Killing Environmental Campaigners

Manifest and Latent Justifications

  • Vincenzo Ruggiero


In 2018, at least two hundred land and environmental defenders were murdered, the deadliest year on record. This trend is growing but also spreading: killings were dispersed across twenty-four countries, compared to sixteen in 2015. With many killings unreported, and often uninvestigated, it is likely that the true number is far higher. The tide of violence is driven by intensified activity by companies which pursue profit in unexploited areas. This paper gives an account and classification of these killings, providing an analysis of the vast literature produced by environmental NGOs. Adopting a modified form of techniques of neutralization and drawing on the distinction between manifest and latent justifications, the paper examines the responses provided by official actors who are called to account for these killings.