenders but is actively putting them at risk.


NPR – A Violent Tragedy Foretold in the Amazon

IACHR – Human Rights in Brazil – 2021



HRW – Brazil: Indigenous rights Under Serious Threat

HRW Letter on the Amazon and its Defenders to the OECD

Folha da Sao Paulo

The Hutukara Yanomami Association

Davi Kopenawa / Hutukara Yanomami Association – Right Livelihood

The Guardian – Brazil targets Indigenous leaders

Front Line Defenders – Global analysis 2021

2021_global_analysis_-_final.pdf (

The Guardian – Bolsonaro Hands amazon to Criminals

Bolsonaro’s ‘surrender of Amazon to crooks played role in murders of Phillips and Pereira’ | Jair Bolsonaro | The Guardian


Mongabay – Killings of Indigenous Leaders Hit Highest Levels in Two Decades

Front Line Defenders – Concern over Increased Attacks on Ka’apor people

CPT – Massacres no Campo

Comissão Pastoral da Terra – Conflitos, Massacres e Memória dos Lutadores e Lutadoras do Cerrado (

Amnesty International – Brazil: Human Rights Under Assault

Brazil: Human rights under assault: Submission to the 41st session of the UPR working group, 7 – 18 November 2022 (

Voice of America -Brazil Indigenous Expert Was 'Bigger Target' in Recent Years

Global witness Brazil Report

An Ode to Stan Swamy

In his video testimony, recorded two days before his arrest by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on 8 October 2020, Father Stan Swamy said that he was pleased to not be a silent spectator in the face of injustice and was willing to pay the price of dissent.1 Even moments before India’s criminal justice system failed him, Stan was resolute in his belief in the constitution, truth, and justice. I did not know Stan personally, but I feel like I do know him. As a young woman finding my place within India’s civil society, I find Stan embedded in the collective consciousness that drives us all. Stan was emblematic of what democracy means to those of us who fight for it everyday and envision a just world.

For human rights defenders in India, it is easy to be cynical. Father Stan Swamy was special, not only because of his lifelong struggle for India’s most disadvantaged communities—the Dalits and Adivasis, but also because of he love and empathy that drove his struggle. In his tribute to Stan, Arun Ferreira2 recounts that Stan had conditioned himself to eat half a meal as other tribal families around him did, and fifty years of this habit had made his stomach shrink.3 Stan transformed himself to relate to the lived reality of those he worked for; he learned from experience the difficulty of raising slogans on a half-empty stomach. His fight was not easy but his vision was singular—undivided by the institutions that plague India today. Even as a Jesuit Priest, he challenged the Church and religion at large, shunning religious beliefs that did not come to the aid of the people. He fought till the very end for the rights of people—their communities, their land, their rivers and foremost, their freedom of thought.

One day before Stan Swamy breathed his last, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) directed the Maharashtra state government to make all possible efforts to provide him with medical care.4 However, Stan had already predicted his own death in custody, much earlier than the NHRC cared to notice. On 21 May 2021, Stan had testified before the Bombay High Court and had spoken of his ill health in Taloja Prison. Stating that his health would not improve even if he was transferred to J.J. Hospital, he pleaded to be granted interim bail and allowed to go to Ranchi—his home—before his death.5

The NHRC had been aware of the threats and harassment that Stan had been facing since before his arrest by the NIA. Stan’s house had been raided twice, he was implicated in the Bhima Koregaon case6 without ever having visited the place himself, and he was also charged with sedition in another case by the Jharkhand Police. Human Rights Defenders Alert – India (HRDA), a human rights organisation in India, consistently wrote to the NHRC, seeking intervention and justice for Stan, but the Commission remained unmoved.

On 13 June 2019, for example, HRDA wrote to the NHRC regarding the raid conducted on Father Stan Swamy’s house in Jharkhand by the Maharashtra Police without a valid search warrant.7 More than a year later, on 7 July 2020, the Commission stated that a similar case8 had already been closed on 10 December 2018 and thus, no further intervention of the Commission was required. However, the case that the Commission was referring to relates to the arrests of human rights defenders in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case9 and makes absolutely no mention of the raids conducted on Father Stan Swamy’s residence. Moreover, the case was closed by the Commission solely based on the reports submitted by the Director General of Police of Maharashtra without seeking interventions by civil society members or the accused human rights defenders.

When HRDA wrote to the Commission regarding Stan’s arrest by the NIA on 8 October 2020, it closed the case citing the action report that the NIA had submitted to the Commission.10 The report stated that due procedure was followed in the arrest of Father Stan Swamy and that he “cannot seek any protection or cover in the name of infringement of human rights whereas his act itself is against the security of the state and law”. The NHRC took this comment by the NIA on face value despite being well aware that Father Stan Swamy was a prisoner in pretrial detention whose guilt had never been proven. The NHRC not only overlooked but supported the arrest of an 84-year-old human rights defender and allowed him to be taken from Ranchi to Mumbai during the peak of the pandemic. The report of the NIA was not sent to HRDA for comments, contrary to due procedure, even though HRDA had written to the NHRC about the same on 15 December 2020.

While Stan was in prison, HRDA and other civil society members wrote to the NHRC regarding his failing health, lack of medical attention in prison, risk of contracting Covid-19 and, denial of vaccination to prisoners.11 On 20 May 2021, the NHRC asked for an action report from the Director General of Prisons, Yerawada Central Prison. On 5 July 2021, a reminder was issued to the authority for the report. On 17 August 2021, another reminder was issued to the authority and while sending this reminder the NHRC stated that taking a “lenient view with regard to the pandemic”, the authority had been granted more time to submit the report. It is crucial to observe here that on 5 July 2021, Father Stan Swamy passed away due to lack of healthcare and inhuman prison conditions during the pandemic. In spite of this, the NHRC took a lenient view with authorities citing the pandemic instead of taking up an urgent intervention in favour of his health which was endangered by the pandemic.

The directive issued by the NHRC to the Mahrashtra government on 4 July 2021 to pay adequate attention to Stan Swamy’s health was an act of saving face; doing too little when it was clearly too late. The NHRC took a ‘lenient view’ towards authorities and failed to act where its directives could have made a difference in preventing Stan’s suffering and ultimately saving his life. While Stan was being threatened, raided, falsely implicated in cases in spite of the lack of credible evidence, forced to travel during the pandemic and inching closer to death in Taloja prison, the NHRC repeatedly delayed urgent interventions in the matter. The NHRC did not follow its own Practice Direction 17 in sending reports by authorities to the complainants for their comments, nor did they send reminders to authorities to taking urgent actions on the issue. In fact, the NHRC closed cases based on reports submitted by concerned authorities, rather than independently investigating the allegations made by civil society.

It is clear that in the fight to save Stan, the NHRC stood firmly with the state that incarcerated him, rather than following its mandate to actively protect human rights defenders from reprisals.

The injustice meted out to Stan reminds me of India’s last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. For his participation in the revolt of 1857, Zafar was charged with treason, exiled to Burma, and buried in an unmarked grave after his death. His last wish, that to be buried in Mehrauli, in his home and country, was not fulfilled by the British. He wanted to spend his last days in prison writing poetry, but the British denied him pen and paper. We had expected this cruelty from our colonizers. Our ancestors fought hard against this cruelty, and I don’t think they would have fought so hard if they could see the country as it stands today. A country where a man like Stan Swamy, who spent his life fighting for the ideals that independent India was built upon, was falsely accused for his human rights work, harassed, imprisoned, denied warm clothing and even a straw and sipper cup which would have assisted him due to his advanced Parkinson’s disease, denied a chance to visit his home before his death, and denied the last chance to walk as a free man. We had expected this tyranny from our oppressors, but not from a government that we willed into power.

The Indian state is responsible for the persecution, arrest and ill-treatment in custody of Father Stan Swamy which resulted in his death. However, these acts of persecution are representative of something larger; a state that wants to continue to persecute and exploit the Dalit and Adivasi minorities. A state that does not want them to be aware of their rights, lest they start demanding them. A state that intends to continue the disenfranchisement of its communities and will persecute anyone who dares to showcase these injustices to the world. The people that Stan worked tirelessly for have lost their voice yet again; first the state took away their rights, then took their land, and in the end, it took their spirited leader. Stan will remain, however, as powerful in death as he was in life; his courage, empathy, and unwavering commitment to justice will continue to be an inspiration to those who had the privilege to know him in life and to those who are only now starting to know him and his legacy.

Note on the author: Prachi Lohia is an independent researcher in the field of human rights

Article: A version of this article was carried by The Wire (India) on 5 July 2022, marking the 1st anniversary of Stan Swamy’s death in custody. The article is republished here with the author’s permission.



2 Arun Ferreira is a human rights lawyer who has been a member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights and the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers. He is one of the co-accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, along with 15 other human rights defenders and is currently in prison.




6 Since June 2018, 16 well known HRDs have been jailed under charges related to terrorism in the Bhima Koregaon case and denied bail. The case relates to violence that took place in Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra State, on 1 January 2018. The accused – Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Surendra Gadling, Sudha Bhardwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, the late Stan Swamy, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navalakha, Hany Babu, Jyoti Raghoba Jagtap, Sagar Tatyaram Gorkhe, and Ramesh Murlidhar Gaichor – are well-known for their commitment to the human rights of the most vulnerable and oppressed, particularly Dalit and Adivasi communities, and have been labeled by the authorities as terrorists, subjected to deliberate misinformation campaigns, and repeatedly denied bail despite their age and the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

7 Case no. 739/34/16/2019

8 Case no. 1618/13/23/2018

9 On 28 August 2018, five human rights defenders were arrested by the Pune police in different parts of India. Sudha Bhardwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha and Arun Ferreira were all arrested in different cities under a host of charges, including terrorism-related charges.

10 Case no. 1036/34/16/2020

11 Case no. 1033/13/0/2021

HRD Memorial Report 2021

Today, 2 March 2022, HRD Memorial partners launched the HRD Memorial Report 2021. The report accompanies the Front Line Defenders Global Analysis on the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) at risk around the world; an account of the variety of risks, threats and attacks faced by HRDs around the world, and examples of HRDs continuing to defend and advance the rights of their communities and societies despite threats to their lives.

The HRD Memorial Report presents the data on the killings of HRDs produced by HRD Memorial partners throughout 2021, including the names of the 358 HRDs killed in 35 countries. It also includes emblematic profiles of HRDs killed and highlights some key trends in lethal attacks last year. The full report can be accessed here.

Profiles of all 358 HRDs killed in 2021 will be added to the HRD Memorial website shortly.

Solidarity statement – “Stop the killings of human rights defenders in the Philippines”

We, the undersigned civil society organisations and partners in the HRD Memorial network, wish to express our ongoing concern about the persistent killings of human rights defenders (HRDs) and impunity for perpetrators in the Philippines.

The HRD Memorial gathered and verified information on the killings of 25 human rights defenders in 2020 in the Philippines. In the first 6 months of 2021 alone, 15 HRDs have been killed in the country. Each of these 40 killings1 in the 18-month period from January 2020 to June 2021 is abhorrent, and the trend is particularly worrying because these killings have taken place with absolute impunity.

Among the defenders killed in the past 18 months were Zara Alvarez (38), a paralegal with human rights group Karapatan and research and advocacy officer of Negros Island Health Integrated Programme, and Randall Ka Randy” Echanis (72), a long-time peasant leader and peace consultant. Their murders follow a pattern of violence and “red-tagging” of HRDs in the country. In 2018, both their names appeared on a list of at least 600 people that the Philippine Department of Justice asked a court to declare as “terrorists”, and while their names were subsequently removed, this type of harassment against activists, which sees officials in the Duterte administration labelling HRDs as “communists”, “terrorists”, and “sympathisers”, clearly carries with it lethal consequences. Twelve months after their murders, no suspects have been arrested or charged.

Land and environmental rights defenders and defenders from indigenous communities face very serious risks in the Philippines as they attempt to peacefully defend their land and oppose major industrial projects. These HRDs are disproportionately represented in the figures of the HRDs killed in the past 18 months. On 30 December 2020, indigenous rights defender Roy Giganto was among nine farmers and HRDs killed in a massacre that took place in various villages on Panay Island in a coordinated police and military operation. Before the massacre, these leaders had been “red-tagged” and accused by the military of being members and supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). In fact, they were all leaders of the Tumanduk organisation, an alliance of indigenous people’s communities in Capiz and Iloilo provinces, and they consistently opposed human rights violations in their localities and advocated for the protection of their rights as Indigenous People. Prior to this attack they had been actively opposing and delaying progress on the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Mega Dam, a joint project of the Philippine and South Korean governments that is feared to lead to the displacement of at least 17,000 indigenous Tumandok2.

Under the Duterte administration, perpetrators – be they police, military or non-state actors – know that they can get away with killing human rights defenders in the Philippines. The killings of HRDs are rarely investigated, which increases the vulnerability of HRDs who remain active, while undermining the human rights community’s confidence in the justice system. In addition, the Anti-Terrorism Act, which was hastily passed in July 2020, has further compounded the precarious situation for HRDs by legally formalising the practice of “red-tagging” defenders with overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism.

Today, in solidarity with the human rights community in the Philippines, we call on all governments to condemn the killings of HRDs in the Philippines and to send a message to the Duterte administration calling for thorough, impartial, and independent investigations into all the 40 killings which have taken place in the past 18 months, as well as a commitment from the administration to bring the perpetrators to justice. In addition, we call on governments to take long-overdue action at the UN Human Rights Council and support an international level investigation into unlawful killings and other serious violations in the Philippines. These killings are part of an all-encompassing persecution of the human rights community in the country, and must be challenged by immediate investigations into these murders, the repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, and a commitment from the Duterte administration to promote and protect HRDs.


ACI Participa (Honduras)

Amnesty International

Comité Cerezo México

El Programa Somos Defensores (Colombia)

FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Front Line Defenders

Global Witness

Justiça Global (Brazil)

KARAPATAN (the Philippines)

Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos “Todos los Derechos para Todas y Todos” Red TDT (made up of 85 human rights organisations in 23 states of the Mexican Republic)

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders



1 The names of the 40 HRDs killed in the Philippines between 01 January 2020 and 30 June 2021 are Jennifer Tonag, Jay-ar Mercado, Emerito Pinza, Romy Candor, Marlon Maldos, Nora Apique, John Farochilin, Jose Reynaldo Porquia (Jory), Allan Aguilando (Mano Boy), Carlito Badion (Karletz), Froilan Reyes (Kawing), Jose Jerry Catalogo, Randall Echanis, Zara Alvarez, Armando Buisan, Ignacio Jr. Arevalo (Tukoy), Roy Giganto, Reynaldo Katipunan, Galson Catamin, Eliseo Jr. Gayas, Maurito Diaz, Artilito Katipunan, Mario Aguirre, Jomar Vidal, Rolando Diaz, Aldren Enriquez, Vernel Mondreal, Antonio Arellano, Romeo Torres, Lucresia Tasic, Ana Mariz Evangelista, Ariel Evangelista, Emmanuel Asuncion, Melvin Dasigao, Mark Bacasno, Miguel Dandy, Jesus Jr. Pason, John Heredia, Willy Rodriguez and Lenie Rivas.

2 Another series of coordinated raids took place on 7 March 2021, just two days after President Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Army (PA) to “ignore human rights” and “kill” and “finish off” communist rebels in any armed encounters with them. This massacre saw nine alleged members of “communists and terrorist groups” killed, including five human rights defenders.

Statement on the death of human rights defender Father Stan Swamy

We are deeply saddened by the death in custody of Fr. Stan Swamy, 84 year-old Jesuit priest and human rights defender, on 05 July 2021, eight organisations said today.

Stan Swamy was repeatedly denied bail, and died at the Holy Family Hospital, in Mumbai, India having been placed on ventilator support the previous day due to breathing difficulties and oxygen level fluctuations. The defender spent 9 months in jail under the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), denied bail and medical care in jail, and only transferred to a hospital when his condition became critical on 29 May.

Stan Swamy has been a dedicated advocate for the rights of Adivasi people, especially in the State of Jharkhand. He founded the Vistapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, an all-India platform to secure and protect the land rights of Dalit and Adivasi peoples, and was a prominent advocate against the forced displacement of Adivasi communities, typically occurring in the context of development and the mining of mineral-rich lands. He spoke out against the systemic discrimination and violence directed at the Adivasi community and he notably documented and advocated against the arrest of Adivasi youth, who are frequently accused of being “Naxalites” or “Maoists.” It is this work, that is his legacy, and also the reason for sustained reprisals against him. He has supported and inspired the most marginal and vulnerable communities to seek redress against violence and discrimination. His persecution and eventual arrest are direct reprisal for his peaceful work.

On 08 October 2020 the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Ranchi, Jharkhand arrested Stan Swamy for alleged links to the violence that took place in Bhima Koregaon on 01 January 2018. 15 other prominent human rights defenders have been falsely accused and jailed in this case. Months prior to his arrest Stan Swamy was interrogated for nearly 16 hours by the NIA ostensibly linked to the case. We stand by Stan Swamy and other defenders accused and held under trial in this case, and believe they are being deliberately targeted for their human rights work. On 09 October, Stan Swamy was transferred 1,700 kilometres away from his home to Mumbai, Maharashtra, and remanded in the overcrowded Taloja Central Jail.

At the time of his arrest Stan Swamy was already suffering from Parkinson’s disease, significant loss of hearing in both ears, and other serious underlying health issues. Initially jail authorities denied him warm clothes and a sipper cup which he needed due to the effects of Parkinson’s disease. Bail was effectively out of reach due to the UAPA, and courts declined to intervene despite his age, illness, and the threat of Covid-19. On 22 October 2020, a special NIA court denied his interim bail plea filed on medical grounds. This is despite the pandemic and national moves to reduce congestion in prisons, as well as the Supreme Court of India’s own directives in this regard.

Throughout his time in detention Stan Swamy’s health gradually regressed. In the second week of May 2021 the defender’s lawyers again petitioned the court for his release on the grounds that he was suffering from Covid 19-like symptoms. At a hearing on 21 May 2021 Stan Swamy explained to the judge via video-link that when he arrived at the prison, his bodily systems “were very functional,” but over the 7 months he had spent in prison, “there has been a steady, slow regression” of his health. This request for bail was again denied.

Stan Swamy was eventually transferred from Taloja Central Jail to the Holy Family Hospital on 28 May 2021, when his condition had worsened severely. He tested positive for Covid-19 on 30 May. Throughout the month of June he remained in a critical condition, and was moved to the Intensive Care Unit. On Sunday 04 July he suffered a cardiac arrest, and was moved to ventilator support. In the days prior, he had expressed deep concern and worry regarding the bail hearing scheduled for 6 July 2021. The hearing was brought forward to 2.30 pm on 5 July. Stan Swamy died on an hour before his hearing, at 1.24 pm on 05 July.

His death in custody, and the continued incarceration of other defenders is a tragic indictment of India’s human rights record, and of the global community’s human rights commitments. India sits on the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Security Council, which carry specific human rights commitments. The international community, have failed to move beyond rhetoric in holding human rights standards as benchmarks of engagement. The EU’s private diplomatic efforts on his high-profile case, including during the recently-resumed closed-door local human rights dialogue, ostensibly failed.

This must be a wake-up call for the international community to finally put human rights at the centre of all aspects of their bilateral relationship with India. We particularly call on the EU and member States, to implement the numerous commitments undertaken in the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, and many others. Standing united and without compromises by the EU’s founding values1 will be the only way to secure the release of many other human rights defenders arbitrarily held in India before they meet the same fate as Stan Swamy.

Stan Swamy penned a letter to his friends and colleagues in January 2021 to express his gratitude for the solidarity shown by people, to mark 100 days of him being in custody. “At times, news of such solidarity has given me immense strength and courage, especially when the only thing certain in prison is uncertainty.

We continue to stand in solidarity with Stan Swamy and we call for full accountability for his death. His spirit, courage and kindness will not be forgotten and will continue to inspire.


Amnesty International

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation


FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Front Line Defenders

International Commission of Jurists

International Dalit Solidarity Network

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders



Article 2 Treaty on European Union: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”; Article 21(1) Treaty on European Union: “The Union’s action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.”

Philippines: Urgent Open Letter to Supreme Court and Justice Department, 7 June 2021

7 June 2021

Hon. Alexander G. Gesmundo
Chief Justice
Supreme Court of the Philippines

Hon. Menardo I. Guevarra
Philippine Department of Justice


Dear Chief Justice Gesmundo and Secretary Guevarra:

Greetings of peace!

We, the undersigned civil society, religious organisations and individuals, are writing to you to express our profound and urgent concern on the recent extrajudicial killings, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests and detention and threats through red-tagging against human rights defenders, including Karapatan human rights workers, human rights lawyers, trade unionists and public sector unions, and organizers of  community pantries in the Philippines.

The killings of trade unionists Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion and Dandy Miguel, fisherfolk leaders and couple Ana Mari “Chai” and Ariel Evangelista, urban poor activists Melvin Dasigao and Mark Bacasno, and indigenous farmers Abner and Edward Esto and Puroy and Randy dela Cruz in March 2021 alone are disturbing incidents, following the killings of nine indigenous leaders in Capiz on December 30, 2020. Almost all were killed in the course of police and military operations, using questionable search warrants and the oft-heard “nanlaban” narrative. We note that these were the same reasons given by the Philippine National Police in the conduct of drug war operations in the
Philippines, and we find it deeply disturbing that the  same lines are being increasingly used now in the deaths of activists.

Human rights lawyers, including those who are assisting several petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 at the Supreme Court, face threats and physical attacks. Women’s rights lawyer Evalyn Ursua reported that individuals onboard motorcycles are surveilling her and human rights lawyer Angelo Karl Guillen suffered stab wounds after unidentified men attacked him.

Arbitrary arrests and detention using the same pattern of questionable search warrants and through cases perfunctorily filed against human rights defenders without due process were also reported. Karapatan human rights workers Teresita Naul, Alexander Philip Abinguna and most recently, Renalyn Tejero and Nimfa Lanzanas, were arrested and are currently detained based on these false charges. Along with Lanzanas, trade union leaders Elizabeth Camoral, Esteban Mendoza, Ramir Corcolon, Arnedo Lagunias, Eugene Eugenio and Pol Viuya, and peasant leader Joseph Canlas were arrested in March 2021.

Karapatan’s National Chairperson Elisa Lubi and rights workers Jayvee Apiag and Daisy Valencia, as well as six other Karapatan national officers – Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Dr. Edita Burgos, Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol and Jose Mari Callueng – also continue to face judicial harassment. Indigenous people’s leaders and advocates Windel Bolinget, Jong Monzon, United Church of Christ of the
Philippines Bishop Hamuel Tequis and Lindy Perucho are likewise in the same situation.

All above-mentioned defenders and their organizations have been previously red-tagged. More recently, organizers of community pantries especially Ana Patricia Non, universities, journalists, public sector union leaders including unionists from the judiciary and Senate employees, educators from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and health workers, have been victims of red-tagging by high government officials of the
National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

These recent attacks are the latest in the alarming and ongoing pattern of  criminalization and violence against human rights defenders in the Philippines.

In June 2020, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated that “[p]ersistent impunity for human rights violations is stark, and practical obstacles to accessing justice within the country are almost insurmountable,” in
its report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

In August 2020, the OHCHR said it was “saddened and appalled by the ongoing violence and threats against human rights defenders in the Philippines” with the killings of activists Zara Alvarez and Randall Echanis. Pertaining to the Bloody Sunday incidents on March 7, 2021 in the country, the OHCHR said “[w]e are deeply worried that these latest killings indicate an escalation in violence, intimidation, harassment and
“red-tagging” of human rights defenders.” United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor called “red-tagging” in the Philippines a context-specific death threat.

We believe that the incidents mentioned, in addition to the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which is viewed by UN Special Procedures as “overbroad,” “vague” and with serious concerns on the exercise of human rights and civil liberties; the government’s anti-drug campaign; and the threats to press freedom and freedom of expression as well as against critics and opposition members contribute to pervasive climate of impunity.

We noted with appreciation the statement of the Supreme Court on the attacks against lawyers and judges and the Justice Secretary’s statement regarding red-tagging.

Given the gravity of the situation, we further enjoin you to:

1. Stop the killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, judicial harassment, threats and red-tagging against human rights defenders, trade unionists including public sector unions of court and Congressional employees, teachers and health workers, lawyers, journalists, community pantry organizers and mutual aid or humanitarian initiatives, among others;

2. Conduct prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into the killings, arrests, detentions, searches and other forms of persecution of human rights defenders. Those responsible must be held accountable;

3. Review and revise rules on the service of search warrants and issuances of arrest warrants against human rights defenders, which appears to be routinely used to judicially harass and arbitrarily detain them;

4. Review and revise rules on the privilege of the writs of amparo and habeas data to ensure that human rights defenders are afforded timely, relevant and comprehensive legal protection from threats to their lives, security and liberty, including red-tagging and gendered threats received by women and queer human rights defenders;

5. Act to repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020;

6. Enact measures protecting human rights defenders and to criminalise red-tagging; and

7. Publicly recognize the legitimate and essential work of human rights defenders.


1. Action Network Human Rights Philippines (AMP)
2. Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (ASTM)
3. Advanced League of Peoples’ Artists (ALPA), Australia
4. Anakbayan Canada
5. Anakbayan Melbourne
6. Anakbayan Ottawa
7. Anakbayan Sydney
8. Anakbayan Toronto
9. Arren Winton, Newport Australia
10. Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong
11. Australian Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines
12. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, NSW & ACT Branch
13. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Australia
14. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Canada
15. Beaconsfield Initiative, Montreal,Canada
16. Burt Blackburn, Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church, Australia
17. Canada-Philippines Solidarity Organization (CPSO)
18. Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR Vancouver)
19. Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG), Uganda
20. Center for International Human Rights, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
22. Dave Kerin, Earthworker Cooperative, Australia
23. Dino Concepcion, Philippine Studies Network Australia
24. Emma Bridger, University of Birmingham, UK
25. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
26. Fr. Claude Mostowik, MSC, Pax Christi Australia President and National Director
of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Justice and Peace
27. Front Line Defenders
28. Gabriela Australia
29. Gabriela Australia – Victoria
30. Gabriela Central Coast
31. Gabriela Greater Sydney
32. Gabriela Western Australia
33. George Kotsakis, Convenor, Philippine Caucus for Peace (PCP)
34. Hans Gaasbeek, Foundation Day of the Endangered Lawyer
35. Hong Kong Campaign for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP)

36. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
37. International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED)
38. International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines
39. International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-Canada
40. International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-Europe
41. International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-Quebec
42. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
43. Jack Endacott, Melbourne May Day Organisation, Australia
44. Jones Espino, United Church of Christ in the Philippines Missionary in South Korea
45. Just Associates (JASS)
46. KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
47. Karapatan Alliance Philippines
48. Kevin Bracken, ILPS Australia
49. Kilusang Maralita sa Kanayunan (Kilos Ka)
50. Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)
51. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
52. Legal Resources Centre from Moldova
53. Lingap Migrante (Sydney)
55. Malaya Movement Canada
56. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)
57. Margaret Williamson, Bena Victoria, Australia
58. MARUAH, Singapore
59. Marion Oke, Glenroy Victoria, Australia
60. May Kotsakis, Co-Chairperson, Philippines Australia Solidarity Association (PASA)
61. Melbourne May Day Organisation, Australia
62. MIGRANTE International, Philippines
63. Migrante Australia
64. Migrante-Canada
65. Migrante Melbourne
66. Migrante Melbourne East
67. Migrante Melbourne North East (Samahang Tatak Pinoy -STP)
68. Migrante Melbourne North West
69. Migrante Melbourne West
70. Migrante North (Sydney)
71. Migrante-Ontario
72. Migrante Perth (WA)
73. Migrante Southwest (Sydney)74. Mining Watch Canada
75. Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, Hong Kong
76. Netherlands Philippines Solidarity Movement (NFS)
77. Network of Civil Society Organizations for the Observation and Monitoring of Elections in Guinea (ROSE)
78. Odhikar, Bangladesh
79. Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (OCHRP)
80. Organisation Tchadienne Anti-Corruption (OTAC)
81. Paloma Polo, Moving Artists International
82. Philippines Australia Union Link
83. Philippine Australia Women’s Association (PAWA)
84. Philippine Caucus for Peace (PCP)
85. Philippine Studies Network of Australia (PINAS)
86. Prof. Gill Boehringer, Co-Chair Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers, International Association of People’s Lawyers
87. Promotion for Church People’s Response (PCPR) Australia
88. Radyo Migrante- Toronto Canada
89. Raul Diche, Chairperson, Migrante Melbourne West Chapter
90. Shirley Winton, Newport Victoria, Australia
91. Sr. Patricia Fox, Coordinator, Asia Pacific Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines
92. Spirit of Eureka, Australia
93. Steunfonds Filipijnen, Belgium
94. Stichting Ronoylion
95. Stop the Attacks Campaign – Japan
96. Sulong UBC (University of British Columbia, Canada)
97. Support Group for Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation Workers Association in Japan
98. Symone Gaasbeek-Wielinga, President of the Dutch League for Human Rights
99. The United Church of Canada
100. Tranby National Indigenous Adult Education & Training, Australia
101. Warren Winton, Newport Australia
102. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
103. Xavier Cutillas, President of the Associació Catalana per la Pau – Catalan Association for Peace

Brazil: Impunity fuels the cycle of violence against land and environmental rights defenders in the state of Pará, Amazon region

Pau D'Arco MassacreResisting is the best way to honour their lives. Let us not be shaken.” 

José Vargas Junior

Brazil is one of the most lethal countries in the world for environmental activists and human rights defenders.1 Historically, the state of Pará has registered the highest rates of violence related to agrarian issues in Brazil; located in the Amazon region, it is the most violent state for land rights defenders. The episodes vary from evictions of rural workers, riverside communities or quilombolas; illegal mining, logging and occupation of indigenous areas; destruction of property and assets; physical attacks; arbitrary detention, criminalisation and killings.

This week marked ten years since the killings of environmental rights defenders José Claudio Ribeiro and Maria do Espírito Santo, four years since the Pau d’Arco massacre in which 10 rural workers were murdered and four months since the killing of Fernando dos Santos Araujo, a survivor and key witness of the Pau d’Arco massacre case.

On 24 May 2011, José (Zé) Cláudio Ribeiro and María do Espírito Santo were shot dead in an ambush by gunmen on the road leading to the settlement project where they lived. Both were local leaders of the Praia Alta-Piranheira Agro-extractive Project and had received death threats for years by those opposed to their work denouncing illegal logging and in defence of the forest. Two men, Alberto Lopes do Nascimento and Lindonjonson Silva Rocha were sentenced in 2013 to more than 40 years in prison for involvement in the murders. The farmer appointed as the mastermind of the crime, José Rodrigues Moreira, was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 2016, yet police in Para have made no attempt to execute the arrest warrant; as such José Rodrigues Moreira remains a free man.

On 24 May 2017, in what is now widely known as the Pau D’Arco massacre, 10 rural workers and land rights defenders associated with Liga dos Camponeses Pobres – LCP were murdered on the Santa Lúcia farm by police officers. On 26 January 2021, land rights defender Fernando dos Santos Araújo was killed in his house on the Santa Lúcia farm. He was a survivor and one of the key witnesses against the 17 police officers in the Pau d’Arco criminal case. While investigations into the Pau D’Arco massacre saw some progress, no charges have been brought against those who ordered the operation, while the accused police officers were allowed to wait for the trial in freedom and return to active duty, some of them in the region of Pau D’Arco city. In addition, human rights defender José Vargas Sobrinho Junior , who is the lawyer of Pau D’Arco victims, has been facing a criminal investigation against him, considered by those who accompany the case to be an attempt to prevent justice for the Pau D’Arco Massacre.

In a video statement to honour the defenders on the anniversary of the massacre, Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs said “Defending land and environmental rights should never cost any one their life. Impunity for the murders of human rights defenders makes Brazil a very dangerous place for those peacefully defending the rights of others”.

Impunity in these notorious cases, among others, fuels the targeted violence against land and environmental rights defenders in Pará. The threats and murders of human rights defenders in Pará are endemic to the business practices of mining, logging and cattle ranching in this region, and indeed across the country, because resource extraction and agribusiness are prioritised over the lives of rural populations, indigenous communities and quilombolas.

Today, while Front Line Defenders & the HRD Memorial pay tribute to these land and environmental rights defenders and stands in solidarity with their families and communities, we also renew the call for proper investigations and justice for José Claudio Ribeiro and Maria do Espirito Santo, for the victims of the Pau d’Arco massacre, for Fernando dos Santos Araujo and for all those who have lost their lives in the struggle for human rights.

These could only be stories of death, but they are also – and mainly – stories of struggle.” Read statement by Comissão Pastoral da Terra and civil society in Brazil released on 24 May 2021.

Blog by Michelle Foley, HRD Memorial Coordinator

1 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor. Final Warning: death threats and killings of human rights defenders, available at and 2020 Global Witness Annual Report, available at:

Aggressions against human rights defenders in Colombia; January – March 2021

Between January and March 2021, the Information System on Aggressions against Human Rights Defenders – SIADDHH – of HRD Memorial partners El Programa Somos Defensores confirmed 180 aggressions against human rights defenders in Colombia. That is to say, an average of two aggressions per day were committed through different types of violence: assassinations, threats, attacks, arbitrary detentions, prosecutions, forced disappearances and theft of information.


Threats are the aggression that reported the highest number of incidents (125), with 9% more than in the same period in 2020. Attacks (16 events) showed an increase of 14% (2 more events). Also confirmed were: assassinations (28 events), forced disappearances (5 events), arbitrary detentions (3 events), theft of information (2 events) and prosecutions (1 event).


Every 3 days a human rights defender was killed in the country. The leadership role that registers the highest number of assassinations is indigenous peoples rights defenders, followed by peasant and community leaders.


Download the bulletin here (in Spanish)

Oral Statement Delivered on Behalf of the HRD Memorial during the General Dialogue at the 46th Human Rights Council



UN Human Rights Council

Forty-sixth Session

22 February-23 March 2021


Madam President,

We would like to thank the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for drawing attention to the killings of those who defend human rights.

I deliver this statement on behalf of a coalition of 10 organisations1 who have been recording the increasing yearly toll. At least 331 individuals were killed in 2020 alone for daring to stand up for human rights. As in every previous year, impunity awaits the vast majority of those responsible. Most killings are recorded in Colombia, Philippines, Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, Afghanistan and Brazil. Around 70% of those killed were fighting to protect their land, territory and environment, many of them Indigenous people. Others were killed in contexts of conflict and repression. As the Special Rapporteur also stresses, these killings are usually preceded by threats and are preventable.2

We invite you to read their stories on the HRD Memorial website. Each one of their deaths is an indictment of the failure of States to live up to their commitment to uphold human rights and create a safe and enabling environment for those who defend them. These individuals should be at the forefront of our protection efforts.

We join the Special Rapporteur in urging states to commit to a true implementation of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and:

Recognise and applaud the key role played by human rights defenders, and stop smearing and stigmatizing them;

Take all necessary steps to counter the prevailing impunity in these cases and bring about real justice;

In consultation with defenders, design individual and collective protection programmes that address their needs;

Ensure that those who defend human rights are enabled to do so in a safe environment without fear of threats, attacks or reprisals.

Thank you

Delivered by Lisa Maracani, Amnesty International, on behalf of the HRD Memorial.

Watch the full session and statement on video (at 1h:56min) here.

HRD Memorial 2020 – overview

On 11 February 2021, Front Line Defenders launched its Global Analysis 2020 report on the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) around the world, detailing the physical assaults, defamation campaigns, digital security threats, judicial harassment, and gendered attacks faced by HRDs, especially women and gender non-conforming human rights defenders.

The work of the HRD Memorial project was profiled in the report, including the names of the 331 HRDs who were killed in 25 different countries for carrying out their peaceful human rights work in 2020. of these 331 HRDs, 26% were working specifically on the rights of indigenous peoples, despite indigenous peoples only making up approximately 6% of the world’s population. The most at risk group were defenders working on land, environmental or indigenous peoples rights, who account for 69% of the HRDs killed.

Killings took place in 25 countries in 2020:

Afghanistan – 17 HRDs

Bolivia – 1 HRD

Brazil – 16 HRDs

Canada – 1 HRD

Chile – 4 HRDs

China – 1 HRD

Colombia – 177 HRDs*

Costa Rica – 1 HRD

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – 1 HRD

Guatemala – 15 HRDs

Honduras – 20 HRDs

India – 6 HRDs

Indonesia – 2 HRDs

Iraq – 8 HRDs

Libya – 1 HRD

Mexico – 19 HRDs

Nepal – 1 HRD

Nicaragua – 2 HRDs

Pakistan – 1 HRD

Peru – 8 HRDs

Philippines (the) – 25 HRDs

South Africa – 1 HRD

Sweden – 1 HRD

Syria – 1 HRD

Thailand – 1 HRD

* Additional cases from the last quarter in Colombia are still in the process of verification.

Why are so many HRDs killed in Colombia?

Following the signing of the peace agreement (November 2016) and the demobilization of the FARC and in the absence of any, or at best limited, state presence or apparatus, new and existing armed groups assumed control of territories once controlled by the disbanded groups. Since 2017, these warring factions have competed to control the territories in pursuit of their illicit economic and trafficking activities. HRDs have been left exposed by the failure of the Colombian government to implement crucial elements of the peace agreement. Political leaders have stigmatised defenders who highlight the situation while in some cases the authorities gave withdrawn protection measures from leaders at risk. It has been left to HRDs to push for the implementation of crucial elements of the peace accords and to promote crop substitution programmes to their communities. These defenders, alongside those defending land, environment and indigenous peoples’ rights, are routinely targeted by defenders. Last year saw the added dimension of these armed groups violently imposing quarantines, mobility restrictions and forcing communities to comply as a means to better exert their control and limit the abilities of those opposing their illicit activities. The State’s response was to increase the military’s presence in these territories, which has been counter-productive and ultimately has increased the levels of violence and risk for communities and HRDs. Military personnel have also been denounced for their disproportionate use of force against civilians and HRDs.

Sirley Yesenia Muñoz Murillo from Programa Somos Defensores, Colombia comments at the Global Analysis 2020 report launch press conference.

Note on defenders killed in Canada, Pakistan and Sweden

2020 saw the shooting dead of one Baloch rights defender, Shaheena Shaheen*, in Pakistan, and the death in suspicious circumstances of 2 more Baloch rights defenders, Sajid Hussain and Karima Baloch. Both Hussain and Baloch were living in exile in Sweden and Canada respectively, after receiving threats to their lives in Pakistan as a result of their activism. Sajid, who had been living in Sweden since 2017, disappeared on 2 March and his body was found on 23 April in the Fyris river, north of Uppsala, Sweden. Similarly, Baloch disappeared in Toronto, Canada, on 20 December and her body was found on 21 December in a body of water off Toronto Island. While authorities in both Sweden and Canada have ruled that these deaths were accidental, the families and the human rights community in Balochistan are calling for more thorough investigations into these two drownings. *Shaheena Shaheen was shot dead in her home in Balochistan by her husband of five months, who reportedly wanted her to stop her activism and disapproved of the public profile her work brought her.

Human Rights Defenders – Profile pages

Over the course of the coming weeks and months an individual profile page for each of the HRDs killed in 2020 will be added to the HRD Memorial website.

This is a space dedicated to their memory. To remember and celebrate their human rights work.

If you would like to write one of these HRD Memorial profiles, please contact the HRD Memorial Project Coordinator, Michelle Foley