PEN Canada is deeply saddened by the murder of Bertha Cáceres, and joins our colleagues at PEN Honduras in calling for an end to impunity in their country. The following is a statement released by the board of directors of PEN Honduras.
TEGUCIGALPA, March 7, 2016 – On the morning of Thursday, 3 March 2016, the news of the murder of the Coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular Organisations and Indigenous People of Honduras (COPINH), Bertha Cáceres, took Honduran society by surprise.
Where did this treacherous attack come from? Which bloody assassin now hides, sated, in the darkness and impunity provided by those who ordered her killing? As with the murders of other environmentalists and defenders of land and human rights such as Jeanette Kawas, there is a risk that this killing will also remain unpunished.
This disgusting crime is without a doubt a message for dissidents, against humanism, against everything that is not to the liking of the big business and its local servants. They say: We can kill with impunity. No one will ever know who the masterminds and gunmen are… Even though everyone knows who we are.
But they did not only kill an environmentalist, they ended the life of a land rights defender protector of the Gualcarque River, as well as a spokesperson who amplified the community’s struggle through COPINH’s radio stations, La Voz Lenca (Lenca Voice) and Radio Guarajambala. There Berta spoke out on the programme “Echoes of Opalaca”, denouncing the climate of hostility and all forms of violence towards her Lenca people, their land, their river, their heritage.
Throughout the world, regret, rage and impotence has been expressed at this despicable crime against a woman who was courageous but open to attack. Berta was was awarded the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her resistance against the “Agua Zarca” hydroelectric dam project, initiated in the community of Río Blanco, Intibucá, in 2006.
PEN Honduras is also deeply saddened. We sympathise with Berta’s family, with her close collaborators and her brave companions in the struggle, but we are also not prepared to let her legacy die.
We demand an independent, impartial and prompt investigation to punish the guilty parties. We support the family in their demand that this investigation be led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), international human rights organisations and national institutions born of the popular struggle, as requested by her daughters Olivia, Laura and Bertha and her son Salvador.
We demand respect for international commitments on freedom of expression including those made just last year in the UN’s Universal Periodic Review of the State of Honduras on its obligation to ensure plurality of thought with regards to dissenting voices.
We ask the international community to use all means at their disposal to demand swift justice and ensure that this crime will not be added to the long list of impunity in Honduras.
Supporting freedom of expression, fighting impunity, celebrating literature
Board of Directors
Read this statement in Spanish here.