Washington DC, December 6, 2018.- One week after the publication of the first verdict for the murder of human rights defender Berta Cáceres, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) received updated information on Thursday concerning the serious irregularities that took place during the judicial process and on the situation of impunity faced by the intellectual authors.
The hearing served as a follow-up to the protection measures granted by the IACHR in 2016 to protect the lives and integrity of Berta Cáceres’ family, Gustavo Castro, the members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and their legal representatives, by virtue of the increased risks they faced following the murder of their director.
During the session, the family of Berta Cáceres, members of the COPINH, representatives of the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) denounced that the victims of the case continue to be subjected to threats and that, during the judicial process, they endured revictimizing practices that violated their right to the truth and their effective access to justice.
In this regard, they pointed out that the Public Ministry denied them access to information on the case at least 35 times. Furthermore, the Court denied providing a live transmission or allowing any publicity to surround the hearings. Moreover, they did not admit fundamental evidence for the case and arbitrarily excluded representatives of the victims, among many other irregularities.
In addition, the organizations and relatives of Berta Cáceres denounced that, in spite of having evidence that proves the involvement of managers of the Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA)in planning and financing her death, all of these people continue to operate with total impunity. Moreover, the State appears to pursue an agenda that seeks to cover up the criminal structure behind the murder.
Gaspar Sánchez, member of COPINH, denounced that the concession of the Gualcarque River keeps them in a situation of high risk, given that they suffer constant threats, stigmatization and criminalization. As a result, he demanded that the concession to DESA be revoked.
"This crime would not have happened if the right to prior consultation of the Lenca community had been guaranteed and if the State of Honduras had complied with the protection measures granted to us," concluded Laura Zúniga, daughter of the leader Berta Cáceres. "We dream of seeing justice for Berta, but without us losing our lives. We want to make it clear: a guilty verdict is still not justice. While there is no justice, there will be no protection.
Faced with these denunciations, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena maintained that "The concession is fraught with a history of human rights violations, to such the point that it includes the murder of a leader who fought for her territory and and the rights of her people. A solution to the conflict can very well be the revocation of the concession. "
On her end, the President of the IACHR Margarette May Macaulay, recognized that access to truth is a basic right, and that she expected greater political will and prompt action by the State of Honduras.
The family of Berta Cáceres Flores, COPINH, their legal representatives and CEJIL, hope that the Honduran State will move forward in dismantling of the criminal structure that perpetrated Berta’s murder and the numerous acts of persecution against COPINH. Similarly, the petitioners expect urge for the indispensable and urgent revocation of the concession of the Gualcarque River.