India Second Most Dangerous Country for Human Rights Defenders: Report

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Attacks on defenders occur in relation to almost every business sector in every region of the world. The four most dangerous sectors in 2022 are related to natural resources.

Waquar Hasan | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — India witnessed the second-highest number of attacks on human rights defenders across the world last year, a study conducted by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has claimed.

The study titled “Human rights defenders & business in 2022: People challenging corporate power to protect our planet” recorded 54 attacks on human rights defenders in India while there were 63 cases in Brazil.

The BHRRC advances human rights in business and eradicates abuse by empowering advocates, strengthening corporate accountability and building corporate transparency. It has offices in New York and London.

The study said attacks against human rights and environmental defenders occur in every region of the world. “Since we began tracking in 2015, Latin America and Asia and the Pacific have consistently been the most dangerous regions for defenders,” it said.

According to the study, between January 2015 and March 2023, the BHRRC tracked more than 4,700 attacks against human rights defenders raising concerns about harmful business practices. In 2022 alone, it tracked 555 attacks, revealing that on average more than 10 defenders were attacked every single week for raising legitimate concerns about irresponsible business activity. Three-quarters of attacks (75%) were against climate, land and environmental defenders. Over a fifth of attacks (23%) were against indigenous defenders, who are protecting over 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity, although they comprise approximately 6% of the global population.

The study noted that defenders are subjected to a range of attacks, including both killings and non-lethal ones, such as threats, smear campaigns, arbitrary arrests, strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), and physical and sexual violence. “Most (86%) of the attacks we tracked in 2022 were non-lethal, which are often precursors to lethal violence and warning signs to states to increase protection efforts,” it said.

Attacks on defenders occur in relation to almost every business sector in every region of the world. The four most dangerous sectors in 2022 are related to natural resources. Short-term profit-driven extractive approaches which have underpinned the global energy model are core drivers of attacks on defenders and have not provided many of the economic benefits or development promised to communities and countries, the study said.

India’s multi-national company, JSW Steel Ltd., is one of the establishments with which the highest number of attacks on defenders are connected.

“The five companies whose operations, value chains, or business relationships were connected to the highest numbers of attacks in 2022 were JSW Steel Ltd. (India), Otterlo Business Corporation (UAE), TotalEnergies (France, East African Crude Oil Pipeline majority shareholder), Inversiones los Pinares (Honduras), and NagaCorp Ltd and its subsidiary NagaWorld (Cambodia). These include any attacks against defenders raising human rights concerns about these companies’ operations, value chains, or business relationships, even if the company did not perpetrate the attack directly,” stated the study.  

BHRRC urged the authorities to pass and implement legislation recognising the right to defend rights and the vital role of defenders, both individual and collective, in promoting human rights, sustainable development, and a healthy environment and committing to zero-tolerance for attacks and accede to or, if already ratified, fully implement key international and regional standards that protect the civic freedoms of defenders, including those raising concerns about harmful business practice.

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