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Honduras

    January 10, 2019

    Berta Caceres was a beloved, internationally-recognized defender of Indigenous rights and the environment in Honduras. She received death threats as she led efforts to stop construction of the Agua Zarca hydro-electric project on the Gualcarque River, considered sacred by Lenca Indigenous communities and vital for their survival in their territory. Berta reported the threats. She was assassinated on March 2, 2016.

    Bringing this horrific crime to justice is vital since impunity only fuels more killings of defenders of land, territory and the environment in Honduras. Indeed, the killings have continued in the three years since Berta’s murder.

    January 10, 2019

    January marks one year since Edwin Espinal and Raul Alvarez were arrested and sent to a military-run prison without trial, denied the chance to defend themselves against accusations they say are false.

    This injustice happened during a brutal crack-down as thousands of Hondurans took to the streets to protest alleged electoral fraud by the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez. Security forces shot at and beat protestors. Dozens were killed or badly injured. Others, like Edwin and Raul, were detained and denied their rights to due process. The crackdown was documented by Amnesty International in our report Protest Prohibited. 

    After one year in a maximum security prison for violent criminals, without adequate food, water, sanitation, medical attention or access to daylight and exercise, both men have lost considerable weight and their health is in danger. There is no end in sight as Amnesty has documented multiple irregularities and serious violations of their right to defend themselves.

    December 01, 2018

    Almost three years after the murder of well-known Indigenous rights and river defender Berta Cáceres in Honduras, there are finally some bittersweet steps towards justice. They are half steps, fraught with troubling omissions and violations of due process. But important steps forward none the less.

     

    In a unanimous verdict, a three-judge tribunal of the National Criminal Court convicted seven men of involvement in the murder of the beloved human rights defender who was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her tireless, courageous efforts to stop the Agua Zarca dam because of its impacts in Lenca Indigenous territory. 


     

    September 18, 2018

    It was a day of expectation, emotion and drama. The long awaited first day of the trial of 8 men charged with involvement in the murder of iconic indigenous rights and environment defender Berta Cáceres.

    The case has attracted considerable attention, in part because Berta was so well known and the recipient of a prestigious Goldman Environmental prize for her efforts to oppose a controversial hydroelectric dam and its impact on the territory and rights of marginalized Indigenous communities.

    Police in riot gear were ominously present as I arrived at the court house in my yellow Amnesty vest, making visible to all that our global movement of 7 million supporters will be observing the trial in the hope of ensuring impartial justice, while respecting the independence of the Honduran judiciary.

    September 07, 2018

    More than 59,000 supporters of Amnesty Canada have raised their voices to demand justice in Honduras since beloved Indigenous rights defender Berta Caceres was gunned down in her home on March 2, 2016. The assassination was perpetrated less than a year after the leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her courageous work challenging the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam and its impact on the land and water so vital to the rights and survival of Lenca Indigenous communities. Berta had repeatedly denounced threats she said came from people working for Desarollos Energeticos SA (DESA), the company developing the dam project. The government failed to act to protect Berta.

    June 22, 2018

     

    It's impossible to be in beautiful, dangerous Honduras without being deeply moved by the courage and big-hearted tenacity of people who risk their lives and freedom to defend human rights.

    Their just cause has never left my thoughts since I took part in an Amnesty mission to Honduras last November.

    Scarce weeks later, back in Canada, I watched in horror as disturbing images on my social media feed made it clear that the situation for defenders of rights and justice in Honduras had just got much, much worse.

    March 07, 2018
      This month, the land and water defenders of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), have requested visible support from around the world. Why now?

    This month marks two years since gunmen burst into the home of COPINH leader Berta Cáceres (below) and shot her to death. Prior to the deadly attack, Berta had reported receiving death threats from powerful people connected to a controversial hydro-electric project called Agua Zarca whose construction she was campaigning to stop because of its destructive impacts on the rights of indigenous communities and the environment.

    For the past two years, amidst an official investigation that seemed intent on a cover-up, members of COPINH and Berta’s family, like her daughter Bertita (below), have courageously sought justice. 

    December 11, 2017
    Military in Honduras - Photo by Sean T. Hawkey

    By Kathy Price

    It was less than a month ago that I visited Honduras with an Amnesty delegation that travelled to Intibucá and La Paz to meet with threatened defenders of human rights, Indigenous territory and the environment. We also met with other courageous rights activists in the capital, Tegucigalpa.

    It was dangerous then, amidst smear campaigns, arbitrary arrests, threats of sexual violence against women, armed attacks and the fear generated by assassinations of beloved leaders like Berta Cáceres.

    But make no mistake. Disturbing developments during the past turbulent weeks in Honduras have significantly increased the risks for anyone who speaks out against injustice and abuse of power.

    Photo: President Juan Orlando Hernández via Twitter

    November 10, 2017
    Amnesty International delegates standing in solidarity with defenders in Honduras

    Our driver from Tegucigalpa to La Esperanza needed nerves of steel as he swerved to avoid gaping potholes on a road banked by steep drops to the river below. 

    But any risks we faced on the journey to visit COPINH, the organization of murdered Lenca Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, were nothing in comparison to the ongoing dangers faced by her family and colleagues. 

    Our Amnesty delegation of campaigners from Canada, Spain, Sweden, Mexico and the United States arrived at COPINH’s office to find images of Berta everywhere. 

    November 03, 2017

    By Kathy Price, campaigner responsible for work on human rights defenders in Latin America

    From November 5-12, an Amnesty International mission is visiting Guatemala and Honduras to send a clear message: land and water defenders need protection NOW. 

    My colleague, Tara Scurr, and I will join Amnesty International campaigners from Sweden, Spain, USA and our regional office in Mexico to meet with human rights defenders, victims and government authorities, as well as Embassy staff representing the European Union, Canada and the US.

    We'll be handing over more than 40,000 petition signatures from Amnesty supporters across Canada to urgently call on the governments of Honduras and Guatemala to address this crisis. These signatures communicate a strong message of concern from Canada that we hope will have an impact, together with the signatures gathered in other countries.

    July 27, 2017

    By Kathy Price, AI Canada's Honduras campaigner. Follow Kathy on Twitter @KPriceAmnesty

    “Admirable, courageous, inspiring”: those were the words we heard over and over again from the Members of Parliament, government officials and Amnesty supporters who heard the testimony of Central American human rights defenders we brought to Ottawa in June.

    All have paid dearly for their efforts to defend the rights of vulnerable people seeking to protect the land and water on which their lives depend.

    Luis Fernando García Monroy (left) was shot by security guards of a Canadian-owned mine in Santa Rosa, Guatemala during a 2013 protest against its impacts on the environment so vital to the livelihoods and well-being of local inhabitants. Following surgery and reconstruction of his face, Luis Fernando went on to co-found Youth Organized in Defence of Life (known by its Spanish acronym JODVID), to carry on the creative, determined activism of Topacio Reynosa, another young human rights defender who was killed in 2014.

    July 14, 2017

    By Kathy Price, Amnesty International Canada’s Latin America campaigner

    It is a story of immeasurable courage and the lengths to which shadowy and not-so-shadowy forces will go in brazen attempts to extinguish it.

    The place is Honduras, a country of staggering poverty and a tiny minority with enormous wealth, who will go to extraordinary lengths to protect it.

    It was just eight years ago that a military coup was executed in order to remove a democratically-elected president seeking to make changes that threatened the rich and powerful. What followed was a wave of repression against opponents of the coup and those speaking up for the rule of law.

    Deadly violence and injustice has only continued in the years since.

    Among the targets are the women and men of COPINH, acronym of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Its co-founder Berta Cáceres, winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, was gunned down in her home in March 2016.

    March 20, 2017

    Take action to support water defenders under dangerous attack in Central America. 

    March 02, 2017

    By Kathy Price, Honduras Campaigner with Amnesty International Canada

    It is one year since beloved water defender Berta Cáceres was gunned down in Honduras and a vital moment for renewed action from Canada, amidst ongoing deadly violence in the Central American country.

    On March 2, 2016, shortly before midnight, assassins entered the home of inspirational Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres and shot her.

    It should never have been allowed to happen. Berta had warned that her name was on a hit list and reported dozens of death threats against her. They coincided with her efforts to stop construction of the Agua Zarca hydro electric project out of concern for its impacts on the water and lands of Indigenous communities.

    Recognizing the danger, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on Honduras to protect Berta. The call fell on deaf ears.

    September 02, 2016

    By Erika Guevara-Rosas

    Chills ran down Tomás Gómez Membreño’s spine when he first heard about the brutal murder of his renowned friend and ally, the Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, six months ago this week.

    A fellow environmental activist and second in command at the Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Tomás feared he would be next.

    Berta’s work was widely and globally acclaimed and had earned her international awards - if someone could violate the sanctuary of her home and shoot her dead, it was too frightening to contemplate what could happen to any of the country’s lesser-known human rights defenders.

    Tomás also knew the hopes to have a proper investigation and to ensure the crimes against human rights defenders would not be repeated again were slim, in a country where authorities rarely condone attacks on activists.

    Tragically, he has a point.

    Six months after two armed men walked into Berta’s home one evening and murdered her in cold blood, Honduras has become a no-go zone for anybody daring to protect natural resources such as land and water from powerful economic interests.

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