Berta Cáceres, a human rights defender, indigenous leader, and environmental activist, knew the danger of her struggle against hydroelectric dams on the Gualcarque River in Honduras. She faced near-constant harassment and intimidation for her activities – until March 2016, when an armed gang entered her home and assassinated her. A year and a half later, an international team of lawyers issued a report implicating the leadership of the dam development company, and in March of this year, an executive from the company was arrested on charges of being an “intellectual author” of the crime – charges the company disputes.

The UK-based watchdog Global Witness has called Honduras the deadliest country in the world to be an environmental activist. Sadly, Berta Cáceres’ case is not unique, and violence against human rights defenders goes far beyond environmental activism. The issues human rights defenders are fighting for are as multifarious as women’s rights, political, social, economic and cultural rights, LGBTIQ people’s rights, and the rights of children.

Human rights defenders, such as Berta Cáceres and many others who have been threatened or killed, are the safeguards of liberal democracies. They play a vital role in shaping societies towards more tolerance, respect and inclusion, the bedrock of healthy democratic society. Human rights and their defenders form the core of a just society. Without them, there can be no sustainable development, no peace, and no hope of a dignified life for everyone.

Read the full article about protecting human rights defenders by Ulrike Hoessle at Global Washington.