The murder of Honduran Indigenous woman Berta Caceres is only too familiar to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
All around the world, Indigenous peoples are murdered, raped and kidnapped when their lands fall in the path of deforestation, mining and construction. According to the group Global Witness, one Indigenous person was killed almost every week in 2015 because of their environmental activism, 40 percent of the total 116 people killed for environmental activism.
“We shouldn’t forget that the death of Berta is because of the protest that she had against the destruction of the territory of her people,” Tauli-Corpuz told IPS in a recent interview.
Caceres, who was murdered at the beginning of March, had long known her life was in danger. She experienced violence and intimidation as a leader of the Lenca people of Rio Blanco who protested the construction of the Agua Zarca dam on their traditional lands.
“A very crucial part of the problems that Indigenous peoples face is that many of the things happening in their communities are happening because of the investments that are coming in from these richer countries.”
Caceres activism received international recognition, including through the 2015 Goldman Prize, however this was not enough to protect her.
She knew she was going to die, she had even written her own obituary, said Tauli-Corpuz who met with Caceres during a visit to Honduras in 2015.
Four men were arrested in relation to Caceres death earlier this week.
While Tauli-Corpuz welcomed the arrests she said that justice would not be clear until after the trial, and that real justice was about more than the criminal proceedings for Caceres murder.
“We cannot rest on our laurels to say the whole thing is finished because that’s not the point,” she said. “The point is this whole issue about the dam still being there.”
Tauli-Corpuz has witnessed accounts of violence against many other Indigenous activists around the world, in her role as Special Rapporteur.
Their experiences have startling similarity, Indigenous peoples are subjected to rape, murder and kidnap, whenever they stand in the way of access to lands or natural resources.
“You cannot delink the fight of indigenous people for their lands, territories and resources from the violence that’s committed against indigenous women (and men), especially if this is a violence that is perpetrated by state authorities or by corporate security,” said Tauli-Corpuz.
Tauli-Corpuz also said that a look at the bigger picture reveals the increasingly international nature of the problems experienced by Indigenous peoples worldwide.
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