ALERT: Attacks and intimidation against participants and international observers at the International Meeting "Berta Cáceres Lives".
The undersigned organizations, express our deep concern about the serious incidents that
occurred on Friday, April 15 in the town of San Francisco de Ojuera -Department of Santa
Barbara where a dozen people were injured.
On Friday April 15, 2016, approximately 400 people, members of Honduran and international
human rights organisations, social movements and the media, travelled to the Gualcarque River as
part of a caravan to commemorate the murder of Berta Cáceres, the international meeting was
known as "Berta Cáceres lives". The signatory organisations were present at the meeting and
observed patterns of attacks against international and national organisations that are replicated in
other regions of the country and have originated from deep social conflict.1
Below we describe the events witnessed:
- Around 2 pm, the peaceful caravan arrived at the community of San Ramon, municipality of
San Francisco de Ojuera. Participants at the front of the commemorative march were
confronted by a group of about 30 people who expressed their support for the Agua Zarca
hydroelectric project implemented by the company Desarrollo Energéticos S.A. (DESA). They
carried placards with inscriptions supporting the hydroelectric project and against the Civic
Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), brandishing
machetes and issuing serious threats against COPINH and other participants in the
international meeting. Despite the significant presence of police and army along the entire
route of the international caravan, there were just six police officers positioned in front of the
- The caravan continued its journey to the banks of the River Gualcarque where a spiritual
ceremony was held in memory of Berta Cáceres.
- At approximately 5 pm, the caravan ended and a few metres before reaching the buses for
their return transport, the same group of people appeared; shouting, insulting, threatening and
wielding their machetes. Unexpectedly these people started throwing stones at people who
were walking towards the buses. This created panic as people had to run several metres to
protect themselves. As a result of this incident, a dozen people in the caravan were wounded
after being hit by stones, and at least two people were beaten by the group of people. The
attackers also issued death threats to members of COPINH, particularly its new general
coordinator Tomas Gomez. Amongst the people who were assaulted and injured were people
who are beneficiaries of precautionary measures, including several members of the general
coordination of COPINH.2
- Faced with the violence that broke out, the National Police did not react immediately, only
intervening after several people in the caravan insistently requested it. We are concerned that
the Honduran authorities did not ensure the safety of those present and did not take
immediate action against the attacks.
1 Two days after these incidents, 17 April 2016, the Canada-Honduras Delegation for Justice, Land and Life went to the opencast gold
mine San Andres in La Union, Copan. As the Canadian delegation approached the city of Azacualpa, a group of about 180 mine
workers - some armed with machetes, sticks and stones - blocked the street. The delegation reported that the police were present but
initially failed to act. The delegation was later notified that they could travel safely to the community and the police managed to disperse
the crowd. Mining Watch and other NGOs from the delegation, however, have expressed serious concern about this kind of intimidation.
2 Members of the coordination of COPINH are beneficiaries of IACHR precautionary measures 112-16 of 03.05.2016.
These events have occurred in the context of repeated complaints against the DESA company.
These complaints hold the company responsible for the murder of Berta Cáceres as well as for
multiple threats and attacks against members of communities and COPINH because of their
opposition to the Agua Zarca dam. In light of these developments, we express our serious concern
about the situation of extreme vulnerability for organisations, communities and human rights
defenders in Honduras, and in particular members of COPINH. The organisations below reiterate
our support to requests from Berta Cáceres’ family and members of COPINH, urging the Honduran
government to sign an agreement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR),
creating a committee of independent experts to investigate the murder of Berta Cáceres and other
cases of human rights defenders who have been killed in Honduras, despite having been granted
precautionary measures from the IACHR.
In this context characterised by the closure of spaces for human rights defenders, we are also
concerned that situations like the one above make difficult international accompaniment and
observation to help protect spaces for non-violent conflict resolution and the promotion and
defence of human rights in Honduras. The work of international accompaniers and observers in the
country responds to requests from organisations and civil society who have the right to defend their
rights, and to seek support and international observation when faced with threats and attacks.
Taking into account the views expressed above and the responsibility of States to ensure
the protection, respect and fulfilment of international human rights law, we call upon the
international community to undertake the following actions to put a stop to and prevent this
escalation of violence against the defence of human rights:
• Issue a statement to the President of the Republic, Commissioner for Human Rights and the
Ministry of Justice, Interior and Human Rights:
◦ Expressing appreciation and support for the work of national and international
organisations participating in the caravan on 15 April.
◦ Showing concern at the situation described above and the lack of immediate reaction by
the authorities present to the reported violence.
◦ Reminding the Honduran State of its obligation to protect human rights defenders, and
emphasising the importance of the work they carry out in Honduras. It is also important to
highlight the importance of the work carried out by international observers and
accompaniment organisations when their presence is requested due to threats and attacks.
• In particular, we call on the Diplomatic Corps and Ministries of Foreign Affairs and / or Aid
Agencies to ask for the competent institutions to clarify the events reported, urging a prompt,
impartial and thorough investigation into the attacks and threats made by the aggressors and into
the actions of the national police.
• Express publicly, through the appropriate channels, support for the work of human rights
defenders in Honduras and their right to receive support from international organisations and other
“Human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings; their protection
and promotion is the first responsibility of governments”3
3 Adopted by the UN World Conference on Human Rights (157/93)
- International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the
Protection of Human Rights Defenders
- Front Line Defenders
- Honduras Solidarity Network in North America (Honduras Solidarity Network in North America)
- Hondurasdelegation (Germany / Austria)
- Ecumenical Office for Peace and Justice (Germany)
- World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the
Protection of Human Rights Defenders.
- Peace Brigades International (PBI Honduras)
- The International Platform against Impunity (Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad.)
- PROAH (Proyecto de Acompañamiento internacional en Honduras)
- Protection International
- Witness for Peace (Acción Permanente por la Paz)