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Defender of environmental and human rights Berta Cáceres. Foto: Goldman Prize. Defender of environmental and human rights Berta Cáceres. Foto: Goldman Prize.

Prize-winning human rights activist murdered in Honduras

This week the Honduran environmental and human rights activist Berta Cáceres was murdered. The murder is suspected to have been politically motivated. Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the world, where violence against human rights defenders is a major problem.


The Honduran defender of environmental and human rights Berta Cáceres was shot dead in her own home by two masked men early on Thursday morning. Her brother was also wounded during the attack.

“Blood from human rights defenders continues to flow in Honduras. Her death is a major blow and shows that even someone with a profile of her status, who is internationally renowned, is not safe,” says Reina Rivera Joya, country manager of Diakonia Honduras.

Fought for the environment

Cáceres’ struggle for the environment and human rights has received considerable attention and support throughout the world and in 2015 she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her environmental work. As a leader of the indigenous Lenca people she succeeded in halting the construction of a dam that threatened not only to place large parts of their territory under water but also led to violent evictions. Their tenacious struggle caused the Chinese company Sinohydro and also the World Bank to withdraw from the project.

Cáceres is one of many who were granted protection via the fund launched by Diakonia and its partners in Honduras. The aim of the fund is to offer support and protection to threatened human rights defenders.

A political murder

“Unfortunately this year the project was resumed by national companies and so the evictions and threats started up again, especially towards Berta, and we are therefore convinced that the murder was politically motivated,” explains Rivera Joya.

The police classified the act as a robbery and murder, something that has been strongly criticised by both the family and international organizations which think that the act was politically motivated. Cáceres was murdered in her own home only a week after receiving death threats for her opposition to the construction of the dam.