Statement on the murders of environmental defenders in Honduras and Brazil
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6 July 2016
Threats to, as well as the intimidation, harassment and murder of environmental defenders must stop now!
Yesterday we learned of the senseless murder of Lesbia Yaneth Urquía Urquía, a defender of the environment and indigenous rights who fought against the construction of the Aurora I dam in La Paz, Honduras. In a similar tragedy in Brazil, last month authorities found the lifeless body of Nilce de Souza Magalhães, a recognized leader of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), who worked for the rights of Amazon communities affected by large dams, predatory fishing practices and other threats.
Both instances reinforce a tragic trend in Latin America, a region home to seven of the ten most dangerous countries in the world for environmental defenders. According to Global Witness, 185 environmental activists were assassinated worldwide in 2015; two thirds of them were from Latin America. Now, more than ever, it’s time to call for accountability.
Lesbia Yaneth worked in alliance with the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and her death comes just four months and four days after the assassination of the Council’s leader, Berta Cáceres. Nilce disappeared in January, her body finally discovered on June 21 in the lake formed by the Jirau dam, against which she had fought in defense of the rights of her community.
Regarding these unfortunate deaths, María José Veramendi Villa, senior attorney of AIDA’s Human Rights and Environment Program, said:
“The increasing rate of murder of environmental defenders in Latin America is alarming. States must guarantee a favorable environment in which people can safely perform their work to protect the natural world. States must also investigate and appropriately punish those responsible for these violent acts. The murders of those who bravely defend the environment must not go unpunished. Threats to, as well as the intimidation, harassment and murder of environmental defenders must stop now!”