September 25 was the deadline for an important defense appeal: Berta Cáceres has been sentenced to serve time in prison and her colleagues’ freedom of movement has been curtailed. And why? Because they stood up for a local community, the Lenca people, who were not consulted about the construction of a hydroelectric project on their lands. Let the Honduran authorities know that this violation of human rights is not acceptable. We firmly believe that Berta Cáceres’s life is in danger if she is sent to prison.
Act now for human rights in Honduras!
We demand that the Honduran authorities:
- Immediately suspend the arrest warrant against Berta Cáceres
- Stop all judicial persecution of Aureliano Molina, Tomas Gomez and Victor Fernandez
- Suspend the eviction order of the Lenca people in Rio Blanco
The four activists have been working with the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to protest a planned hydroelectric project, a joint operation involving the Honduran government and a national company called Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA), in the Rio Blanco territory of the country. The population of Rio Blanco has strongly objected to the project since its inception. International human rights instruments, such as ILO Convention 169, compel the Honduran state to meaningfully consult with the local population and protect indigenous lands.
The local Lenca people, working with COPINH, have been protesting against the continued efforts by the government and DESA to push ahead with the project. The government has used the ongoing protests as a pretext to militarize the area.
DESA, a Honduran company, working with a large team of lawyers, has been engaged in legal harassment of the COPINH leaders for months. The activists have faced a variety of spurious charges, including, most recently, coercion, theft and damages against the company. On September 20, Judge Knight Lisseth Lissien handed down a jail sentence to Berta Cáceres, and punitive measures for her colleagues – including ordering them to stay away from Rio Blanco and report every 15 days to court.
These events are taking place in the context of a widening crackdown on peaceful dissent in Honduras. Since this government seized power in a coup, opponents of the government and its interests have been intimidated, persecuted and even murdered. COPINH is one of a number of Honduran organizations who have spoken up in defense of human rights and land rights and who have faced this persecution. This cannot continue.
We demand an end to the judicial harassment of the COPINH leaders, immediate suspension of the arrest warrant for Berta Cáceres, an end to the criminalization of social movements in Honduras, and respect for the right of Peoples to be consulted on projects affecting their territories.