Berta Caceres, a community organiser from Honduras, has been summoned to court to face fradulent charges for posession of an illegal weapon. She is the latest target of the Honduran government’s attempts to criminalize legitimate dissent. She has been helping communities to peacefully mobilize to defend their lands. The letter below, from the executive committee of Friends of the Earth International, calls for the immediate annulment of all proceedings against Berta Cáceres and insists that the Honduran government fulfill its responsibilities under national and international law to protect the rights and security of activists.
To the legal authorities in Santa Barbara municipality, Honduras
To the judges in the Supreme Court of Honduras
To the companies responsible for the Agua Zarca hydropower project (DESA-SINOHIDRO and FICOSAH bank)
To the Honduran and international public
On behalf of the environmental federation Friends of the Earth International, I would like to express our concern over the repeated episodes of violence against social leaders in Honduras caused by state forces and by mercenaries hired by companies, landowners and several consortia, as a variety of national testimonies and international reports confirm.
I would also like to table a petition of concern to your institutions, in light of the trial indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres faces in your country, which I consider to be illegitimate, illegal and represents a high risk for her personal integrity and the security of her organization, the Honduras Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH).
We have been notified over the past few weeks about the persecution and criminalization of this social activist who works for the rights of Honduran indigenous peoples, their territories and culture, against whom the authorities have initiated unjustified legal proceedings accusing her of the illegal possession of a firearm without any formal evidence.
Berta Cáceres has been summoned to court in the city of Santa Bárbara, Honduras on June 13, at 9am, to defend herself against these false accusations.
Legal proceedings were initiated on May 24, 2013, following the illegal detention of Berta Cáceres and indigenous journalist Tomás Gómez, both members of the Honduras Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH), while they were traveling to the area where the Lenca indigenous people are mobilizing against the installation of the Agua Zarca hydro power dam. If this dam is built, hundreds of indigenous families of the Honduran North-West region will be displaced.
In the operation that resulted in their arrest, over 15 members of the Honduran Army and the Police participated. They were arrested without a warrant and despite the fact that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has extended a precautionary measure in favor of this Honduran leader, following multiple threats against her life.
Berta and Tomás stated that the officers stopped the COPINH vehicle in which they were traveling and detained them with vehicles identified with the logos of the consortium responsible for the construction of the dam (DESA-SINOHIDRO and FICOSAH bank).
Berta was detained for almost 24 hours and is now prevented from leaving the country and has to make herself present at the police headquarters every week until the case is solved (See article).
The COPINH members’ detention testifies to the strong trend towards the militarization of the Honduran police. The actions by the Honduran armed and security forces violate the human rights of social, environmental and indigenous activists who are systematically harassed as if they were “enemies” and not citizens who are entitled to their rights.
Berta Cáceres’ life and freedom are at risk and depend on the outcome of the hearing that will take place on June 13.
Therefore, on behalf of Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroots environmental federation with national member groups in 74 countries on every continent, I am addressing you, together with organizations and individuals who fight for social and environmental justice, calling for the immediate annulment of the proceedings against Berta Cáceres’ and demanding the Honduran authorities and international human rights organizations to guarantee the necessary conditions for her to continue working as a defender of the human and environmental rights of indigenous and peasant communities and women in Honduras.
In solidarity with the Honduran people, sincerely,
Sign this petition calling for justice for Berta and read more about her arbitrary arrest and the harassment she has faced.