CEJIL: Sentence of the Berta Cáceres case finds proof of criminal structure behind her murder
30.November.2018

Tegucigalpa, November 30th, 2018.- Yesterday, Court I of the Judgment Court issued a sentence in the first trial in the case of the murder Berta Cáceres Flores which found Sergio Rodríguez, Mariano Díaz, Douglas Bustillo, Henry Hernández, Elvin Rápalo, Óscar Torres and Edilson Duarte guilty for co-authoring the death of the renown human rights defender.

In addition, the Court sentenced Rápalo, Torres, Hernández and Duarte for the attempted murder against Gustavo Castro, and acquitted Emerson Duarte of all responsibility as his participation in the crime could not be proven.

In its ruling, the Court of Judgment affirmed that the murder of the indigenous leader and human rights defender was planned and executed with "full knowledge and consent" by the executives of the company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA), in order to put an end to the opposition of Berta Cáceres and the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project.

As representatives of the family of Berta Cáceres and COPINH before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) recognizes the relevance of this sentence and in particular, would like to state its satisfaction with the fact that the Court verified the participation of DESA executives in the planning and financing of the murder of Berta Cáceres Flores. It should be remembered that the Court's findings are consistent with the conclusions reached by the International Expert Persons Advisory Group (GAIPE) in November of 2017.

However, we would like to indicate that this sentence does not mean true justice has been achieved. First, it is important to note that the process was marked by serious irregularities that revictimized the family of Berta Cáceres, and the COPINH, including the lack of access to information, the arbitrary exclusion of the victims of the process and the lack of publicity of the process.

Second, it is highly concerning that the Public Prosecutor's Office has not taken any action to identify other intellectual authors of these crimes despite the existence of evidence that the Court itself indicates in its judgment. In this regard, impunity will continue to exist until the identification, trial and punishment of all the persons involved in the events are advanced.

"The judicial decision should be a wake-up call for the Honduran authorities and for the business sector in this country. This sentence should make them understand that it is not possible to advance extractive projects by sacrificing the rights of indigenous peoples and other affected communities. Development projects will only be possible if they are built taking into account the worldview, the rights and dignity of these groups," said Marcia Aguiluz Soto, program director for Central America and Mexico.

Given this juridical decision that accounts for the participation of DESA executives, we demand that Honduras an immediate revocation process of the concession granted to this company along the Gualcarque River. In addition, reparations must urgently be granted to the COPINH for all the damage they have suffered and  that the State of Honduras recognize the important role they have played in defending the land and rights of indigenous peoples.

The decisions handed down yesterday represents a significant step forward in the demands for justice led by the family of Berta Caceres, the COPINH and the Lenca people. Their work is a  tireless example of struggle, dignity and love for their country. From CEJIL we remain steadfast in our commitment in accompanying them until true justice is achieved for Berta.