Tegucigalpa, March 16, 2016.- Fifteen days after the murder of Berta Caceres Flores, Honduran authorities have yet to listen to the voices of groups demanding justice through an independent and impartial investigation.
On March 6th, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued protective measures to ensure our safety—as members of Berta’s family and members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH)—and to guarantee our right to defend human rights under secure conditions. Moreover, the Commission requested that an effective investigation into the assassination of our leader, defender of the Lenca people and the environment be carried out immediately.
We—the daughters and son of Berta, the COPINH and our legal representatives—have participated in meetings with the Secretary of Public Security, with senior officers of the National Police civil and secretary and the secretary of Human Rights, Justice, Interior and Decentralization to make sure that compliance with the protection measures issued by the Commission is being met. Additionally, we have submitted, in writing, specific requests about the murder investigation, about our physical protection and measures to prevent further violence against the Lenca people. However, to this day we have not received a formal response from the authorities about the proposed plan.
Furthermore, we requested meetings with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Attorney General Oscar Fernando Chinchilla. Yet, neither have responded.
With regards to the investigation, we ask the State to seek technical assistance from the Commission by requesting the creation of a group of experts with proven track record in criminal investigation to provide technical support for internal investigations; with the capacity to actively participate in all matters regarding the process, including the capacity to suggest corrections and file complaints, among other functions. In this manner, we believe that Honduras would ensure a transparent, independent and impartial investigation that preserves the right to truth and justice.
On its end, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Attorney General of Honduras issued public statements on advice given by the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) representatives in Honduras. According to the Attorney General, within the framework of this support, the State would be asking this institution to "certify the transparency and strict adherence" of the prosecution to the constitutional and legal mandates throughout the investigation. They also ask "accompaniment to endorse the objectivity and impartiality in the conduct of all the investigative process."
Considering public statements by authorities, Berta’s daughters and representatives of COPINH participated in a meeting on March 16th with Mrs. Silvia Lavagnoli, deputy representative of the OHCHR in Honduras and Mr. Felix Gomez, officer for the same international body, in order to know the extent of their participation in the investigations. During the meeting, the representatives said that their mandate does not conduct criminal investigations. Moreover, they do not have the experience to carry out this kind of work nor will they participate directly in the process. Furthermore, they clarified that they will make an observation from a human rights perspective and from that area issue recommendations to the State.
It is highly concerning that the Honduran government confused the national and international community on the OHCHR’s participation in the case. Clearly, this international body lacks the capacity to actively participate in an independent and impartial investigation into Berta Caceres’ murder. However, the State insists on diverting attention to prevent an international presence that can, in fact, meet this desired objective.
It is also our understanding that the participation of investigative authorities linked to the US government (FBI) would be limited and beyond that, we do not consider their involvement as a replacement to our demands for independence and impartiality.
Honduran authorities are not listening to our demands for justice. That is why we denounce the lack of policy to ensure a transparent, independent investigation that adheres to the highest international standards. Clearly, the official discourse does not reflect reality. Every day that passes, we painfully and impotently watch how justice is continues to loose its battles against impunity and the neglect of the State.
We express our lack of confidence in the work being carried out by the Public Ministry and responsible authorities to prevent our right to participate in the investigation.
Finally, we reiterate our demand for #JusticieForBerta, through the participation of a group of independent experts with an international justice background.
Olivia, Bertha, Laura y Salvador Zúniga Cáceres
El Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH)
Con el acompañamiento y representación legal del
Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia y del
Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL)