Hydro Electric Firm, Honduran Military on Trial for Planning the Murder of Environmental Activist Berta Caceres
November 4, 2018 teleSUR
Berta Caceres -- a 43-year-old Indigenous Lenca, teacher, and feminist -- was known for her environmental activism, which had earned her the Goldman Prize. Caceres was murdered in 2016. The eight men accused of her murder include members of the Honduran military and executives of DESA, a company that wanted to build a hydroelectric plant that Caceres opposed. The alleged mastermind of the murder plot, DESA Executive President David Castillo Mejia, will face a separate trial.
Hydro Electric Firm, Honduran Military on Trial for Planning the Murder of Environmental Activist Berta Caceres
Honduras: Top Court
Bans Berta Caceres' Family From Murder Trial teleSUR
Caceres was murdered in 2016. The accused include executives who wanted to build a hydroelectric plant she opposed and military men.
TEGUCIGALPA (November 3, 2018) -- 'Guards of Honduras' Supreme Court prevented relatives of slain environmental activist Berta Caceres and members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) from entering the courtroom where the trial against Caceres' suspected-murderers is ongoing.
The COPINH, founded by Berta Caceres, alerted Thursday via Twitter the guards were denying them access. "Once again they violate the right of the victims to be at the hearings," they said.
Berta Caceres was an Indigenous Lenca who fought for years against the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric plant on the Gualcarque River, a project led by Desarrollos Energeticos SA (DESA). Caceres was assassinated on Mar. 3, 2016, in La Esperanza in western Honduras. Gustavo Castro, a Mexican environmentalist, was also shot in the attack but survived.
The legal team of the Caceres family and the COPINH, who claim both DESA and the Honduran state are responsible for Berta's death, have denounced several irregularities, including reiterated delays in the trial and alleged bias by the court. Being barred from the trial is the latest.
On Oct. 26, 28 non-governmental organizations issued a joint statement calling on judicial officials and the state to ensure that the trial for the accused in Caceres' murder be impartial and transparent, after a judge barred the private lawyers of the Caceres family from attending the hearings.
The court argued that the lawyers and Caceres family had abandoned the case because they did not appear at a previous hearing. However, the family and lawyers did not appear because they had requested a new sentencing tribunal alleging the current officials had shown "bias in their decision to limit the scope of the evidence to be reviewed to an extent that it could result in impunity."
Among the accused are Sergio Ramon Rodriguez, manager of Desarrollos Energeticos SA (DESA), in charge of constructing the hydroelectric dam Caceres opposed, Douglas Bustillo (former military man), and Sergio Rodriguez (military officer). In March, DESA's Executive President David Castillo Mejia was charged with masterminding the crime but he will face a separate trial.
'Withhold Evidence' In Berta Caceres Case teleSur
(July 27, 2018) -- 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.
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.
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. Hydro Electric Firm, Honduran Military
Planned Berta Caceres Murder teleSur
"DESA high-level directors, state agents and criminal elements" formed a criminal network to "assassinate Berta Caceres," said a lawyer with GAIPE.
TEGUCIGALPA (November 1, 2017) -- A hydroelectric company that environmental activist Berta Caceres had fought plotted with Honduran military and security forces to kill the Indigenous leader in March 2016, an independent commission has found.
The investigation was carried out by the International Group of Advisors and Expert Persons, which is comprised of several lawyers from Guatemala, Colombia, Holland and the United States and was based on dozens of interviews, court records and partial access to evidence provided by government investigators.
The GAIPE found that high-level executives of Energy Development SA and government officials began planning the assassination of Caceres at least four months before they carried it out.
Roxana Althozt, a lawyer with GAIPE said, "DESA high-level directors, [Honduran] state agents and criminal elements" formed a criminal network to "assassinate Berta Caceres."
Honduran authorities have arrested eight people for the murder, however, the GAIPE investigation points to other suspects.
Caceres was an important and vocal activist within the Civic Council of Popular Organizations and Honduran Indigenous. For over two decades she worked to protect the lands of the Lenca Indigenous of Honduras, and successfully fought DESA's construction of the hydroelectric dam, Agua Zarca on the White River despite continual death threats and militarization of the area by Honduran forces.
A year before Caceres was gunned down in her home in northeastern Honduras, she was the awarded the Goldman Environmental Award for her continued environmental activism against DESA and the hydroelectric dam, located close to Lenca tribe sacred space.
Caceres' family and COPIHN called for the creation of an independent panel in Nov. 2016 in order to investigate the activist's death. The team read through over 2,000 pages related to the case, including "communications intercepted by Honduran authorities," according to Reuters.
Althozt said at the press conference that DESA and police officials collaborated to follow and plot Caceres' death. They also reported other environmental activists in the area were followed.
The Honduran Ministry of Security and Government and DESA did not respond to Reuters request for an interview regarding GAIPE accusations. DESA has repeatedly denied any involvement in the assassination of Caceres.
In an interview Caceres gave to COPIHN when awarded the Goldman prize, she said the Lenca and all Honduran Indigenous are "confronted with a hegemonic project created by national and international 'big capital' based in the energy, mining and agro-industrial sectors, adding, "we formally denounced the [Honduran] state's participation in dozens of hydroelectric projects, but haven't had any positive response."
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Honduras: Carta Internacional por
el Respeto al Debido Proceso de Justicia para Berta Caceres Prensa Comunitaria
Honorable Magistrado Rolando Argueta Perez
Corte Suprema de Justicia
Honorable Magistrado Rolando Argueta Perez:
Las organizaciones internacionales firmantes le escribimos para expresar nuestra grave preocupacion con respecto de los procedimientos legales en el caso de Berta Caceres, defensora de los derechos humanos y lideresa muy reconocida y respetada a nivel nacional e internacional, asesinada el 2 de marzo de 2016.
La violencia y criminalizacion antes de su muerte, documentada y denunciada por parte de Berta, ilustran claramente los patrones de represion contra comunidades indigenas y personas defensoras de los derechos humanos que tienen lugar con frecuencia en Honduras y la region.
Como es de su conocimiento, manana, viernes 27 de julio, el tribunal de Tegucigalpa presidira la Audiencia de Proposicion de Pruebas de ocho de los nueve hombres acusados del asesinato de Berta Caceres. Esta audiencia clave dara forma al juicio oral y publico y tendra un impacto significativo en su resultado.
Sin embargo, existen preocupaciones fundadas de que la fiscalia llevando el caso este socavando la posibilidad de justicia al retener pruebas que la ley hondurena exige se pongan a disposicion de los abogados. El no cumplir con esta garantia procesal podria proporcionar motivos para apelar cualquier decision judicial en el futuro.
Ademas, la evidencia que hace falta podria incriminar a los autores intelectuales del crimen y proveer los fundamentos para acusarlos.
La evidencia reunida en los ultimos dos anos es convincente. Aunque todavia falta que sus tribunales la evaluen y determinen su valor probatorio, parece demostrar un patrOn de acciones violentas por parte de empresarios influyentes que emplearon sicarios, fuerzas de seguridad privada y fuerzas de seguridad del Estado para promover violencia, intimidacion, campanas de desprestigio y el enjuiciamiento falso contra comunidades y lideres indigenas -- asi como contra quienes abogan por ellos --, con el objetivo de despojar a las comunidades de sus territorios el agua y su derecho de defenderlos.
En la audiencia de manana, el fiscal, los abogados defensores y los abogados que representan a la familia de Berta y al COPINH deben presentar las pruebas que pretenden utilizar en el juicio. Sin embargo, hasta la fecha, la fiscalia se ha negado reiteradamente a cumplir con las Ordenes judiciales de entregar la mayoria de las pruebas que ha reunido en la investigacion, lo que ha resultado en la suspension de al menos 5 audiencias previas al juicio.
Esto pareceria constituir desacato al tribunal y obstruccion de la capacidad de las victimas y de los acusados para formular sus estrategias en el juicio.
Es extremadamente alarmante que la audiencia pueda tener lugar en estas condiciones. Los abogados han solicitado acceder a las pruebas reunidas en las investigaciones ordenadas por el tribunal, incluyendo computadoras, tabletas digitales, camaras fotograficas y otros dispositivos de almacenamiento electrOnico incautados durante el proceso de investigacion, asi como documentos de importancia recogidos durante los allanamientos realizados.
El tribunal de primera instancia debe decidir el viernes 27 de julio si procedera la audiencia a pesar de que la fiscalia no cumpla con las Ordenes judiciales, o, de lo contrario, si debe de suspender la audiencia hasta que se proporcione la evidencia requerida a las partes. Como defensores de la justicia y la garantia de los derechos humanos, insistimos en que los tribunales hondurenos garanticen el debido proceso en este caso paradigmatico.
Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad -- Internacional
Protection International -- Mesoamerica
Centro de Investigacion para la Prevencion de la Violencia en Centroamerica, CIPREVICA -- Centroamerica
Atlantic Region Solidarity Network -- Canada
Common Frontiers -- Canada
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network -- Canada
MiningWatch Canada -- Canada
Rights Action -- Canada/Estados Unidos.
Asociacion de familiares de detenidos desaparecidos de Guatemala, Famdegua -- Guatemala
Bufete de los Pueblos Indigenas -- Guatemala
Centro Para la Accion Legal en Derechos Humanos, CALDH -- Guatemala
Hijos e hijas por la identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio -- Guatemala
Instituto Amaq' -- Guatemala
Prensa Comunitaria Km. 169 -- Guatemala
Unidad de Proteccion a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala, UDEFEGUA -- Guatemala
Guatemala Human Rights Commission -- Estados Unidos.
JASS (Just Associates) -- Estados Unidos.
Share Foundation -- Estados Unidos.
The Human Rights Defenders Project -- Estados Unidos.