Call for “real justice” for murdered activist Berta Cáceres

HONDURAS - As the trial of eight men charged with the murder of Honduran indigenous leader Berta Cáceres begins, global organisations are calling for “real justice”.

 Global Witness and the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH) – co-founded and led by Ms Cáceres at the time of her death – are calling on the Honduran government to prosecute those who ordered the murder, not just the eight accused of pulling the trigger.

 Global Witness spokesperson Billy Kyte said those who ordered the attack “must be found, exposed and charged too”.

 “Honduras is one of the deadliest places in the world for land and environmental defenders and will remain so until the government tackles the root causes behind these crimes, such as impunity,” he said. “Berta’s case is a historical opportunity to push back against this tide and the government must act now to ensure real justice is served.”  

 Berta Cáceres was shot dead on March 2, 2016, in her home-town of Tegucigalpa. Her close friend, Mexican activist Gustavo Castro, was wounded during the attack. Both had been vocal opponents of the construction of the Agua Zarca hydropower dam on the Gualcarque river in Rio Blanco. 

 Opposed to the dam being built on indigenous community land, Cáceres’ protests led to multiple death threats, attempted kidnappings and threats of sexual assault.

 A 2017 Global Witness report on attacks on land and environmental defenders in Honduras, highlights the ties between the Honduran state, its military and Desarrollos Energéticos, S.A. (DESA), the company behind the dam. 

 Most of the eight men currently on trial for Cáceres’ murder have links with the Honduras military or DESA, but, according to Global Witness, none of these men issued the orders.

 Ms Cáceres’ daughter, Berta Zúniga Cáceres, who now serves as the general coordinator of COPINH, is passionate about justice for her mother but also has her eye on the big picture.

“We don’t want this trial to just be about ‘Justice for Berta,’ but rather, a contribution towards structural changes in the country,” she said. “It should serve to denounce and transform the root causes of murders, persecution and repression that are left in impunity in Honduras.”

 According to Global Witness, since the 2009 military coup, 130 environmental activists have been killed in Honduras.