Experts: Honduras Must Investigate Illicit Actions Denounced in Berta Cáceres Case

 

For immediate release

The Americas/Europe

June 1, 2021

 

A month into the trial of a retired military intelligence officer and president of the DESA hydroelectric company, David Castillo, for the murder of Lenca leader Berta Cáceres in Honduras, the Expert Observation Mission remains concerned about the right to the truth and the clarification of the acts that led to the murder of the human rights defender on March 2, 2016. Through the evidence presented by the Public Prosecutor's Office, indications have emerged of criminal complicity of other actors in the harassment of Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the Rio Blanco community, and in the planning and logistics of the assassination.

 

This evidence consists mainly of chats and other data extracted from the phones of the accused and those already convicted. They point to actions of questionable legality on the part of public officials, and the coordination of the alleged structure executing the assassination with the owners of the DESA company. Such revelations point to the need to continue investigating possible crimes related to the murder, committed by people who have not yet been prosecuted. It should be noted that this information has been in the hands of the Public Prosecutor's Office for several years and was exposed through the active participation of the victims and their private accusers in the trial.

 

The Berta Cáceres Case is an emblematic case for Honduras and, indeed, for the entire region. Structural impunity has contributed significantly to the rising rates of violence against women and defenders of land, indigenous peoples' rights, and the environment, which results in cases of killings of indigenous land defenders not being adequately investigated and prosecuted. In this case, thanks to the perseverance of Berta Cáceres' family and COPINH in their demand for justice, unprecedented steps have been taken towards truth and justice.

 

The Observer Mission calls on the Honduran authorities to immediately take the necessary steps to clarify the facts denounced in the Berta Cáceres Case, and thus send a strong signal that crimes against human rights defenders will not be tolerated. Human rights defenders, both in the country and around the world, are following this case, which sets a precedent for generations to come.

 

The trial has been broadcast live through the judiciary's social media channels, but without the in-person monitoring of national or international human rights observers, which limits the role of technical observation of the criminal process.  While the Public Prosecutor's Office has concluded presenting its evidence, the private accusations have begun to present theirs, including the socio-political expert reports, an essential tool to fully understand the factors and context that lead to the commission of crimes against human rights defenders.

 

While the trial concludes in the coming weeks, we remain attentive to the development of the case and vigilant to any incident and detail of the hearings in order to ensure that judicial guarantees and due diligence are respected in this trial.

 

Media Contacts:

 

  • Mision de Observacion: obsbertacaceres [at] gmail.com, WhatsApp +1 902 3242584
  • FIDH: José Carlos Thissen: + 51 95 41 31 650
  • OMCT: Iolanda Jaquemet: +41 79 539 41 06a

 


 

SIGNATORIES

 

  • Center for the Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (CIPRODEH), Honduras
  • Center for Legal Assistance to Indigenous Peoples (CALPI), Nicaragua
  • Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH), Guatemala
  • Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), USA
  • Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC-USA), USA
  • José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective Corporation, (CAJAR), Colombia
  • Human Rights Legal Team, Honduras
  • Reflection, Research and Communication Team (ERIC-sj), Honduras
  • Arbizu & Gamarra Studio, Peru
  • FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, International
  • Fundación Abogacía Española, Spain
  • National Lawyers Guild, International Committee, USA
  • Impunity Watch, Guatemala
  • International Observatory of Lawyers at Risk, Europe
  • World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the protection of human rights defenders, International
  • Promise Institute, UCLA, USA
  • Protection International, Mesoamerica
  • International Platform Against Impunity, Regional