Urgent Action

Demands & Statements: support to Cáceres family and COPINH, and justice in murder investigation

"The world has lost a women human rights defender who dedicated her whole life to ... defending the river, the ancestral territories, a life with dignity, challenging the dominant extractivist and exploitative development model, and in particular, promoting the human rights of all women. Her assassination was not an isolated event; on the contrary, it took place in a violent context that had already taken the lives of several members of COPINH and dozens of human rights defenders ... [And now, what has been difficult is] the total secrecy that surrounds the investigation of her assassination and the attempts to criminalize members of COPINH and other human rights defenders by the Honduras State and media, such as the Mexican environmentalist and human rights defender, Gustavo Castro." - Bertha Zuniga Cáceres' speech to UN 


The following demands have been compiled and shared by the Cáceres Family and COPINH.

We Want Justice:

  • An independent, international investigation – e.g., through a cooperation agreement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)
  • Analysis of forensic evidence by Guatemalan Anthropological Forensics Foundation
  • Ensuring the genuine protection of family members, members of COPINH, and the main witness Gustavo Castro (Mexican environmental advocate). Berta had protective measures from Inter-American Commission but her security was a joke.

Immediate Concerns:

So far, there have been serious concerns of a deeply flawed investigation:

  • Manner in which crime scene was dealt with: no protection of crime scene with many individuals running amok around the house.
  • Manner in which Berta’s body was dealt with: thrown in body bag and thrown in the back of a truck.
  • Autopsy was performed without the presence of an independent forensic expert as demanded by the family.
  • Treatment of main witness: wounded but no medical assistance provided by authorities, interrogated endlessly – no sleep, left in bloody clothes.
  • Indications of the direction that the investigation is taking:
  • COPINH member detained as suspect and photos of COPINH members presented to Gustavo Castro as suspects. Fits into longstanding pattern of criminalization of COPINH, e.g., they were blamed for the death of Tomás García, shot dead in front of witnesses by Honduran soldier.
  • Concerned about safety of Berta’s family members and COPINH members under threat: protective measures not properly enforced by Honduran authorities: e.g., Berta’s case.

Additional Demands of Cáceres Family & COPINH:

  • Stop the Agua Zarca project (“the dam would cut off the supply of water, food and medicine for hundreds of Lenca people and violate their right to sustainably manage and live off their land.” – Goldman Environmental Foundation).
  • Cut off all security assistance to the government of Honduras while activists like Berta continue to be murdered in impunity. Honduran police forces, the Honduran military (1st Battalion of Engineers) and local officials belonging to the ruling party all part of campaign of attacks, harassment and killings of members of COPINH.
  • Suspend funding by multilateral development banks to Honduran private sector because the governance conditions are not adequate to insure gross human rights violations do not occur.
  • Immediate withdrawal of the “Tigres” unit from Río Blanco (militarized police unit trained by the U.S.)
  • An end to paramilitary training and activity throughout the country, supported by foreign governments.
  • An end to the persecution of those who defend the rights of indigenous peoples and the entire society.

Statements & Releases