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Over 400 Human Rights Defenders Murdered Worldwide Last Year

Above Photo: Indigenous Brazilians lead a June 18, 2022 protest against the murder of Indigenous activist Bruno Pereira, British journalist Dom Phillips, and other human rights defenders. Rodrigo Paiva/Getty Images.

‘Grim Milestone.’

“Despite an assault on human rights and the rule of law in many countries,” human rights defenders “showed remarkable courage and persistence in advocating for more democratic, just, and inclusive societies.”

For the first time since such killings have been tracked, more than 400 human rights defenders were murdered worldwide last year, with nearly half of these targeted killings occurring in Colombia, a report published Tuesday revealed.

According to Front Line Defenders’ annual global analysis, at least 401 human rights defenders (HRDs) in 26 countries were victims of targeted killings in 2022, up from 358 people murdered in 35 countries the previous year.

The report notes that five countries—Colombia, Ukraine, Mexico, Brazil, and Honduras—accounted for over 80% of HRD murders in 2022, with Colombia alone accounting for 46% of the total with at least 186 killings documented and verified. Indigenous and environmental defenders made up 48% of last year’s victims.

“In a grim milestone, for the first time we saw more than 400 targeted killings of human rights defenders in 2022,” Olive Moore, Front Line Defenders’ interim director, said in a statement. “While Latin America remained the deadliest region in the world for human rights defenders, we also saw a more dangerous landscape for defenders in the context of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.”

‘”These human rights defenders were deliberately targeted and killed because of their human rights work,” Moore added. “Because they choose to speak out and challenge injustice, they paid for it with their lives.”

According to the report:

In 2022, human rights defenders around the world collectively inspired transformative change within their societies with bold, creative, and peaceful human rights action. Despite an assault on human rights and the rule of law in many countries, HRDs showed remarkable courage and persistence in advocating for more democratic, just, and inclusive societies.

Across nearly all countries, human rights organizations, networks, and social movements pushed back against deepening authoritarianism and closing civic space, mobilizing for change while expanding collective voices and responding to the needs of the most marginalized and targeted communities. Even in the most violent contexts, feminist, women, and LGBTQ+ defenders repeatedly stood up for their communities and against discrimination, while strengthening their networks and forming broader alliances.

Nevertheless, this steadfast and courageous defense of human rights often came at a significant cost to HRDs.

Front Line Defenders’ annual report came weeks after Mary Lawlor, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights defenders, declared that nations “can and should do more to protect” HRDs.

“It is exactly because defenders peacefully confront powerful vested interests, because they expose corruption, because they refuse to accept injustice, because they challenge criminal gangs, because they talk about issues governments want to hide, because they tell the truth, and because they make good things happen, that they are attacked,” Lawlor explained.

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