Header image for news printout

Indigenous peoples: UN expert condemns killing of rights defender Berta Cáceres in Honduras

GENEVA (4 March 2016) – 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.

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 Šimonoviæ; and the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.
(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16740&LangID=E

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Philippines), is a human rights activist working on indigenous peoples’ rights. Her work for more than three decades has been focused on movement building among indigenous peoples and also among women, and she has worked as an educator-trainer on human rights, development and indigenous peoples in various contexts. She is a member of the Kankana-ey, Igorot indigenous peoples in the Cordillera Region in the Philippines. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/SRIndigenousPeoples/Pages/SRIPeoplesIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Read the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/Pages/Declaration.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Honduras: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/HNIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Ms. Hee-Kyong Yoo (+41 22 917 97 23 at hyoo@ohchr.org) or write to indigenous@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

For your news websites and social media: Multimedia content & key messages relating to our news releases are available on UN Human Rights social media channels, listed below. Please tag us using the proper handles:
Twitter: @UNHumanRights
Facebook: unitednationshumanrights
Instagram: unitednationshumanrights
Google+: unitednationshumanrights
Youtube: unohchr