Honduras: Judicial delay violates access to justice in Gualcarque Fraud case

Crédit Orlando Sierra / AFP

Europe/The Americas, 2 December, 2022.- The national and international organisations that make up the Expert Observation Mission in the Berta Cáceres Case call on the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of Honduras to promptly resolve the consultation on the amparo action that has suspended the trial in the process for corruption in the concession of the Gualcarque River.

On August 22, after all the evidence and conclusions were presented in the “Fraud on the Gualcarque” case, for which Berta Cáceres fought for justice for the Lenca people, the Court of Appeals favorably resolved an amparo previously filed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office for the admission of evidence previously rejected by the Corruption Sentencing Court presiding over the case. The Tribunal has suspended the process while waiting for the Constitutional Chamber to ratify the amparo granted.

It has now been three months of waiting for the decision. The Expert Observation Mission calls for a prompt resolution and no further delays of the decision so that the Corruption Sentencing Court can issue its decision in this process that is widely observed by the national and international community. It is the duty of the Honduran State to guarantee prompt, compliant and effective justice.

This process is emblematic and its decision will have important implications as it is an unprecedented case in Honduras. It is the first time in the country that the victims, Indigenous communities through the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH) and the Indigenous Council of Rio Blanco, were able to become a party to a corruption trial for the violation of their human rights and as a result, exercise their rights in the process.

It is essential that judicial precedents on the impact of corruption on human rights in Honduras can be deepened and set, and this case allows doing so, not only because of the impact on the land and water rights of the Lenca Indigenous community, but also because of the involvement and close relationship between the public denunciation of corruption and the murder in 2016 of the human rights and land defender Berta Cáceres.

In the "Fraude Sobre el Gualcarque" trial, six people are being tried for the crimes of fraud, abuse of authority, falsification of public documents and use of false documents in the concession of the Agua Zarca Project. Among them, the ex-manager of the company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA), David Castillo, was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison on 5 July 2021, as co-author of the murder of Berta Cáceres.

The Expert Observation Mission, whose members have accompanied this trial, was formed in September 2018, by the undersigned organisations, to observe the first trial for the murder of Berta Cáceres, coordinator of COPINH and defender of human rights, territory and the environment. Since then, the Mission has observed and pronounced itself on the two trials and will continue to demand justice for all acts and actors responsible for the murder of Berta Cáceres.

Honduran society and the international community are watching the development of this case and expect that justice will be served, without delay.

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