“We need to make clearer demands on the EU and Sweden to act”
On 3 March the world was shocked by the news that Berta Cáceres, founder of the organization COPINH, environmental activist and defender of human rights, had been murdered in her home in Honduras. This week yet another leader of the same organization was murdered. Together with We Effect and Sweden’s Central American ambassador, Georg Andrén, Diakonia travelled to Honduras to visit COPINH and Berta Cáceres’ family.
The murder of Berta Cáceres and the many other human rights activists in Honduras has sent shock waves through the world, and many organizations and leaders globally are now publicly condemning the murders. This past week, together with We Effect and Sweden’s Central American ambassador, Georg Andrén, Diakonia visited the country. And on 17 March a joint press conference was held at which they demanded an independent enquiry into the murder.
“I’ll be trying to influence the EU to take a stand for an international commission of enquiry,” says Georg Andrén. “We’ve lost one leader, and we can’t allow this to ever happen again.”
In connection with the press conference, the Swedish embassy issued a statement in which it condemned the murders and urged the Honduran government not to allow the perpetrators of these crimes to remain unpunished. In its statement Sweden supported the request from Honduras to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for an international commission of enquiry as part of a thorough investigation of the incidents.
Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström also expressed her concern about the situation in Honduras following pressure from Diakonia and a number of other development organizations. In response to the letter that Diakonia along with Latinamerikagrupperna (Solidarity Sweden-Latin America), FIAN, We Effect, Friends of the Earth Sweden, the Church of Sweden and Future Earth sent the minister on 8 March, she writes:
“I view the human rights situation in Honduras with concern. The murder of Berta Cáceres, and now this week of Nelson Garcia, confirms the seriousness of the situation. It is of extreme importance that these crimes are investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice for these horrific deeds.”
Zeid Raád Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has also made a statement, writing in an open letter:
“[The Honduran] state bears primary responsibility for human rights and must be held accountable. But even those who finance development projects must show that they take human rights seriously and are not part of the problem.”
Prior to her murder Berta Cáceres had been subjected to several murder threats due to her fight against foreign investments that, according to COPINH, violate the right of the Lenca people to their land and natural resources. Berta Cáceres was one of many human rights defenders in Honduras granted protection via the fund launched by Diakonia and our partners. Likewise the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had implemented measures to protect Berta.
“Enough is enough! We need to raise our voices and make even clearer demands of the EU and the Swedish government to take action in Honduras. The situation in Honduras is just getting worse; it can’t go on like this. We also need to further improve the support we provide to our local partners,” says Viveka Carlestam, regional manager of Diakonia in Latin America.
We Effect, which works to support the Honduran farmer and indigenous peoples movements working to reduce poverty and ensure that people have adequate food and shelter, is expressing its concern ahead of continued efforts to improve the situation of indigenous peoples.
“This is about poor farmers being robbed of their land, water and forests. Their rights are protected by law. But the laws don’t work; the government does not care and politicians earns great amounts of money by selling off natural resources. Those who protest risk their lives,” says Anna Tibblin, regional manager of We Effect in Latin America.