CSO condemn the murder of Berta Cáceres, Lenca indigenous leader and human rights defender

March 4, 2016. The signatory networks and organisations who support the defence of human rights in Honduras, condemn the murder of Lenca indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, coordinator of the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organisations in Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras – COPINH), which occurred earlier on Thursday at her home in La Esperanza, Intibucá, Honduras.

Berta Cáceres spent her life defending the territorial and cultural rights of indigenous peoples, Garífuna peoples and peasants. She was recognised nationally and internationally as a human rights defender, particularly of the rights of women and indigenous peoples. In 2015 her work was internationally recognised when she received the Environmental Goldman Prize, the highest distinction for activists who work on the defence of territory, natural resources and Mother Earth. Berta, with her comprehensive vision of humanity that characterises indigenous cosmovisions, always stood in solidarity with the causes of other peoples.

In recent years, Berta was the victim of harassment, persecution, intimidation, stigmatisation and criminalisation both by state and non-state actors, due to her activities defending human rights of indigenous communities against the installation of hydroelectric and mining operations in their territories without their free, prior and informed consent.

She struggled, particularly for the recovery of the lands of the Lenca people in Rio Blanco, Intibucá, in light of the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam by the national company Energy Developments S.A. of C.V. (Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. de C.V. – DESA). This project receives both, national (from FICOHSA company) and international funds, including from the Netherlands, Finland and Germany.

Since 2009, she was beneficiary of precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (MC 196/09), but these measures were not properly implemented.

Faced with this terrible crime:

1) We stand in solidarity with Berta’s family, with the Lenca people and members of COPINH and all social organisations in Honduras who are in mourning today.

2) We condemn the murder of Berta and we urge the Honduran authorities to invest all the necessary resources to independently investigate, prosecute, and punish those materially and intellectually responsible, to ensure the protection of witnesses, and to take appropriate measures, including publicly dignifying the memory of Berta.

3) We call on Honduran institutions to fulfil their duty to ensure the protection of all people who defend human rights in their country and the proper implementation of the Law on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Justice Operators, currently in force in Honduras, so that incidents like this do not happen again.

4) We urge the international community to condemn this murder and take all necessary measures to ensure that the Honduran State fulfils its human rights obligations. And we call on them to adopt adequate measures to ensure that bilateral or multilateral financial support for Honduras contributes to the full respect for and realization of human rights.

“In our world views we are beings of earth and water and corn, we Lenca people are the ancestral custodians of the rivers, which are also kept safe by the spirits of the young girls, who teach us that giving our lives in different ways to defending the rivers, is to give our lives for the good of humanity and this planet”. Berta Cáceres, speech upon receiving the Goldman prize in 2015.

The statement is available in English and Spanish