Countries Where the Most People Are Killed Defending the Environment

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10. Peru
> Named human rights defenders killed, 2012-2021: 51
> Most common perpetrator: Police (23)
> Population: 33,359,416

“Indigenous people are the front-line witnesses of climate change and development pressures in the Peruvian Amazon,” the World Wildlife Federation wrote in 2014. Indeed, many of the people who have been killed in Peru are small-scale farmers and/or indigenous Peruvians pushing back against logging, mining, and other land use activities. Last year, at least seven Peruvian indigenous activists were killed, including Herasmo García Grau and Yenes Ríos Bonsano of the Cacataibo ethnic group, who were murdered for denouncing drug trafficking activities in their area.

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9. Nicaragua
> Named human rights defenders killed, 2012-2021: 57
> Most common perpetrator: Unspecified (29)
> Population: 6,702,379

Nicaragua is among seven Latin American countries that rank among the 10 most violent countries for human rights and climate activists. Of particular concern is conflicts over land use and ownership. The most fatal incident occurred on Aug. 23, 2021, when at least 13 members of the Mayagna and Miskito communities in the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve on the Caribbean coast were massacred. According to activists, the perpetrators were non-indigenous settlers with alleged ties to organized crime surrounding illegal logging activities.

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8. Democratic Republic of Congo
> Named human rights defenders killed, 2012-2021: 70
> Most common perpetrator: Private military actors (39)
> Population: 92,377,986

Democratic Republic of Congo is wracked with so much violence linked to the illicit wildlife trade that the central African country of 92 million is one of three countries outside of Latin America to rank among the 10 most violent for activists. In January 2021, armed hitmen murdered six park rangers between the ages of 25 and 48 in an ambush in Virunga National Park, a mountain gorilla sanctuary where militias fight to control land and natural resources in the area.

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7. India
> Named human rights defenders killed, 2012-2021: 79
> Most common perpetrator: Police (35)
> Population: 1,393,409,033

The world’s second most populated country is among the top 10 countries with the highest number of reported killings of activists, including environmental defenders. In 2018, Ajit Maneshwar Naik, 57, was murdered in Dandeli, Karnataka state, an area notorious for crimes against environmental activists. Since 2020, small-scale farmers have protested legislative reforms they say put them at the mercy of large agribusiness, and many have paid the price for demonstrating.

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6. Guatemala
> Named human rights defenders killed, 2012-2021: 80
> Most common perpetrator: Unspecified (38)
> Population: 17,109,746

Out of the seven countries that have recorded the highest number of murdered activists, six are in Latin America. The killings of land and environmental defenders in Guatemala surged in 2018, as long-simmering tensions flared between mostly indigenous social right activists and groups associated with large landowners, mining operations, agribusiness, and illegal logging, including members of the armed forces, private security guards, or hitmen.