Washington, D.C.—The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) condemns the assassination this morning of Berta Cáceres, renowned environmental activist and human rights defender. We extend our deepest condolences to her family, colleagues, and friends. WOLA urges the Honduran authorities to conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation to convict those responsible.
According to reports, Berta Cáceres was killed in the early hours of the morning in her hometown of La Esperanza in the Intibucá Department in western Honduras. Armed gunmen broke down the door of the house where she was spending the night and shot her.
“It is imperative that Honduras preform an immediate and thorough investigation into Berta Cáceres’ murder, and that those responsible are brought to justice,” said Adriana Beltrán, WOLA Senior Associate for Citizen Security. “Given the alarming levels of impunity in the country, this will be a true test of the willingness and ability of the Honduran government, police, and attorney general to seriously investigate an emblematic human rights case.”
Cáceres, the General Coordinator and one of the founders of the Civic Council of the Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, COPINH) was a leader of the Lenca indigenous community and one of the most prominent indigenous activists in Honduras. She fought to defend human rights, primarily for the protection of natural resources and the environment. In April 2015, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, one of the most internationally prestigious environmental recognitions.
Cáceres had received repeated threats for her human rights work and environmental activism. Due to these threats, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had granted her precautionary measures for her protection.
As an emblematic case, it will weigh heavily on discussions within the U.S. Congress regarding the conditions included in the foreign assistance package to the Honduran government. According to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations’ State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee, “The immediate question is what President Hernández and his government—which has too often ignored or passively condoned attacks against Honduran social activists—will do to support an independent investigation, prosecution, and punishment of those responsible for this despicable crime…. The answers to those questions will weigh heavily on the Congress’s support for future assistance for that government.”