WOLA calls on the Honduran government to investigate conspirators behind the murder
Washington, DC—After a year-long probe, an investigative panel known as the International Advisory Group of Experts (Grupo Asesor Internacional de Personas Expertas, GAIPE) concluded that Honduran state agents and senior executives of hydroelectric company Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA) colluded in “the planning, execution and cover-up” of the 2016 assassination of activist Berta Cáceres.
“The GAIPE report corroborates that the investigation into Berta Cáceres’ murder has been plagued by incompetence, setbacks, and a blatant lack of political will,” said Adriana Beltrán, Senior Associate for the Citizen Security Program at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).
The report found that the Honduran Attorney General’s Office committed serious irregularities, including failing to act on evidence that would have allowed authorities to identify those who conspired to kill Cáceres. “It is imperative that Honduras’ judiciary adopt all the necessary measures to guarantee a thorough investigation and sanction those responsible for planning and executing this crime,” says Beltrán.
The GAIPE, which includes specialists in international human rights law, international criminal law, and comparative criminal law, was created in November 2016 at the request of the family of Berta Cáceres and the organization which she founded, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). The group’s formation also received support from other national and international human rights organizations, with the aim of carrying out an independent, objective, and impartial analysis of the facts surrounding the attack against Berta Cáceres and her colleague, Mexican activist Gustavo Castro. “The work carried out by the GAIPE clearly demonstrates the importance of international monitoring in this investigation,” said Beltrán.
The outcome of the Cáceres investigation could affect U.S. assistance to Honduras part of which is conditioned on the government making firm progress in protecting human rights, strengthening the rule of law, and combating corruption. “The irregularities and lack of political will to clarify this emblematic case puts the continuation of U.S. assistance in serious jeopardy,” said Beltrán. As stated by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, “Any hope that the Honduran Government may have of continued U.S. assistance under the Alliance for Prosperity Plan will hinge, in part, on the outcome of the Cáceres case, acceptance of the legitimate role of civil society and the independent press, and top-to-bottom reform of the judicial system.”
Berta Cáceres was murdered in the early morning of March 2, 2016, in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibucá department, in western Honduras. Armed men broke down the door of the house where she was staying and shot her. The only witness to the attack was Castro, who was also injured.
As the founder and general coordinator of COPINH, Cáceres fought for the protection of human rights and the defense of natural resources and the environment. In April 2015, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Award, one of the world’s most prestigious prizes for environmental activists.