Honduras: victims of corruption must be heard by judges

Press release
en es

Paris — On the eve of the “Fraude al Gualcarque” trial FIDH and its member organisations CAJAR-Colombia, CALDH-Guatemala and CIPRODEH-Honduras urge Honduran judicial authorities to recognize the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) as a victim of the acts of corruption being prosecuted.

Fraud in the Agua Zarca project violated the right of COPINH and the Lenca community it represents to water, a healthy environment, and their cultural, property, and social rights, in addition to their right to consultation. Moreover, the denunciation of this fraud is at the root of the murder of Berta Cáceres, who was COPINH’s representative and an eminent defender of human, land, and environmental rights.

The former manager of hydroelectric company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA), David Castillo, was recently sentenced as a co-perpetrator of Cáceres’ murder. He and other individuals will stand trial for fraud, abuse of power, falsification of public documents, and use of false documents in the licence of the Agua Zarca project. Nevertheless, this hearing will begin without the participation of COPINH, which was excluded as a victim in the trial since August 2019.

The undersigned organisations underscore that COPINH is a victim of this fraud and thus submitted an amicus curiae brief (link in Spanish) to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Honduras, in the Amparo trial presented by COPINH on 4 November 2019. In this brief, FIDH, CCAJAR, CALDH, and CIPRODEH ask Honduran judicial authorities to allow COPINH to participate in the Fraude al Gualcarque trial as a private complainant.

Corruption is not a harmless phenomenon; it is not a victimless crime. Acts of corruption can violate not only public administration but also the human rights of individuals and communities. Victims must be able to participate in criminal proceedings that seek accountability.

For the case in question, COPINH and the Lenca community are direct victims of the fraudulent approval of the project that violated their rights. They are also victims of the occurrences that resulted from the violation of Berta Cáceres’ right to life; she was murdered for having publicly denounced corruption in the Agua Zarca project.

Denied its rightful place in this corruption trial, COPINH is prevented from accusing the perpetrators of corruption responsible for the injustices suffered—wrongdoing that amounts to human rights violations.

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