The organizations forming the Network of Organizations of International Accompaniment and Observation condemn the assassination of human rights defender Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores- indigenous Lenca, general coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and winner of the Goldman Prize for the environment (2015).
We also condemn the assassination of the leader Nelson Noé Garcia. Garcia was a member of COPINH and his murder happened only 12 days after the death of Cáceres, despite the worldwide outrage that the violent murder of such an emblematic and inspiring defender has provoked.
Late night of March 2nd 2016 in La Esperanza, one of the most important cities of Intibucá, Honduras, armed men entered the home of Berta Cáceres and killed her despite having protection measures awarded to her from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.
Berta Cáceres and other leaders of this organization have been systematically assassinated and threatened with death and violence for their defense of human rights. The threats to the COPINH and Berta Cáceres come principally from their fight against the hydroelectric project “Agua Zarca” which is being driven by the company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA) in the Gualcarque River. Berta Cáceres was criminalized and prosecuted for defending the river and the Lenca communities of the Blanco River.
In Cáceres’ home that night was Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican member of the organization Other World Chiapas, Mexican Network of Those Affected by Mining (REMA), and of the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extraction Mining Model (M4), who was in Honduras to participate in the forum on Alternative Energy from the Indigenous Vision of the COPINH. Gustavo Castro was wounded in the attack but managed to survive. We are concerned by the fact that he still has been denied the possibility to leave Honduras despite having collaborated as a witness in the criminal investigations and could continue to do so from Mexico, where he could avoid the high risk situation he continues to face as long as he stays in Honduras.
In the context of a violent displacement by state forces on March 15th 2016, Nelson Noé Garcia, another member of COPINH, was assassinated. Garcia was a leader of the Rio Chiquito community in the municipality of Rio Lindo, in the department of Cortés in Honduras.
We join the grievance of Berta Cáceres’ and Nelson Noé Garcia’s families and unite in solidarity with the COPINH.
We think it is important to emphasize the psychological and social impact of these events on human rights defenders in the region and must not forget about previous alerts from social organizations and international partners, including the troublesome finding from the Global Witness report in 2015 which found that 75% of environmental activists assassinated worldwide were working in Latin America, with Honduras as the country most dangerous.
In countries where international accompaniment organizations operate, we are observing a critical situation for people who defend the earth and their territory. These defenders face frequent criminalization, intimidation, harassment, defamation, threats, and assassinations.
- We request that the international community, in accordance with declarations regarding assassination, monitor the situation of human rights defenders in Latin America, and press the governments of countries in the region, to guarantee protection for defenders of life and territory.
- We request that the Honduran Government and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights quickly and aptly fulfill protection measures and sign a technical assistance agreement which assigns a commission of independent experts who are trusted by COPINH and the family, with the objective of supervising, supporting and participating in current investigations of the assassination of Berta Cáceres and Nelson Noé Garcia being carried out by the Public Ministry.
- We request that the Honduran Government to protect the personal integrity and lives of COPINH members.
- We request that the Honduran and Mexican Governments provide necessary measures so that Gustavo Castro Soto’s life, integrity, and personal security is guaranteed.
Network of Organizations of International Accompaniment and Observation
Peace Brigades International (PBI) Colombia
Peace Brigades International (PBI) Guatemala
Peace Brigades International (PBI) Honduras
Peace Brigades International (PBI) Mexico
Centre of Human Rights Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, A.C. (Frayba); Mexico
FOR – Peace Presence; Colombia
Pensamiento y Acción Social (PAS); Colombia
Protection Desk; Colombia
Servicio Internacional para la Paz (SIPAZ); Mexico
Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SweFOR); Mexico