Washington, DC—WOLA (the Washington Office on Latin America) considers the arrest of four individuals for their alleged involvement in the heinous murder of renowned environmental activist and human rights defender Berta Cáceres to be a positive step. However, it is imperative to ensure justice and uncover the truth surrounding the murder. For this reason, WOLA calls on the government of Honduras to accept the participation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in the case.
“It is imperative that all those responsible, both material and intellectual, be identified and brought to justice regardless of political or economic status,” said Adriana Beltrán, WOLA Senior Associate for Citizen Security. “The participation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights would be a clear sign that the Honduran authorities are both interested and committed to getting to the bottom of Berta’s murder and achieving justice for her family.”
On May 2, the Public Prosecutor’s Office arrested four people for the murder of the leader and founding member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, COPINH), including a former military officer; a senior member of the Special Forces of the Honduran Armed Forces and instructor of the Military Police of Public Order (Policía Militar del Orden Público); the manager of social and environmental affairs at Desarrollos Energéticos, S.A. (DESA), which manages the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project; and a retired lieutenant who served as DESA’s deputy chief of security. The initial hearing for the four detainees began on Friday, May 6, and all four of the implicated individuals were sentenced to preventative prison on Sunday, May 8. A fifth person was arrested last Friday on suspicion of being in possession of the weapon used in the murder.
Cáceres, who had led a campaign defending the rights of indigenous peoples and opposing the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, had been granted precautionary measures by the IACHR after having reported receiving repeated threats. Due to her work, she was the target of constant harassment from security forces and local government officials.
“Given the context of violence and impunity faced by human rights defenders in Honduras, the state must take urgent steps to ensure their protection and their ability to carry out their work free of any obstacle or insecurity,” said Beltrán.
WOLA Communications Director
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