Forest activist probing Romania illegal logging beaten by thugs

Earlier this week, a physical assault on an environmental activist in the forests of Romania marked the latest in a string of such attacks around the world and further highlights the need for government authorities to take meaningful enforcement action in response.

Gabriel Păun of the Romanian non-profit Agent Green, on the invitation of local people concerned about activities within natural protected areas, was monitoring an area in Râul Alb, Sălaşul de Sus, Hunedoara County when he and two guides were chased and violently attacked by a large group of men.

Păun and one of the guides were cornered and beaten by the group. The attack, which occurred on Sunday, was caught on film by the victims.

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Legal representatives of Păun have issued a statement that the attack took place in relation to logging connected to the construction of hydro-electric power plants and that at least one of the leading assailants was both a local councillor and an employee of the company behind the plants’ construction.

Earlier this month, UK-based NGO Global Witness released the report How Many More? documenting the increasing number of murders of environmental activists around the world.

“This is a critical human rights issue, pure and simple,” said EIA UK Forests Campaign team leader Faith Doherty. “These events in Romania – and in many other parts of the world –underline the extreme danger faced by many environmental activists who are doing nothing more than attempting to protect their forests and ancestral lands from destruction and exploitation at the hands of ruthless criminals, corrupt corporate entities, corrupt politicians and the thugs they employ.

“This isn’t just happening on the front lines of forest destruction in Asia, Africa, and South America, this is happening right here in Europe and it’s totally unacceptable. EIA calls on the relevant authorities to ensure that the rule of law is upheld and for enforcement agencies to transparently investigate all such cases and to bring those responsible to justice.”

Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director of EIA US, added: “EIA has had the honour of working closely with civil society in Romania to monitor and improve the governance of their forests. They are under constant threat of violence by organised crime. The Government of Romania, the foreign companies buying the wood and foreign countries allowing the wood to be traded need to immediately show support for their efforts and help to ensure their safety.”