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Violence against environmental defenders – New UN major report urges zero-tolerance

NEW YORK / GENEVA (21 October 2016) – Environmental human rights defenders are critical to our future but they face unprecedented risks, according to a new report* to the United Nations General Assembly by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst.

“I am extremely worried and appalled by the growing number of attacks and murders of environmental defenders, but also by the continuous resistance of States to act in front of egregious human rights violations,” Mr. Forst said. 

“It is the responsibility of States and international community to empower and protect these defenders. We should listen to those who raise the alarm against environmental disasters, climate change and irresponsible resource exploitation, not repress them,” he underscored.

The human rights expert warned that, although the situation is particularly dramatic in Latin America and Asia where many international investors, companies and local governments ignore the legitimate concerns of the population, “attacks and threats happen everywhere in the world.”
 
In the first major UN report on the subject, the UN expert examines the root causes of attacks perpetrated against environmental defenders and presents concrete recommendations to a range of actors including business and investors for reversing the trend.

According to the study, a number of environmental conflicts could be avoided by prior consultation and active participation of local communities and environmental activists.

“Recently, the world has taken concrete steps to protect our planet, now it is time to protect the heroes who, day by day, are at the forefront of the fight for our future,” concluded the Special Rapporteur, urging the international community to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to the violence against environmental human rights defenders.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx

Mr. Michel Forst (France) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2014. Michel Forst has extensive experience on human rights issues and particularly on the situation of human rights defenders. In particular, he was the Director General of Amnesty International (France) and Secretary General of the first World Summit on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. For more information, log on to:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests please contact Mr. Jamshid Gaziyev (+41 22 917 9183 / jgaziyev@ohchr.org) or write to defenders@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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