PEN International has joined a global action calling for justice for Honduran environmental activist, Berta Cáceres, who was murdered on Thursday, 3 March 2016.
H.E. Ambassador Iván Romero Martínez
Embassy of Honduras to the United Kingdom
London – 15 June 2016
Thank you for your letter, dated 12 April 2016, in response to our petition demanding justice and a full, transparent and impartial investigation under international auspices on Berta Cáceres’ murder. Today, three months later, we have come back to express once again our support to the Caceres’ family’s petition that the murder be investigated by an independent commission led by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.
While we acknowledge the important efforts that the Honduran justice system has made in order to establish accountability and criminal responsibility for Berta’s murder, as the arrests of five suspects in May have shown, we believe that only an international commission can establish the full truth, and offer justice and remedy to Berta’s surviving relatives and community. The arrests underscored a worrying pattern of collusion between retired members of the Honduran Armed Forces and the private company DESA, which is responsible for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project.
Berta Caceres, together with Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH) , had been consistently voicing concerns about such conflation of private and public interest at the expenses of the Lenca Indigenous communities in Río Blanco and Western Honduras. Some of the individuals alleged to be involved in the crime had been reportedly harassed and threatened her prior to her death, yet the authorities did not pay attention to her reports.
Berta’s case is far from isolated: four COPINH leaders who campaigned against Agua Zarca were killed in the months before Berte’s murder; and, less than two weeks later, Nelson García, also an active member of the COPINH, was killed after a violent eviction carried out by Honduran security forces in an indigenous Lenca community. Speaking on the issue to the international press, Honduran lawyer Víctor Fernández said:
“Leaders are murdered to terrorize communities, contaminate organizations and squash resistance movements”. National and international human rights groups have documented, following the 2009 coupd’état, a worrying pattern of abuse, intimidation, criminalization, attacks and killings aimed at human rights defenders and journalists, with women, Indigenous and Afro-descendants at particular risk.
As human rights activists, friends and supporters of the Caceres family, the COPINH and the Lenca people, we stand once again outside your Embassy to urge the Honduran authorities to:
- Establish an independent commission, led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, on the murder of Berta Caceres Flores. The investigation shall be impartial and exhaustive, as established by international human rights standards, so that those responsible for the murder – material and intellectual authors of the crime- are brought to justice.
- Immediately and unconditionally suspend and revoke the license for the Agua Zarca hydro-electricpower project, currently managed by DESA S.A., which was granted without seeking free, prior and informed consent of the Lenca Indigenous people, in violation of ILO Convention 169, to which Honduras is a signatory.
- Ensure that COPINH members are safe and free to carry out their legitimate human rights work without fear of reprisal.
- Implement in full consultation with human rights defenders and journalist the law on their protection, adopted in 2015.
Berta Caceres Flores, as she received the Goldman Prize in 2015, said “Let’s wake up! Let’s wake up, humankind! We’re out of time” (¡Despertémonos! ¡Déspertemonos, humanidad! Ya no hay tiempo”).
We urge the Honduran authorities, who did not pay adequate attention to the situation of the Lenca people, COPINH and Berta Caceres as they denounced human rights abuses, to listen and act now.
Friends of Berta Caceres
Wretched of the Earth
Central America Women’s Network (CAWN)
Justice Mexico Now
London Mexico Solidarity
Friends of the Earth
War on Want
The London Latinx
London Mining Network
Environmental Justice North Africa (EJNA)
Algeria Solidarity Campaign (ASC)
Campaign against Climate Change
BP or not BP?
Martín Vainstein – Argentina Solidarity Campaign
Christian McLaughlin, Dakus Films
Peter Deane – Biofuelwatch
Sebastian Ordonez – Movimiento Jaguar Despierto
Leyli Horna Minchola – Movimiento Jaguar Despierto
Nancy Tapias Torrado
Javier Zúñiga Mejía-Borja
Margarita Rebolledo Hernández
Sonja Potenze, climate activist
Emmanuel Blondel, climate justice
Natalie Jeffers, Matters of the Earth
Imani Robinson, Matters of the Earth
Randa Toko, Matters of the Earth