One of the Killers of Berta Caceras was just brought to justice

July 7, 2021

According to Common Dreams, human rights defenders on Monday 5 July 2021 welcomed the conviction of Roberto David Castillo Mejía, a Honduran businessman and former military intelligence officer, for the March 2016 assassination of Indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres, while calling on authorities in the Central American nation to bring everyone involved in planning the murder.

Memorial day: Environmental activist Berta Caceres was killed in her home in March 2016 Photo CC by Trocaire on Flickr.
(Photo CC by Trocaire on Flickr.)

The Guardian reports that the Tegucigalpa high court found Castillo—formerly head of the dam company Desarrollos Energéticos, or DESA—guilty of collaborating in Cáceres’ murder. The court ruled that Cáceres was killed for leading the campaign to stop construction of the $50 million Agua Zarca dam, a local grassroots effort which caused delays and monetary losses for DESA.

The environmentally destructive hydroelectric project is located on the Gualcarque River, which is sacred to the Indigenous Lenca people, and was approved despite its failure to comply with Honduran and international environmental requirements.

Cáceres, who was 44 years old when she was murdered, was co-founder and coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), a group dedicated to the defense of the environment in Intibucá and the protection of the Lenca. In 2015 she received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for leading “a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam” project at Río Gualcarque. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/10/nina-lakhanis-who-killed-berta-caceres-reviewed/

COPINH hailed Monday’s verdict as “a popular victory for the Honduran people” that “means the criminal power structures failed to corrupt the justice system.”

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said in a statement that “the long-awaited prosecution of David Castillo, convicted as co-author of the murder of Berta Cáceres, is an important step towards justice and the result of her family and COPINH’s tireless efforts to secure truth, justice, and reparation. However, justice for Berta will never be truly complete until everyone who took part in the crime, including those who planned it, is brought to justice.

We urge the prosecutors to keep uncovering the truth,” Guevara-Rosas continued. “Until all those responsible are held accountable, other human rights defenders in Honduras will continue to lose their lives, for raising their voices and defending the most vulnerable. The Honduran authorities must put an end to impunity.”

Noting that Honduras is “the most dangerous country for defenders of land, territory, and the environment,” Guevara-Rosas admonished the Honduran government, which she said “seems to look the other way when human rights defenders are attacked instead of fulfilling its obligation to protect them.”

“Authorities must take this seriously and do whatever is necessary to keep human rights defenders safe from harm, so that a crime like the murder of Berta Cáceres is never repeated,” she added.

A 2017 report (pdf) by international legal experts concluded Cáceres’ murder was not an “isolated incident” and alleged “willful negligence by financial institutions.” The report found that the targeting of Cáceres was part of a “strategy” by DESA employees, private security firms, and public officials “to violate the right to prior, free, and informed consultations of the Lenca.”

“The strategy was to control, neutralize, and eliminate any opposition,” the report said.

Berta received several awards: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/2AD0CEE4-80CB-3234-04B4-F2ED7ACBE6C5


http://redgreenandblue.org/2021/07/06/environmental-activist-berta-caceras-murdered-killer-just-brought-just

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