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  • A portrait of Berta Caceres in front of the Honduran Embassy in Mexico City during a protest demanding justice, June 2016.

    A portrait of Berta Caceres in front of the Honduran Embassy in Mexico City during a protest demanding justice, June 2016. | Photo: EFE

Published 27 July 2018

Berta Caceres – a 43-year-old Indigenous Lenca, teacher and feminist – was known for her environmental activism, which had earned her the Goldman Prize.

A Honduran tribunal is deciding what evidence to admit in the trial of eight men accused of murdering environmental activist Berta Caceres, as human rights organizations and the victim's family accuse prosecutors of withholding evidence. 

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Among the evidence are computers, smart phones, tablets, hard drives, cameras and other electronic devices confiscated during raids at the offices of Energy Developments (DESA) – the firm behind a hydroelectric dam Caceres had been opposing before her assassination – and Army Major Mariano Diaz.

"With its acts, the Honduran investigative institute is not only violating internal law, but also international standards and the order from an internal tribunal," said Marcia Aquiluz, director of the Center for Justice and International Law's Central American chapter.

"It's regrettable that access to information and the effectiveness of the victims' efforts in their search for truth and justice are being arbitrarily limited."

The Civic Council of Peoples' and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh) and Caceres' family have denounced the lack of transparency regarding the evidence confiscated by the Public Ministry.

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In a public letter to Magistrate Rolando Argueta Perez, Central and North American human rights and social organizations demanded that the Public Ministry comply with the tribunal's petition regarding evidence, insisting enough evidence already exists to secure a conviction.

"The evidence gathered in the past two years is convincing," the letter reads. "Even though the tribunals still have to evaluate and determine their probative value, they seem to show a pattern of violent actions from influential business people using hit men, private security forces and state security forces to promote violence, intimidation, smear campaigns and false trials against communities and Indigenous leaders – and those who support them – with the objective of stripping the communities of their territories, water and right to defend them."

Berta Caceres – a 43-year-old Indigenous Lenca, teacher and feminist – was known for her environmental activism, which had earned her the Goldman Prize the year before she was killed.

In 2010, the Honduran government granted to DESA a 20-year concession on the Gualcarque river, considered sacred by the Lenca. The company planned to build the Agua Zarca dam, plans against which Caceres led a popular resistance.

After years of defamation and death threats, Caceres was murdered at home by a hit man on March 2, 2016. Mexican activist Gustavo Castro was also injured in the attack.

Among those accused are Henry Javier Hernandez; Sergio Ramon Rodriguez, manager of the Agua Zarca project; Major Mariano Diaz Chavez; former military officer Douglas Geovanny Bustillo; Emerson Duarte; Edilson Atilio Duarte, Oscar Haroldo Torres and Elvin Rapalo.

The trial is scheduled to take place between September 10 and 28, 2018.

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