Press release | March 4, 2016

We express shock and outrage at murder of Berta Cáceres in an open letter to the Honduran President

Dear President Juan Orlando Hernández,

We, a group of 50+ international organisations, write to express our shock and concern over the recent killing of Berta Cáceres, environmental activist and head of the indigenous rights group COPINH.

As you will know, Mrs Cáceres was shot dead by gunmen in the late hours of 2 March 2016. Over the years she had received multiple death threats and attempted kidnappings because of her work defending indigenous Lenca land against the Agua Zarca dam project in Río Blanco.i These threats had escalated in recent weeks since construction of the dam had restarted.

We demand an independent international investigation into the circumstances around Mrs Cáceres’ death, and guaranteed protection for her family and colleagues. Mrs Cáceres was granted emergency protection measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights because of her acute vulnerability, but she claimed the Honduran state did not fully implement them.

We also demand urgent action to protect Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican activist who witnessed her assassination, and to ensure his safe passage back to Mexico.

Mrs Cáceres’ case is the most high-profile killing within a growing trend in the murder, violence and intimidation of people defending their indigenous land rights in Honduras. Honduras is the world’s most dangerous country per capita to be an environmental or land defender, with at least 109 people killed between 2010 and 2015.

Mrs Cáceres’ case has not escaped international attention. In a statement issued in response to her death U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy called on you to find and punish those responsible for “this despicable crime.” Last year, US Senator Barbara Boxer wrote a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry urging for better protection of environmental defenders in Honduras. This was in direct response to Mrs Cáceres winning the 2015 Goldman Environment Prize – a prestigious award recognizing grassroots environmental activists from around the world. News of her death has generated substantial international media attention.

The 50+ international organisations listed below call on the Honduran state to ensure indigenous peoples’ right to their land is respected and that they are able to carry out their legitimate work without fear for their safety.

Yours faithfully,

Goldman Environmental Prize

Front Line Defenders

Global Witness

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation

Bank Information Center

Amazon Watch

AIDA (Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente)

Oakland Institute (USA)

Environmental Investigation Agency US (EIA US)


EarthRights International

Global Green Grants Fund

International Service for Human Rights

War on Want 

Friends of the Earth International

Friends of the Earth US

Peace Brigades International

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH and OMCT)

COFADEH (Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras)

CIPRODEH (Centro de Investigación y Promoción de Derechos Humanos)

EcoWaste Coalition

Right Livelihood Award Foundation

Jenifer Altman Foundation


Rainforest Action Network

International Rivers CESTA/Friends of the Earth El Salvador and Goldman Prize winner

National Toxics Network Inc.

Secrétaire Général Alternatives Durables pour le Développement

Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Lynn Henning, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, 2010 Goldman winner

The Story of Stuff Project

Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand

Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y Alternativas en México (RAPAM)


South Durban Community Environmental Alliance

Jan Chetana

People and Water Slovakia


BaliFokus Foundation

Armenian Women For Health And Healthy Environment (AWHHE)

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Huntington (OVEC)

Rettet den Regenwald (Rainforest Rescue)

Salva la Selva

Jorge Varela Marque, Goldman Prize Winner 1999

Coalition against Land Grabbing – Philippines:

Central America Women’s Network

Common Frontiers Canada



Loire Vivante

Eco-Accord Centre




Notes to editor:

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