Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Environmentalists Continue to be Murdered or Silenced by Courts All Around the World

If the killing of environmentalists were not enough, courtrooms all around the world are actively silencing environmental protest. Seven hundred advocates have been murdered in the last ten years and countless others are being silenced by courts. A recent report by human rights organization Global Witness documents the murders of more than 700 environmental and indigenous-rights activists over the last ten years. That translates to an average of more than one murder each week over the last decade.

The Global Witness data does not include those who are being jailed, assaulted, intimidated, harassed, or otherwise abused. We must support those who are persecuted for admirable activities like protecting wildlife, resisting illegal logging, or protesting against destructive corporate activities. It is unconscionable that people should be subjected to such treatment, it is even worse that the world often ignores the sacrifices they make for their noble endeavors.
The judiciary in many countries do not seek justice against the perpetrators of such crimes protect, if fact they all too often complicit in efforts to silence environmentalists. Sadly, in extreme cases the courts are sometimes even used to "legally" kill environmental activists.

Less than a decade ago, the Nigerian military harassed and ultimately killed a group of people for their opposition to Shell Oil. In November 1995, the military government convened a special court that detained, tried, convicted and executed members of the Ogani community on spurious charges.

We have come to expect such behavior from countries like Sri Lanka, Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of Congo as these are some of the worst nations in the world when it comes to the persecution of environmentalists. However countries like Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines are not much better.

Even nations that have functioning democracies can use the courts to silence environmentalists and defend the interests of ecologically destructive industries. This is the case of the Arctic 30 who are currently facing trumped up charges of Hooliganism in Russia over their peaceful protest at a Gazprom oil rig in the Arctic.

Some will say that Russia is a pervasively corrupt society and the courts would never silence environmental protest in the US. These people would be wrong, one example involves a ruling by a California court in 2012. Shell Oil successfully petitioned California's Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal to pass an injunction that blocked Greenpeace from protesting against Shell's activities in the Arctic.

We must remember those who have been murdered for their stalwart defense of the planet and its resources. We should also strive to protect the rights of those who are being "legally" silenced by the courts.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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