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Together with eleven other international accompaniment and observation organizations working in Latin America, FOR Peace Presence just signed a public declaration to demand justice for the assassinations of Berta Cáceres y Nelson Noé García on March 2nd and 15th, 2016. Both were community leaders fighting for human rights in Honduras, especially land rights.
After these tragic events, we denounce the critical situation of human rights defenders in Latin America, and we request that national governments and the international community find solutions to protect these people as well as implement mechanisms to counter impunity of such assassinations.
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
March 23, 2016
Justice for Berta Cáceres and Nelson Noé Garcia, Protection for Gustavo Castro Soto
The organizations of the network of International Accompaniment and Observation Organizations 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 took place 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.
During the 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 from 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 have mostly come from their fight against the hydroelectric project “Agua Zarca”, a major initiative 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.
Also 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, and we are concerned by the fact that he is still not allowed to leave Honduras despite having collaborated as a witness in the criminal investigations. He could continue to do so from Mexico, where he would be able to avoid the high level of risk he faces as long as he stays in Honduras.
During a violent displacement by state forces another member of COPINH, Nelso Noé Garcia, was assassinated on March 15th 2016. 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 impacts 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 conclusions from the Global Witness report in 2015. This report 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.
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) México
Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, A.C. (Frayba); México
FOR – Peace Presence; Colombia
Pensamiento y Acción Social (PAS); Colombia
Protection Desk; Colombia
Servicio Internacional para la Paz (SIPAZ); México