Honduras: Rights of victims in the Berta Cáceres murder trial are not respected

Press release
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Tegucigalpa-Paris-Geneva, - 9 November 2018 – Our organisations, involved in the international trial observation mission of the trial for the assassination of human rights defender Berta Cáceres on 3 March 2016, express their deep worries concerning the serious violations of the human rights of the victims and the flaws observed during the trial, which started on 19 October 2018.

Our organisations denounce the unacceptable treatment of the victims in this case. During the investigation, which lasted more than two years and which was marred by numerous irregularities, the victims were denied access to the totality of the investigative reports, including key evidence. Furthermore, at the start of the trial on 19 October, the lawyers chosen by Bertha Cáceres’ family to represent them were excluded from the trial without being given a legitimate reason. This trial for murder, which is being held at the First Chamber of the Tegucigalpa Criminal Court, is however emblematic of the violence experienced by those who defend human rights in the Americas.

By excluding the victims’ lawyers from the trial and by forcing them to be represented by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the court has left them without a voice and has violated their rights to a fair trial, to truth, and to effective justice, as demanded by international standards. The victims’ lawyers must be re-admitted as soon as possible,” said Juan Francisco Soto, CALDH Director and FIDH Vice-President.

We have observed a large number of irregularities and flaws, including the fact that the press and the victims have been prohibited from attending and reporting on the hearings, this in clear violation of the principle of publicity of hearings which is a fair trial requirement under criminal procedure. This limitation also impacts the interests of the public, which has a right to know the truth about these crimes, particularly as a guarantee of non-repetition,” said Wilfredo Mendez, CIPRODEH Director.
Furthermore, we consider that the conclusions of independent experts should obligate the Prosecution to deepen the investigation into the links between some companies and those currently facing charges..

Throughout the hearings, the lack of analysis into the context of persecution and attack against COPINH and against Berta Cáceres Flores has been blatant. It is because of this that we ask the Public Prosecutor to deepen this element of the investigation, which would facilitate an understanding of the criminal structures which planned, ordered and executed her murder; and in consequence, would allow to identify the beneficiaries of the crime and to investigate, prosecute and punish the masterminds and high-level perpetrators,” noted Reinaldo Villalba Vargas, Coordinator of the penal branch of the Lawyers Collective CAJAR.

Similarly, the mission observed the recurrent practice of beginning hearings with delays and to suspend them for excessive lengths of time.

Finally, we are particularly concerned about the climate of vulnerability in which human rights defenders operate. Honduras has one of the highest rates in the world of murder of human rights defenders particularly for environmental activists. This is why we ask the State to take necessary and efficient measures to guarantee a safe and conducive environment for the exercise of human rights work.
For more information, please contact :
 FIDH: José Carlos Thissen (Spanish, French, English: + 51 95 41 31 650 / Samuel Hanryon (French, English): + 33 6 72 28 42 94 
 OMCT: Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui: + 41 22 809 49 39

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