Honduras: Seven men given prison sentences in the case of the murder of Berta Cáceres

A Honduras court sentenced seven men to prison for the 2016 murder of environmental activist Berta Caceres.  Five of those accused of the murder were sentenced to 50 years in jail and another two to a term of 30 years.  Those already convicted include an employee of the Honduran project operator Desarrollos Energeticos (DESA), an active-duty military officer, and a retired army officer who was a DESA employee. More information on her life, work and murder is compiled here and here.

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Article
2 June 2020

Honduras: New book reveals details of life & murder of Berta Cáceres, renowned defender who protected land & water from DESA dam project

Author: Nina Lakhani, The Guardian

"Who killed Berta Cáceres? Behind the brutal murder of an environment crusader", 2 Jun 2020

The final few months of Berta Cáceres’s life were filled with ominous signs. Just before Christmas 2015, she confided in her sister Agustina that her life was in danger. “The messages never stop, the harassment never stops, they have me under surveillance. They don’t care that I have children. Those sons of bitches are going to kill me.”... Berta was involved in numerous land and water struggles alongside indigenous Lenca communities across western Honduras... Berta had reasons to suspect the hitmen were hired by Desa, the dam construction company. Desa’s trumped-up criminal charges against her and other leaders of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh) had failed to silence them... On 20 February, Berta led a convoy to the Gualcarque, a river considered sacred... to make a stand against the company’s attempt to circumvent indigenous land rights by moving the dam across the shore... Desa’s communities and environmental manager, politely greeted Berta before warning her to turn back. “There are armed men at the river, we won’t be responsible if something happens to you.”... [Her daughter] Laura assumed... meeting the pope and winning the Goldman prize would protect her... [On the night of her killing, her friend Gustavo] ran to her and saw his friend sprawled on her back... struggling to breathe... “Don’t go, Berta! Don’t die! Stay with me,” he begged. But Berta Cáceres was bleeding to death...

This is an extract from Who Killed Berta Cáceres? Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender’s Battle for the Planet by Nina Lakhani published by Verso Books on 2 June.

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Article
3 March 2020

Honduras: Attacks in country surge, four years after defender Berta Cáceres was killed for protecting ancestral land from hydroelectric dam project

Author: Global Witness

"Four years since Berta Cáceres’ assassination, Honduran defenders face greater danger than ever", 02 Mar 2020

In many parts of the world, standing up for the environment is a deadly undertaking. Few places are more dangerous than Honduras... A recent report showed that in 2019, Honduran human rights defenders faced the highest number of these threats than anywhere else in the world...It was four years ago today that Honduran activist Berta Cáceres was assassinated for protecting her ancestral land from the construction of a hydroelectric dam… On 2 March 2016, armed men broke into Berta’s home...and shot her dead. She had dedicated several years to protecting her community’s land in Intibucá... from the construction of the dam which threatened a vital and sacred water source for the indigenous Lenca people… Late last year, seven men were sentenced for their part in Berta’s murder. This is a rare outcome in a country where over 90% of human rights violations, including murders of defenders, go unpunished…

It is exactly this impunity from justice that is fuelling the high level of threats against land and environmental defenders in Honduras… These are people that stand up to powerful vested interests in the mining, logging and agribusiness sectors. According to Global Witness data, indigenous groups have been particularly targeted – as businesses turn to extracting resources in evermore remote areas...

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3 December 2019

Berta Caceres: Seven men sentenced to jail in Honduras

Author: Al Jazeera

…A Honduras court sentenced seven men to prison for the 2016 murder of environmental activist Berta Caceres, a killing that sparked international outrage…

Since 2006, she organised opposition to the $50m Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, where construction came to a halt after completing about one-fifth of the project.

"Five of those accused of the murder ... were sentenced to 50 years in jail and another two to a term of 30 years," said court spokeswoman Lucia Villars…

Activists criticised the dam on the Gualcarque River for what they said would probably cause significant disruptions to their water and food supply and faulted the project for a lack of required indigenous consultations…

Those already convicted include an employee of the Honduran project operator Desarrollos Energeticos (DESA), an active-duty military officer, and a retired army officer who was a DESA employee.

While DESA ran the project, Chinese state-owned Sinohydro, one of the world's largest dam developers, was originally contracted to build it but eventually backed out in 2013.

The sentences announced on Monday, nearly a year after the seven men were convicted, were harshly criticised by Caceres's daughter Olivia Zuniga, who alleged prosecutors sidestepped the main culprits…

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2 December 2019

BOLETÍN: Impunity doesn’t end with a sentence

Author: COPINH (Honduras)

...On December 2, 45 months after the crime and one year after the trial ended, the judiciary issued a judgment against seven material perpetrators for the murder of Berta Cáceres, indigenous leader and co-founder of COPINH and the attempt to murder against Gustavo Castro. Among those sentenced are workers of the company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. and members of the Armed Forces of Honduras...

The Court, in the judgment, confirmed that Berta Cáceres’ leadership in defense of the Gualcarque River along with the resistance action of the Lenca people organized through COPINH “(…) caused the planning and mediation of the way to kill Mrs. Cáceres. all with the knowledge and consent of the executives of the DESA company, including Mr. Sergio Rodríguez and others who are not part of this process. ”

This reaffirms the denounce made since March 2, 2016, by Berta’s family and the COPINH: the murder of our companion Berta Cáceres was an action planned and organized by the executives of the company DESA, with the purpose of ending the resistance of the Lenca people and in complicity with the State of Honduras.

The prosecution and sentencing of the material authors is a necessary step and has been an achievement of the struggle of COPINH, the family, the Honduran people and the solidarity towards the breakdown of structural impunity. However, the Honduran State seeks to silence the pressures of the international community and public opinion...

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