GENEVA – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, today strongly condemned the murder in Honduras of human rights defender Berta Cáceres, founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations Honduras (COPINH) and leader of the Lenca community of Río Blanco.
Her statement was endorsed by Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai and a number of other UN independent experts.
The murder of Ms. Cáceres took place earlier this week despite precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for her protection after an increase in the number of death threats she had received for years because of her work denouncing violations of human rights against indigenous peoples.
The Special Rapporteur met Ms. Cáceres during her first official visit* to Honduras in November 2015, when the indigenous leader facilitated meetings with the Lenca community. At Río Blanco, the UN expert received information about the community’s opposition to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam which had led to killings, harassment and threats to members of the community.
“It is very likely that this killing is linked to her work in defense of human rights of the indigenous Lenca people,” Ms. Tauli-Corpuz said, recalling that Ms. Cáceres had received the Goldman Prize in 2015 as an environmental activist in recognition of her work against the construction of the Agua Zarca dam.
The Special Rapporteur called on the Honduran authorities to implement additional security measures and provide effective protection to members of the Lenca community of Río Blanco, COPINH and Ms. Cáceres’ relatives. She also urged them to investigate the murder immediately and effectively and to ensure that its perpetrators and masterminds are brought to justice.
“Berta is the latest name on a long list of indigenous activists who have been murdered for standing up for their human rights,” Ms. Tauli-Corpuz noted. “It is time for the nations of the world to bring perpetrators to justice and to protect indigenous rights activists peacefully protesting the theft of their lands and resources.”
“It is urgent that the prevailing impunity in the country regarding criminal acts against members of indigenous communities and their advocates comes to an end. Let this be the last murder of a human rights defender and indigenous activist in Honduras,” she urged, expressing her deep sympathy and condolences to Ms. Cáceres’ family and community.
The statement by Ms. Tauli-Corpuz has also been endorsed by the Special Raporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst; on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye; on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Dubravka Šimonović; and the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.
This statement is also available in Spanish.