Berta Cáceres, human rights defender. Photo by coolloud via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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 Deadliest Year for Human Rights Defenders

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.

According to the recent Amnesty International report, Human Rights Defenders Under Threat – A Shrinking Space For Civil Society, about 3,500 human rights activists have been murdered worldwide since the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. And the numbers are increasing. More than 300 activists were murdered in 2017, and it was the deadliest year for environmental and indigenous activists, transgender people and human rights defenders in Colombia.

“I am always thinking about being killed or kidnapped. But I refuse to go into exile. I am a human rights fighter and I will not give up this fight.”  – Berta Cáceres, cited by Amnesty International

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