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Honduras: Failure to identify those behind Berta Cáceres’ murder puts other activists at risk

    March 02, 2018

    The Honduran authorities’ failure to identify those who ordered the brutal murder of the environmental human rights defender Berta Cáceres and bring them to justice puts hundreds of human rights defenders at grave risk, said Amnesty International on the second anniversary of her killing on 2 March.

    “Two years on from Berta Cáceres’ tragic death, the failure to resolve this case and bring all those responsible to justice sends a chilling message that human rights defenders can be killed with impunity if they dare question those with power in Honduras,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “Real justice for Berta also means going after those who ordered her killing, something that this outrageously flawed investigation has failed to do. By not taking action, Honduran authorities are also failing in their obligation to protect human rights defenders from further attacks.”

    On 2 March 2016, Berta Cáceres, a courageous defender of the environment and Indigenous rights, was shot dead by gunmen in her home in Intibucá, Honduras. Together with other members of the Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), she campaigned against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project and the impact it would have on the territory of the Indigenous Lenca People.

    Amnesty International has documented a pattern of threats and increased stigmatization against those who seek truth, justice and reparation for her murder and others who still dare to report on the actions of powerful companies against local Indigenous Peoples or peasant farmer communities.

    Last year, the NGO Global Witness named Honduras the deadliest country in the world for environmental human rights defenders, documenting more than 120 defenders killed there since 2010.

    Amnesty International calls on the Honduran authorities to investigate those involved in ordering Berta’s murder and to seriously consider the proof and lines of investigation proposed by her family and lawyers. The organization also urges the authorities to launch a prompt, thorough and effective investigation into the threats and attacks reported by COPINH and other land and environmental rights defenders, and implement effective protective measures adapted to their needs and according to their wishes.

    Family seeks broader investigation

    A recent report from an independent team of international lawyers hired by the family of Berta Cáceres exposed serious flaws in the official investigation. The report includes evidence that would implicate high-level business executives and state agents in the crime.

    The Honduran Attorney General’s office has arrested eight people in connection to Berta’s murder, including some individuals linked to Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA), the company building the Agua Zarca dam, and others with ties to the military, but COPINH is concerned that no high-ranking officials in the government or the company have been investigated for having allegedly ordered her murder.

    Ahead of the trial which is scheduled to begin in June, the lawyers of Berta’s family and COPINH have called on the prosecutor office and the judicial authorities to ensure that those responsible for ordering the killing of Berta are also investigated and brought to justice.