jueves, 1 de diciembre de 2016

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth to Be an Environmentalist

Berta Cáceres

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth to Be an Environmentalist

 

The assassination of Goldman Prize-winning activist Berta Cáceres last March shocked the global community. But in her home country of Honduras, where more than 100 activists have been cut down in the past five years, it was business as usual. MORE>>>


ACTION 9 months #justiceforberta

                                       

Friday 2nd December will mark nine months since the attack that took place in La Esperanza, Intibucá in which Berta Cáceres was murdered and Gustavo Castro, the sole witness, was injured.

There are currently seven suspects in the case, but the Public Prosecutor continues to conceal information from the family and prevent them from actively participating in the investigation. Furthermore, DESA is threatening to reactivate the hydroelectric project ‘Agua Zarca’.

In November, the creation of an International Expert Advisory Panel (GAIPE) was announced. The panel has since met with local authorities to push forward an independent investigation to be carried out according to the law. Meanwhile, Honduras continues to be one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders.

Next Friday, on the nine-month anniversary of Berta’s death, COPINH will carry out activities in La Esperanza, Honduras while representatives of Berta’s relatives and COPINH meet with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (CIDH) as the next step in their fight for justice. We would like to invite you to support these events from where you are.
How can you help?
Below are examples of messages that you can share on Facebook or Twitter:
  • Today we join Berta Cáceres’ family and COPINH in their demands for an independent investigation #JusticeForBerta #DESAOut!
 
  • 9 months have passed since the death of Berta Cáceres. Today we demand an independent investigation #JusticeForBerta #DESAOut!
 
  • Berta Cáceres was murdered 9 months ago today, but her struggle for justice only grows. We join COPINH and her family to demand a fair and impartial investigation #JusticeForBerta #DESAOut!
Check-in at ‘Panama’ before you hit post 
Help us spread the word
Together we will show those responsible that Berta’s struggle did not die with her – it has only grown.

miércoles, 23 de noviembre de 2016

Defender profile | Francisco Javier from Honduras

Francisco Javier, member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), talks about the role of UN mechanisms in combatting the ongoing impunity in investigations into the murder of Berta Cáceres, and emphasises that risks for her colleagues are only increasing.


Lea este artículo en español aquí

Francisco Javier


In response to the ongoing threats against human rights defenders in Honduras, ISHR, along with 169 organizations and 16 academics, recently sent a letter to the Attorney General Office and the Ministry of Human Rights, Justice, Interior and Decentralisation in Honduras calling on them to comply with their international human rights commitments.

You are a human rights defender in Honduras, advocating for environmental and land rights, can you tell us a bit about the human rights work you do?

We speak for indigenous populations about protecting our common goods. We want to protect the forests, river and air, and also our territories. COPINH has built capacity among indigenous populations to help them understand that we are here to take care of the gifts of nature – that we must defend the little that we have, otherwise the nature will become a desert. As human rights defenders we have this obligation and commitment to give support to other communities and indigenous peoples in Honduras and in other countries. For example, we have colleagues in Panama who are suffering the same challenges that we are. We’ve come here to talk about these things, and to fight – not just for today
and tomorrow, but for the generations to come, so that they may also be defenders of natural resources.

What motivated you to become involved in human rights work?

I am only beginning; I started in 2013. COPINH was working with us and helping us to see our shared objective: to defend nature. In each community, you will hear the same concerns: that the rivers and forests – which are life for us – are being destroyed when they come to construct mines, dams, and other deadly projects. In COPINH, we share this information with communities, helping them to understand, so that all indigenous peoples in Honduras can unite.

What challenges or risks do you face as a human rights defender in Honduras?

Because we speak the truth, they want to shut us up. They threaten to kill us because we tell the truth. It is companies and the State that threaten and attack us; they don’t like that we defend Mother Earth. When we denounce what seems wrong or unjust, about when our decisions are not respected, that’s when we face risks. That’s when they could kill us. But they won’t silence us. Even though they killed Berta and other colleagues, we – and anyone else who joins us – raise our voices so that we continue to grow. The spirit of Berta and our other comrades accompany us. Because we are defending life
itself. It may bring more threats, but they won’t silence us. We will continue, and those who remain, and the generations that come, we will teach them to do the same as us – to speak out for our rights.

Do you work a lot with other organisations working to protect human rights defenders – national, regional  or international?

Yes, we’re very proud because many organisations have given us support nationally and internationally.  We are very happy that we are not alone, that there are people of goodwill who provide such support. When we come to Geneva, we feel at home; we’re looked after.

What is the legislative framework like for human rights defenders in Honduras– are there laws that are applied abusively?
Human rights defenders are prevented from speaking. The laws on free, informed and priorconsultation aren’t being complied with in Honduras. Criminal laws are used against indigenous peoples unjustly to criminalise us, and the judicial system supports the companies, like DESA. Neither our autonomy nor our rights are respected. When we speak the truth, the police and the military are set on us, and sometimes they beat us. We want the military and police to leave our territories. It’s not easy for us to speak out because it makes our lives very challenging. They criminalise members of the indigenous peoples for saying the truth, they even wanted to imprison Berta in 2013. Yet the architects
of Berta’s assassination are at liberty.

What are your international advocacy goals? What do you hope to achieve here?

We hope that the actors within the UN will meet with us and consider all our requests. We want to speak the truth, and we want it to receive the attention it deserves. We want our decisions as indigenous peoples to be respected. We want Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples to be respected. In Honduras, they are not complied with, and so we have to seek international support to pressure the State of Honduras to respect the conventions and our rights. We await the cancellation of the Agua Zarca Project and all the other projects authorised in the Lenca territory without free, prior
and informed consultation. We have to travel to ask leaders and officials to open the door to us and to support us in demanding respect of our rights.

Do you think that this advocacy at the international level can help you in your work? Can it be useful?

Yes, we are very happy because it has helped us a lot. We feel that we are not alone. At the beginning,  the Government of Honduras tried to hide the truth about Berta Caceres’s murder, saying that it was a crime of passion, which is a lie. Thanks to international pressure, they had to admit that it was a political crime. But the State of Honduras continues to refuse to allow an independent international Commission to participate in the investigations. The State is keeping the investigations secret. We continue to call
for an independent international Commission so that the powerful persons who ordered the murder of Berta be properly investigated. We hope that the international community will continue to demand it too. We are persecuted in Honduras. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights granted us Precautionary Measures, but the police and military persecute and threaten us; we cannot trust them.
We hope to continue receiving international support to denounce the threats and killings that we experience and that it extends to all indigenous leaders and social movements that are threatened and attacked.
We want the Agua Zarca Project to leave our Gualcarque River, which is sacred to us. There are international banks that have financed this project, and we ask them to pull out definitively.

Do you have any thoughts on ways to make the UN more accessible and safe? Have the threats and attacks increased as a result of your work within the UN?

It is important that the UN listen to the voices of those of us who are being attacked and killed for defending human rights. We are grateful that the report of the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples exposes to the world what we suffer. We need to have a secure space because we run risks.
Recently we have been receiving more threats and much persecution, and that’s why we feel unsafe. There is still impunity for Berta’s murder, and there continue to be threats against COPINH members for defending the Gualarque River and Lenca territory. There are people who want to kill us so that we cannot speak the truth. But we will continue to demand our rights, our autonomy as an Indigenous people and our right to free, prior and informed consultation. We hope that the UN will support us.

jueves, 10 de noviembre de 2016

Berta Cáceres Case: Creation of International Group of Experts to Collaborate with Investigation

Tegucigalpa, 7th November 2016: At the request of Berta Cáceres Flores’ family, and with support from the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Gustavo Castro Soto and numerous other national and international organisations, the International Expert Advisory Panel (GAIPE) was created. The panel consists of a team of specialists in international human rights, criminal, and comparative criminal law.
GAIPE’s primary objective is to carry out an independent, impartial, and objective examination of the attack that occurred on March 2, 2016 against Berta Cáceres Flores and Gustavo Castro Soto. Additionally, GAIPE will investigate the context and modus operandi that gave rise to Berta Cáceres’ murder and resulted in threats and violence against other members of COPINH.
GAIPE will monitor the Honduran criminal investigation with a multicultural and gender perspective. The panel will also issue recommendations to guarantee that the facts are fully clarified and the victims receive comprehensive reparations for the harms suffered.  Further, GAIPE seeks to improve local criminal investigations of threats and violence against human rights defenders throughout the country.
“We are making our experience and skills available to ensure that the truth is quickly revealed and there is justice in this case,” said Liliana Uribe, Colombian lawyer and spokesperson for the group.  
The team consists of Liliana Uribe (Colombia), Miguel Ángel Urbina (Guatemala), Roxanna Altholz (United States), Daniel R. Saxon (Netherlands/United States), and Jorge Molano (Colombia). Each member has extensive experience and technical skills related to the investigation of human rights violations.
GAIPE arrived in Honduras on November 4th to meet with the Cáceres’ family and Gustavo Castro’s and Caceres’ legal teams, COPINH, and to establish a dialogue with national authorities and organizations, in addition to other stakeholders.
On November 14th at 9:30am, GAIPE will hold a press conference to provide additional information. The press event will take place in the Lenca meeting room, Hotel Plaza de El General, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Press Contact:

martes, 11 de octubre de 2016

Alert!  Assassination attempts against the General Coordinator of COPINH and a Community leader of COPINH. 

The Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) denounces to the national and internacional public the assassination attempts against the compañeros Tomás Gómez Membreño, General Coordinator of COPINH  and Alexander García Sorto, a community leader de Llano Grande, Colomoncagua.

In two distinct circumstances, yesterday on October 9, these two compañeros were subjected to unknown persons arriving on the one hand at the home of compañero Alexander García where they shot numerous times into the principal door and the window of the bedroom where he and his wife and two daughters were sleeping.  The shots were made with the intention of assassinating Alexander Garcia along with his family. 

On the night of the same day, a person shot at the pickup truck of the organization being driven by  compañero Tomás Gómez Membreño, General Coordinator of COPINH, as he left the meeting center of  Utopía en route to his house. 

The attempt against compañero Alexander García was a second try, since on May 6 of this year, two months after the assassination of our general coordinator Berta Cáceres, he was shot leaving his house by the ex military Enedicto Alvarado, when Alexander was wounded and almost killed.  This shooting aggression at his house occurred after the ex military had been processed and his family had made threats against Alexander for not withdrawing the denunciation.

COPINH denounces these assassination attempts against compañero Tomás Gómez, who assumed the general coordination of COPINH after the assassination on March 2 of the compañera Berta Cáceres, and against compañero Alexander García, as attempts to silence the struggle of COPINH against the projects of death in Lenca territories, pushed by this corrupt government that is on its knees before the economic interests at both national and international levels. 

Likewise, COPINH denounces the shots fired in the Lenca Community of Rio Blanco, by hit men paid for by DESA, as a form of intimidation and threat against the community for opposing the destruction of the Gualcarque River and the seizure of territories of the Lenca people.  

Now 7 months since the assassination of our compañera Berta Cáceres, those who oppose the projects of death such as the Agua Zarca/ DESA dam on the Gualcarque River and the dam by HIDROSIERRA on the Negro River in the municipality of Colomoncagua continue to be targeted.  These are attempts to kill those who defend their rights as Lenca people and who strive to build viable alternatives for the development of our communities and of the entire world, and not the development of the pocketbooks of a few.

Now 7 months since the assassination of our general coordinator, neither the government nor the institutions have responded to our demands to cancel the projects the communities were never consulted about, to authorize an independent investigation of the assassination, to demilitarize the Lenca territories and to cease the persecution and stigmatization against COPINH.  We demand answers.

We demand the closing of Agua Zarca/DESA and all of the other illegitimate, unconsulted death projects that can be found in our territories.

We demand respect for the lives of all the members of COPINH.

We demand justice surrounding all those who assassinated Berta Cáceres.

Berta did not die, she multiplied.

With the ancestral strength of Berta, Lempira, Mota, Iselaca and Etempica, we raise our voices full of life, justice, dignity, freedom and peace. 

Sent on October 10, 2016 from La Esperanza, Intibucá.

jueves, 15 de septiembre de 2016

Honduras: “The State and the extractive economic model are responsible for the assassination of Berta”


Photo G. Trucchi/REL-UITA
Interview with Tomás Gómez, Interim Coordinator of COPINH

By Giorgio Trucchi / LINyM |Rel-UITA


On September 2 of this year, in various cities around the world, voices of protest were raised again against the complicit silence of Honduran authorities and the veil of impunity that, after 6 
months, still covers the brutal assassination of the indigenous leader Berta Cáceres Flores.

In La Esperanza, Intibucá hundreds of indigenous Lenca people organized by Copinh (1) mobilized along with family members of the murdered social justice fighter and with members of the Garífuna people organized in Ofraneh (2) to demand justice for Berta Cáceres, punishment for the material and intellectual perpetrators of the crime and an immediate end to the criminalization of the struggle against the extractive model and plunder of the natural resources that are public goods.

- See photo gallery LINyM or Rel-UITA

Tomás Gómez Membreño is the interim coordinator of Copinh. Six months ago it fell to him to take the position and begin tirelessly  working so that the pain, frustration and anger of an entire people would be transformed into a creative and purposeful force. 

sábado, 10 de septiembre de 2016

COPINH statement on today's (08 sept 16) mobilization to Tegucigalpa as another public official faces charges for illegally granting permits to Agua Zarca hydroelectric project

ALERT- Olban Milla from COPINH’s community radios was detained by the police today around 2:20am outside of a COPINH building while leaving to meet up with other COPINH members to go to today’s mobilization in Tegucigalpa in front of the La Granja Courthouse. While he was since released without charges, this is yet another example of unfounded and ongoing persecution against COPINH!  
COPINH protested in front of the First Circuit Criminal Court in the La Granja neighborhood of Tegucigalpa today, Thursday September 8th, at 9am, where a hearing against the ex-Vice minister for the Environment and Natural Resources (SERNA), Jonathan Laínez, took place for having granted the environmental permit to the Agua Zarca project in violation of the rights of the Lenca people to free, prior and informed consultation. We also ask for attention to the ruling that will be made today in the First Circuit Court of Intibucá stemming from last Monday’s hearing against the former Mayor of Intibucá Martiniano Dominguez. 
COPINH demands the immediate incarceration of all public officials who authorized the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project on the sacred Gualcarque River in open violation of ILO Convention 169 and the rights of the Lenca people. 
The case against ex-Vice Minister Lainez is the result of the complaints filed by our General Coordinator Berta Cáceres with the Special Prosecutor for Ethnicities and Cultural Patrimony against the officials who approved dozens and dozens of hydroelectric concessions in Lenca territory in violation of ILO Convention 169 and the right to free, prior and informed consent, bypassing the authority and decisions of the Lenca communities, serving as lackeys for international economic interests and the small group of elites who govern this country.
The approval of the Agua Zarca Project and other illegal and illegitimate projects have true campaigns of terror and repression against the Lenca people for defending the rights of our people and of Mother Earth, leading to the cruel assassination of our sister Berta Cáceres. So-called “development” has mean assassinations, aggression and repression against the Lenca people. What kind of development has to be implemented with the barrel of a gun and indignity?
We demand punishment for all public officials who attack the Lenca people. We demand as a Lenca people that this justice system start to reflect that name and act with impartiality in this case. We call for our people’s rights to be respected and that the justice system respond to the demands of the Lenca people.
RIVERS AREN’T FOR CORPORATE GREED! CARE AND DEFENSE IS WHAT THEY NEED!
With the ancestral strength of Berta, Lempira, Mota, Iselaca and Etempica we raise our voice full of life, justice, freedom, dignity and peace!
La Esperanza, Honduras, September 8th, 2016

viernes, 2 de septiembre de 2016

COPINH: STATEMENT SIX MONTHS AFTER THE ASSASSINATION OF COPINH’S GENERAL COORDINATOR, BERTA CÁCERES FLORES.

The Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, 6 months after the assassination of COPINH’s General Coordinator, hereby states that:

  • The assassination of the woman who served as COPINH’s General Coordinator and who was a founding member of the organization was a crime committed against the entire Lenca people’s struggle to build autonomy and defend Mother Earth, our shared natural resources, and our rights as indigenous peoples.

  • Despite this crime we re-affirm that we will continue our fierce struggle against the deadly projects that have been imposed without consultation since the 2009 military coup d’état. We know that our sister Berta Cáceres Flores has not died as long as neither her struggle nor her political project, embodied by this organization, have died.

  • Our compañera Berta Cáceres, our sister, is the victim of a State crime, having suffered persecution by Honduran authorities, security forces and courts and criminalization of her work throughout her years of political activity, aided and abetted by corporations like DESA, and international banks like FMO, CABEI and FINNFUND, who want to plunder our shared natural resources to turn them into their own profit.

  • Over the 23 years of our organization’s existence, this crime has been the biggest blow to our people and it is an attempt to end the struggle waged by COPINH, which continues to suffer from demonization and criminalization by the government and national and international corporations and financial institutions.

  • Having accompanied Berta in her struggle, which is our people’s struggle, we are completely clear that justice will not come from the corrupt and inefficient institutions that have promoted the extermination of peoples in resistance and that the arrests they have made do not represent justice for this assassination but are clear example of the way that impunity is produced in this country.
  • COPINH continues to demand the creation of an Independent Investigation Commission so that we can get to the bottom of this crime, a demand that has fallen on the government’s deaf ears.
  • For several years COPINH has been demanding the expulsion of the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project from Lenca territory, where it has been imposed without consultation, along with the 50 other concessions for dams and wind-power megaprojects that they seek to impose upon our territory.
  • The Lenca people are fighting to live in peace, which is why we demand the de-militarization of our territories, where the soldiers, police and private security forces exist to secure private investments by violating the most basic of human rights and sewing fear, terror and death.
  • Faced with this assassination, the corporations and banks who finance terror and death should know that COPINH will be unwavering in its efforts to find those who participated in this act. May the perpetrators know that we will not rest in our search for Justice for our sister and that we will denounce each and every attack we suffer for carrying out our work before the international authorities.
  • COPINH knows that both before and after the 2009 coup d’état the violence and atrocities come from the interference of the U.S., with its money and its interventions, as with the coup d’état itself. The imposition of the extractivist model comes as a result of the U.S. capitalist doctrine and Berta’s assassination is part of a clear strategy to eliminate by force any form of opposition to that economic model, which the U.S. is at the heart of.
  • We denounce the campaigns to criminalize our organization, financed by DESA on national TV, where they roll out Gloria López, a person who does not represent Lenca women and is a farce of a dignified indigenous person and who we are sure is being used by Honduran businessmen to manipulate public opinion and create more conflict.
  • COPINH is completely clear what justice in the face of this enormous loss means: finding who assassinated her, who gave the order to assassinate her, and denouncing the criminal power structure that allowed for her assassination. It means that the work of resistance, of emancipation, of rebellion by COPINH and the Lenca people remains steadfast. It means tireless struggle against this economic, political and cultural system that seeks to eliminate our communities, their ancestral resistance and alternatives to dispossession, exploitation, racism and exclusion.
  • Justice is keeping the memory of Berta’s life alive, the convictions that led her to be the greatest leader of the Lenca people in the history of the Lenca people’s resistance. Justice is clearly telling the corporations, the representatives of the state and all of those who enter Lenca territory that we will not allow the development of any project, action or activity that rolls over people or that eliminates our voices. It means development by the communities and NOT by corporations that take advantage of communities, development based on proposals that stem from our needs.
Six months after this vile crime the Lenca people continue to cry over this loss for the Honduran social movement, yet we have not forgotten that her spirit accompanies us as one more ancestor who has joined us in the millenarian resistance of the Lenca people.
Six months after this assassination thousands of voices have risen to demand Justice for Berta and to take up our demands, for which COPINH profoundly thanks the communities, grassroots social movements and civil society from all regions of the continent and world. As a people in struggle we know that justice will come only through the efforts of the grassroots social movement and people of conscience.

Berta didn’t die, she multiplied!
With the ancestral strength of Berta, Lempira, Mota, Iselaca and Etempica we raise our voices full of life, justice, freedom, dignity and peace!


La Esperanza, Honduras, September 2nd, 2016

jueves, 1 de septiembre de 2016

Letter to Berta Cáceres, my mom. + video

Indigenous Lenca activist Berta Cáceres was assassinated this past March 2nd in La Esperanza, Honduras the city in which she was born. From the beginning, her family and COPINH, the organization she served as coordinator, blamed DESA, a company that is building a project of death along the Gualcarque River. Six months later, her daughter Berta, one of the three who has taken up the baton, writes this letter to her mother.

Letter to Berta Cáceres, my mom.

Six months ago I was in a frenzy, travelling from Mexico to Honduras, time moved in slow motion around me. I had to meet up with Laura and Salva, to say goodbye to your hands and eyes.
The news of your assassination came as no surprise. Days before we had been together writing a communiqué to denounce the re-activation of the Agua Zarca project on the other side of the Gualcarque River. We were hoping to stop it by calling out the complicity of the banks providing the financing, with full knowledge that they had no intention to listen and knowing all too well the extent of DESA’s aggression.
I never believed that you were gone, my tears never flowed from the pain of despair, they flowed from indignation at how the world could have allowed your death, at what type of perverse beings had dared to fill your body with bullets, at knowing that you would no longer have your voice.
It scared me how well you had prepared us for this news, the confidence you had that once your voice was gone ours would be here, the thousands of us speaking for you, to continue crying out with your familiar cry: Justice.
The search for justice has taken us on a tortuous path of silence, but also a path full of many arms, hands and hearts that will not allow Berta Cáceres to die with impunity.
Six months later we are indignant that though we continue asking for the participation of an independent investigatory body so that we can discover the truth about the crime committed against you, the dictatorial and coup-continuing government of Juan Orlando Hernández continues to ignore our request.
We are indignant that DESA-Agua Zarca has no intention of stopping the project, that they send out their engineer Elsia Paz to the mainstream media channels in Honduras to “clean up” the company’s image.
We are indignant that banks like FMO have no intention of cutting off financing for this project of death though they always knew what was happening and never cared nor do they care now what we have had to live through because of their colonialist attitude and blood-drenched money.
We are indignant at the ineptitude of Honduran institutions in a case that is a “national priority.”
Over and over again the words to one of your favorite songs flood my heart, “…and though the night settles in, the moon returns, love returns.” That was one of your principles. You lived through every imaginable adversity yet never stopped, always smiling, always filled with satisfaction fighting shoulder to shoulder with your people, building revolutions in your home and in the streets.
And now that is what we do - smile and fight like warriors, never losing hope.
Six months ago I knew that my arms, my hands and my voice were also yours. Six months ago I declared war on death.
In these six months thousands of voices have cried out: “Justice for Berta!”
On that day, March 3rd, I lost you and I gained countless aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters.
We will continue fighting for you, with your values, with your strength, with your joy, without fear: Berta Cáceres cannot be assassinated.

They didn’t kill my mom and the assassins who wanted to kill her screwed themselves because she is here, because she lives in each and every one of us, because as long as we keep on fighting against that killer dam, against the privatization of the forests and the air, we will keep standing up, we will all keep on standing up and that is where my mom will live on, that is where Berta Cáceres will live.

With the same co-conspirator love as always:
We will get it done, that’s a promise.
We will fight until we win, mom!
Bertha Zúniga Cáceres