The brutal killing of a vocal indigenous leader in Honduras paints a terrifying picture of the dangers faced by human rights defenders and social activists in the country.

Berta Cáceres, leader and co-founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH), was shot dead in her home early this morning in the town of La Esperanza, in the province of Intibucá, west Honduras.

“The cowardly killing of Berta is a tragedy that was waiting to happen. For years, she had been the victim of a sustained campaign of harassment and threats to stop her from defending the rights of indigenous communities,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

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“Unless the authorities in Honduras take decisive action to find those responsible for this heinous crime and take measures to protect other activists like Berta, they will have blood on their hands. The government must bring those responsible for this crime to justice, and guarantee protection for her family and all members of COPINH.”

“Berta’s death will have a devastating impact for many human rights activists and organizations, such as Amnesty International, who have worked with her to ensure the rights of some of the most vulnerable people in the Americas are protected.”

COPINH had recently been protesting the construction of the Agua Zarca dam in the community of Río Blanco.