Berta Caceres was a defender of the environment and of indigenous people’s rights from Honduras. She is the co-founder of the Civil Council of Popular Indigenous Organisations in Honduras. She played a key role in the struggle of the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras against the construction of a dam that would destroy the Rio Blanco.
Her struggle for land rights
In 2006, Berta Caceres was approached by members of the Rio Blanco community about the construction of a dam on their territory making serious damages to the river.
In response to this solicitation, she launched a campaign against this construction and filed complaints to the authorities.
These complaints have been ignored and the authorities have falsified the support of the community by forcing them, through various pressures, to accept the construction project.
© Goldman Environmental Prize
The recognition of the international community
For having organised a road blockade, Berta Caceres and the members of the community have suffered from eviction attempts and violent attacks by Honduran security forces.
One of the demonstrators was killed, other were attacked by machetes, detained and tortured. Berta Caceres has been the victim of threats of rape and death, she was followed and monitored, and she has been the subject of two arrests warrants and had to hide many times.
For such commitment and such courage, Berta Caceres received the most prestigious award for environmentalists, the Goldman Environmental Prize.
The treatment accorded to Berta Caceres by the Honduran authorities illustrates the difficulties that environmental defenders face in this country where they are increasingly victims of violence and harassment.
Since 2009, Honduras has faced a growth of construction projects that have harmful consequences to the environment and to indigenous community who are forced, in some cases, to leave their ancestral lands.
Berta Caceres was murdered on March 3, 2016. During the attack, her friend and human rights defender from Mexico, Gustavo Castro Soto was injured.
Communications and statements
A communication has been sent to the Honduran government regarding the denunciations of threats; acts of intimidation and murders committed against human rights defenders in Honduras. The Special Rapporteur, Margaret Sekkagya, was one of the signatories of this communication (only available in Spanish).
The murder of Berta Caceres prompted international outrage. Special Rapporteur, Michel Forst publised a serie of press releases and statements on her death and the need for a swift, independent and impartial investigation:
You can read some of these statements:
- Honduras murders: UN Expert urges independent investigation into killings of rights defenders
- Action needed to stop Honduras turning into a lawless killing zone for human rights defenders
- After Berta’s tragic murder, her fellow defender, Gustavo Castro Soto, must be protected