The Honduran government must take immediate action to ensure justice for murdered environmental and indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres, Friends of the Earth Europe has today stated. Urgent action is also needed to protect Gustavo Castro Soto, the only witness to her assassination, who must be allowed safe passage back to Mexico, says the group.
Friends of the Earth Europe has joined international calls for a thorough, independent investigation into Berta's horrifying assassination and for those found responsible to be judged and punished accordingly.
The group has also called on the government of Honduras to guarantee the safety and rights of the indigenous Lenca people who Berta worked so tirelessly to defend, and to protect the members of the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), who have struggled alongside her. The Honduran government must bring an immediate end to state sanctioned violence against environmental and human rights defenders and indigenous people in Honduras.
At a protest outside the Honduran Embassy in Brussels today, Friends of the Earth Europe joined a large gathering of Belgian and international civil society and grassroots organisations to condemn Berta's senseless murder, call for Gustavo to be allowed to return safely to his native Mexico, and stand in solidarity with environment and human rights defenders under threat across the world.
Magda Stoczkiewicz, Director of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "We express solidarity with the Lenca People and the family of the world renowned activist Berta Cáceres following her appalling murder. Berta's assassination is yet another illustration of the growing trend of intimidation and insecurity faced by human rights and environmental activists worldwide. We are also deeply concerned about the safety of our colleague Gustavo Castro Soto who was with Berta when the killing took place. He must immediately be allowed to return safely to Mexico."
Berta was shot dead in her home by gunmen on 2 March, 2016. Over the years she had received multiple death threats because of her work defending Lenca land in Honduras against the Agua Zarca dam project in Río Blanco. Gustavo, who is coordinator of Otros Mundos/Friends of the Earth Mexico and was shot twice during the attack, has attempted to return to Mexico for protection, but is being prevented from leaving the country by the Honduran authorities who want to detain him for another 30 days.
Groups gathered at the protest included La Via Campesina, La Casa America Latina, Peace Brigades International – Belgium, FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights, Catapa, Greenpeace Belgium, Les Amis del la Terre-Belgique, Oxfam OxfamSolidarité/ OxfamSolidariteit, Quinoa asbl, Womens European Lobby and WWF-Belgium.
Amongst the speakers were Magda Stoczkiewicz, Director of Friends of the Earth Europe, friends and colleagues of Berta, and representatives from Peace Bridges International and Women's European Lobby.