Open Letter Regarding the Murder of Honduran Environmental and Human Rights Defender Berta Cáceres

Open Letter to Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Trade, regarding the murder of Honduran environmental and human rights defender Berta Cáceres.

15 March 2016

Dear Ms Mogherini,

Dear Ms Malmström,

We write in shock and deep sorrow regarding the murder of Honduran environmental and human rights defender Berta Cáceres. She was a Lenca indigenous leader and the coordinator and cofounder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). In 2015, she was awarded the Goldman Foundation Environmental Prize for defending her land and natural resources, notably for her campaign against Agua Zarca dam project. This project receives both national and international funds from multiple sources including the Dutch development bank FMO and Finnfund from Finland. Voith Hydro, a joint venture between Voith and Siemens (both based in Germany), is also involved in the project as equipment supplier.

Ms. Cáceres had precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) since 2009[1], but did not receive the full protection she needed. She is one of the 15 human rights defenders who have been killed in Honduras despite being beneficiaries of the IACHR precautionary measures, as reported by the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). On 5 March 2016, the IACHR granted precautionary measures for the COPINH members, Berta Cáceres’ family and Gustavo Castro Soto, due to the risk to their safety[2].

Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican environmentalist, journalist and member of Otros Mundos Chiapas/Friends of the Earth-Mexico and the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model was also wounded in the attack against Cáceres. On 6 March, when he attempted to leave Honduras, with protection from the Mexican Embassy in Honduras, he was prevented from doing so by Honduran authorities before passing through customs in the Tegucigalpa International Airport, under the argument that he had to give further testimony. According to the latest information, as of 8 March, he was requested to stay in the country for 30 more days[3].

Berta Cáceres’ death confirms what a 2015 report has shown: Honduras is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for environmental activists. At least 109 environmental activists were murdered between 2010 and 2015. Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has become one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a human rights defender of any kind. The murder of Berta Cáceres sends a devastating message to all Hondurans trying to exercise their rights – including their right to defend their human rights.

We welcome the statement the EU Delegation in Honduras together with member states have issued just after Ms Caceres assassination[4] as well as the Statement of the Spokesperson[5] highlighting the need of a “transparent yet expedite investigation” and asking for the full protection of Mr Castro Soto and be allowed to leave the country as soon as possible.

We urge that, through political dialogue, you request the State of Honduras to:

Support an independent international investigation of Ms Cáceres murder, led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and urge the Honduran government to invite and fully cooperate with such an investigation. An independent investigation is essential given the lack of confidence in the judicial system; reigning impunity[6], including for cases involving human rights defenders; and the emblematic nature of this case.

Ensure that Honduran judicial authorities carry out their duties to effectively and promptly investigate Cáceres’ murder, in cooperation with the international investigation, and following lines of inquiry that take into account the context of Cáceres’ work and situation of risk, while pursuing the intellectual and material authors, guaranteeing due process and access to justice.

Comply with the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR on 5 March and provide immediate, effective, and carefully consulted protection to members of the COPINH, members of Ms Cáceres’ family, Mr Castro and all witnesses in the case. The Honduran State must inform the IACHR about the measures adopted in this regard until 18 March 2016.

Proceed immediately to cancel the concession granted to DESA for the Agua Zarca project, which represents a violation of article 15 of ILO Convention 169 (C169), as there is no evidence to suggest that the indigenous Lenca people ever gave their consent prior to Honduran National Congress approving the concession in September 2010. All other concessions in Lenca territories approved without free, prior and informed consent must be suspended. The State of Honduras has ratified ILO Convention 169 and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Thus, it has the international obligation to seek consent.

Advance on the regulations and implementation of the mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders, journalists, media workers and justice operators, which must be fully operational and adequately funded, with protection measures consulted with beneficiaries.

Additionally, according to EU international mechanisms, we recommend you to:

Ensure that the EU Delegation as well as Embassies and Consulates of EU member states in Honduras actively accompany and monitor the processes around the investigation of the murder of Berta Cáceres and the situation of Gustavo Castro Soto, in line with the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

Regulate European investments in natural resources exploitation projects in indigenous territories in order to comply with States human rights obligations, including those enshrined in C169 and outlined in the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the UN Guiding Principles. As stated above, the concession granted to DESA for the Agua Zarca project represents a violation of article 15 of C169.

In the framework of the implementation of the trade pillar of the Association Agreement between the EU and Central America, verify that all clauses related to the implementation of labour, environmental and social rights are respected by the State of Honduras, but also by European member states whose companies are supporting related projects in Honduras. Mobilise all mechanisms at disposal to ensure the full respect an implementation of these clauses as well as Art. 1 of the agreement.

The EU must stand with those who are putting their lives on the line for the protection of human rights and the environment in Honduras. And as outlined by the EU, human rights defenders around the world deserve to see that impunity (of any kind) will not prevail.

Signed by:

  1. ACT Alliance EU
  2. Ambiente, Desarrollo y Capacitación, Honduras
  3. Agropecuaria Van Der Zee S.A.Nicaragua
  4. Asociacion de mujeres feministas puntos subersivos.
  5. Asociación Latinoamericana de Organizaciones de Promoción al Desarrollo, ALOP, Mexico
  6. Asociación Mujeres en la Diversidad – Spain
  7. Asociación para la Promoción y el Desarrollo de la Comunidad (CEIBA), Guatemala
  8. Asociación Paz con Dignidad, Spain
  9. Asociacion Pro Derechos Humanos de España (APDHE), Spain
  10. Asociación Servicio Doméstico Activo (SEDOAC), Spain
  11. Associació PERIFÈRIES, Spain
  12. Axela Romero Cárdenas, México
  13. Ayuntamiento de Madrid- Spain
  14. Bischöfliche Aktion Adveniat e.V. para los pueblos en América Latina y el Caribe, Germany
  15. Bread for all, Switzerland
  16. Broederlijk Delen, Belgium
  17. C-CONDEM
  18. Calala Fondo de Mujeres, Spain
  19. Capitulo Boliviano de Derechos Humanos, democracia y desarrollo.
  20. Center for International Environmental Law – United States
  21. Centre National de Coopération au Développement CNCD-11.11.11 – Belgium
  22. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” (CSMM), Ecuador
  1. Centro de Estudios e Investigación sobre Mujeres
  2. Centro de Estudios y Apoyo al Desarrollo Local
  3. Centro de la Mujer Peruana Flor Tristán, Peru.
  4. Centro Internazionale Crocevia, Italy
  5. Christliche Initiative Romero e.V., Germany
  6. Colectivo Rebeldía – Bolivia
  7. Colegio de Profesionales Forestales de Honduras, COLPROFORH. Honduras
  8. Collectif Alerte Honduras, France
  9. Collectif Paris-Ayotzinapa , France
  10. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos – RD
  11. Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH), Honduras
  12. ComuniCA e.V. Comunidad Centroamericana en Alemania , Germany
  13. Cooperacio, Spain
  14. Coordinadora Indígena de Mesoamérica y el Caribe (CIMCA) Honduras
  15. Copenhagen Initiative for Central America and Mexico (CIFCA), Belgium.
  16. DanChurchAid, Danemarc
  17. Defenred – Spain
  18. Due Process of Law Foundation, United States
  19. The Norwegian Solidarity Committee for Latin America , Norway
  20. Entrepueblos/Entrepobles/Entrpobos/Herriarte, Spain
  21. Espacio ACI, Honduras
  22. Federación Comercializadora de Café Especial de Guatemala, “FECCEG”, Guatemala
  23. Federación de Planificación Familiar Estatal – Spain
  24. Federacion de Mujeres jovenes, Spain
  25. FIAN International (international organization)
  26. Focus on the Global South, Thailand
  27. Forschungs- und Dokumentationszentrum Chile-Lateinamerika e.V., Berlin, Germany
  28. France Amérique Latine, France
  29. Forum de Politica Feminista de Málaga
  30. Front Line Defenders, Ireland
  31. Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu – Sütsüin Jiyeyuu Wayuu -Colombia
  32. Fundación Acceso – Costa Rica
  33. Fundación Madrid Paz y Solidaridad, Spain
  34. Fundación Mundubat, Spain
  35. Grito de los excluidos Bolivia
  36. Grupo Sur – European Advocacy Network – EU Latin America and Caribbean
  37. Guatemala Solidarität Österreich, Austria
  38. Habitat International Coalition, Latin American Office, Mexico
  39. Haurralde Fundazioa, Spain
  40. Hausfeld & CO LLP
  42. HELVETAS, Honduras
  43. Honduran Conservation Coalition
  44. Honduras Forum Switzerland, Switzerland
  45. Hondurasdelegation, Germany
  46. Honduraswerkgroep Belgium
  47. Humanos con Recursos, España
  48. IBIS, Denmark
  49. ICID, Iniciativa de Cooperacion Internacional para el desarrollo, Spain.
  50. Index on Censorship, UK
  51. Informationsgruppe Lateinamerika (IGLA), Austria
  52. Iniciativa Cuba Socialista (Belgium)
  53. Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos
  54. Instituto de Investigacion y capacitacion pedagógica social
  55. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  56. Jobs AUstralia, AUstralia
  57. Kindernothilfe e.V. – Germany
  58. La Via Campesina
  59. Le Réseau des GASAP asbl (Belgium)
  60. medico international Germany
  61. Misereor, GERMANY
  62. Mugarik Gabe, Bask Country, Spain
  63. Muejres de negro de Madrid, Spain
  64. Nación Tawahka
  65. Nicaragua-Verein Düsseldorf e.V., Germany
  66. NOAH – Friends of the Earth Denmark
  67. Observatorio DESC, Spain
  68. Ökumenisches Büro für Frieden und Gerechtigkeit e.V., Germany
  69. Ökumenische Initiative Mittelamerika e.V.
  70. ONG Realidades – Bolivia
  71. ONGD Asociación de Investigación y Especialización Sobre Temas Iberoamericanos, Spain
  72. Oxfam
  73. Peace Brigades International (PBI)
  74. Plataforma de lucha contra la Violencia hacia la Mujer, Santa Cruz de la Sierra-Bolivia
  75. Plataforma de Solidaridad con Chiapas y Guatemala de Madrid, Spain
  76. Plataforma de Solidaritat amb el Poble de Guatemala, Spain.
  77. Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD Regional) Quito, Ecuador
  1. Platform against gender violence- Catalonia -Spain
  2. Protection International, Belgium
  3. Provea – Venezuea
  4. Red Derechos Sexuales y Derechos Reproductivos de Euskadi, Bask Country, Spain
  5. Rede de mujeres de América Latina y el Caribe en Espana, Spain.
  6. Redlad, Colombia
  7. Red Nosotras en el Mundo (España-Argentina-Mesoamérica)
  8. Secours Catholique Caritas, France
  9. SEDOAC.
  10. Servicios Juridicos y Sociales SERJUS, Guatemala
  11. Society for International Development (SID) – Global Organization with HQ in Italy
  12. Solidarity Sweden-Latin America / SAL, Sweden
  13. Sri Lanka Nature Group – Sri Lanka
  14. TROCAIRE, Ireland
  15. Unión Argentina de Pescadores Artesanales (UAPA)
  16. Urgenci International Community Supported Network
  17. VSF Justicia Alimentaria Global
  18. We Effect, Sweden
  19. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
  20. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Switzerland
  21. World Solidarity, Belgium
  22. World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (WFF)
  23. World Forum of Fisher Peoples – Global Fisher Movement


Belgium, Marta Ibero, Executive Secretary, CIFCA, +32 2531912, marta.ibero (a)

Germany, Alejandra Morena, Coordinator Central America, FIAN Internacional, tel: T: +49 (0) 6221 65300 55, morena (a)

Guatemala, Anabella Sibrián, Representative in Central America, Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad, tel: 502 2363 2938  Ext. 113 – representante (a)

Italy, Giovanna Teijido Vazquez, Honduras Project Coordinator, Peace Brigades International, PBI, tel: +39 3452690132, coordinacion (a)

[1] “IACHR Condemns the Killing of Berta Cáceres in Honduras”,

[2] Precautionary measure N. 112-16, 5 March 2016 (available in Spanish):

[3] OHCHR, “Honduras: “Another defender needs protection after Berta Cáceres’s killing” – UN expert”, 10 March 2016 (available in English and Spanish):

[4] EU local Statement on the death of human rights defender Berta Caceres, 3 March 2016 (only in Spanish). Available at:

[5] Statement of the Spokesperson on the follow up the death of Berta Cáceres in Honduras, 12 March 2016. Available at:

[6] The latest report by the IACHR on the situation of human rights in Honduras (December 2015) states that impunity is “structural” in the country. Available at:


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