The Costa Rica-based Inter-American Human Rights Court (CIDH) of the Organization of American States (OAS) ruled on May 6 that the Honduran government shared responsibility for the murder of environmental activist Blanca Jeannette Kawas Fernández at her home in Tela on Feb. 6, 1995. Kawas Fernández, the president of the Foundation for the Protection of the Natural Resources of Lancetilla, Punta Sal and Texiguat (Prolansate), had accused timber companies of illegal exploitation of the Punta Sal peninsula and of plans for its illegal appropriation, along with damage to the National Park and other protected sites. She had also opposed several economic development plans in the region.
In its ruling, which was published on May 8, the CIDH found that although the murder was carried out on behalf of “private interests,” it was “facilitated” by government agents; the court found that at least one government agent had participated in the killing, which was followed by other acts of violence and intimidation against environmental activists. The CIDH ordered the government to carry out a national campaign to raise awareness about the importance of the work of defenders of the environment and the contributions they make to the defense of human rights. According to the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), an alliance of Latin American human rights groups, this is the first time the CIDH has ruled on the killing of an environmental activist and the first time it has recognized “an undeniable relation between the protection of the environment and the implementation of other human rights.” (Adital, May 5; Univision, May 8 from AFP)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 10