In the first 11 months of 2015, 156 human rights defenders globally were killed or died in detention, up nearly 15 per cent from the previous year. More than half of the killings took place in Latin America, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Dublin-based group.
"Defending human rights in Latin America remained extremely dangerous and the criminalisation of the defence of human rights and peaceful protest movements persisted. The most worrying issue remained extreme violence."
The report found that those most at risk were activists defending land rights, they accounted for 41 per cent of the killings. Almost all of these cases were linked to opposition to so-called 'mega-projects' from big mining companies, often on land belonging to indigenous groups, especially in parts of Central America, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Ecuador.
Outside of the Americas, the Philippines fared worst with 31 killings of human rights activists.
"Human rights defenders face increasingly restrictive and brutal environments in every region of the globe," said Mary Lawlor, head of Front Line Defenders, at the launch of the group's annual report in Dublin.
"Extreme violence is being used more frequently and in more countries, while fabricated prosecutions and unfair trials have become the norm in many parts of the world," she said.
The report said impunity for attacks against human rights campaigners globally remained "rampant" and authorities showed "no interest or willingness to pursue justice".