States: Prevent, investigate and ensure accountability for killing of activists like Berta Caceres


The UN should ensure that Honduran authorities conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of the murder of human rights defender Berta Caceres, and all States should take legislative, policy and other measures to ensure defenders' protection, ISHR said today.

(Geneva) – The UN should ensure that Honduran authorities conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of the murder of human rights defender Berta Caceres, who was shot in her home on 3 March, ISHR said today.

In delivering a statement to the Human Rights Council on behalf of a group of ten human rights organisations – including Amnesty International, Article 19, Protection International, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and others – ISHR expressed sadness and outrage at the killing of Berta Caceres and called on Honduras to ensure full and effective implementation of its recently adopted human rights defender protection law in consultation with civil society. The President of the Human Rights Council similarly condemned the killing, as did State delegations, including Norway and the United States.

Berta Caceres defended the economic, social and cultural rights and other rights of indigenous and campesino communities, and denounced human rights abuses in the context of large-scale development projects, including mining and hydroelectric projects.

‘Her killing is emblematic of the grave risks faced by defenders addressing economic, social and cultural rights, and underlines the need for a strong, substantive resolution on this theme by the Council,’ said Michael Ineichen of ISHR to the Council. Norway is currently leading the negotiation of such a resolution.

The statement was delivered on the occasion of the annual interaction with the UN’s expert on human rights defenders, Special Rapporteur Michel Forst.

Welcoming the report, which focuses on good practices in the protection of defenders, the NGOs said it should be used as a benchmark to measure the extent to which States fulfil their obligations under the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

'In line with the Special Rapporteur's report, States should move swiftly to develop and implement specific national laws and mechanisms to protect defenders and to investigate and ensure accountability for threats and attacks against them,' Mr Ineichen said.

In the statement, the ten organisations called on national human rights institutions to develop action plans and establish focal points for the protection of defenders, welcomed the call for business to contribute to the protection of defenders by supporting them and condemning attacks on their work, and called on donors to provide long-term, flexible financial support to defenders. They echoed the Special Rapporteur’s call on the UN itself to strengthen the protection of defenders, including through the ‘Rights Up Front’ initiative and the Sustainable Development Goals. The NGOs also emphasised the need for a stronger institutional response to reprisals.

Among the reports presented by the Special Rapporteur was a sobering compilation of threats and attacks on individual defenders around the world. Cases document in that report include the arbitrary detention of human rights lawyers in China, the killing of an Indonesian farmer, youth worker and trade unionist in connection with land disputes with a paper mill, and the forced closure of a human rights defenders organisation in Ecuador). The report, known as the ‘observations report’, not only documents the continued occurrence of attacks on defenders in almost 80 States from all regions of the world, but also the increasing passage or application of restrictive laws, ranging from recent French anti-terrorism legislation, to the repeated abuse of Interpol to harass defenders

‘The Human Rights Council must to more to follow-up to the many violations of the rights of defenders brought to its attention,’ Mr Ineichen said. ‘We urge the Special Rapporteur to lead by example and make available a regularly updated list of 'outstanding' cases, so as to facilitate follow up to previously covered incidents,’ Mr Ineichen said.

The UN expert also highlighted the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to address violations against defenders on the basis of their gender and/or their work in areas such as sexuality, reproductive health and women's rights. The organisations encouraged the Special Rapporteur to continue cooperation with the African and other regional mechanisms, and to ensure coordinated implementation of their respective implementation.

Download the full statement here.  


  • Latin America and Caribbean
  • Corporate accountability
  • Human rights defenders
  • UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • China
  • Ecuador
  • France
  • Honduras
  • Indonesia
  • Norway