Honduran Supreme Court Must Act Now to Bring Justice for Berta Cáceres

Publish Date: 
Thursday, May 16, 2024

Environmental leader, and coordinator of COPINH, Berta Cáceres, was murdered on 3 March 2016 for her resistance to the Agua Zarca Dam.

As a network of over 300 social movements, Indigenous Peoples, and human rights organizations from across 76 countries, ESCR-Net - International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, members are united in our solidarity with our fellow member the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). We affirm our unwavering demand for justice in the tragic murder of our dear friend and comrade Berta Cáceres. Berta fearlessly defended the rights of her community, of the Lenca people and other Indigenous Peoples, in their struggles for self-determination. 

More than eight years after her brutal assassination,  we are deeply concerned by the extended delays in the legal process, where the sentences of those responsible for her murder have yet to be confirmed. This raises serious questions about access to justice in Honduras and reinforces a larger system of impunity common across many of our countries.

Berta Cáceres' tragic assassination underscores the perilous circumstances Indigenous women human rights defenders often face, particularly when their activism challenges powerful political and economic interests. As Coordinator of COPINH, Berta was a leading voice and organizer against the Agua Zarca Dam project, an extractivist megaproject which posed severe threats to both the environment and the rights of the indigenous Lenca people. Her untimely death is a grim testament to the risks endured by Indigenous women who stand at the forefront of the struggle for land and environmental rights.

In response to international outcry and relentless campaigning by activists and human rights defenders, significant legal proceedings were initiated. David Castillo, former executive of Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA), the hydroelectric company commissioned by the Honduran state to lead the Agua Zarca Dam Project and initially financed by Dutch and Finnish development banks, was sentenced in June 2022 to over 22 years in prison for his role as a co-author in Berta’s murder. Additionally, seven other individuals were convicted in November 2018, receiving sentences ranging from 30 to 50 years for their direct involvement in the crime.

However, the final confirmation of these sentences remains pending, exacerbating the anguish of Berta’s family, members of COPINH and supporters. This protracted judicial delay is unacceptable and underscores the many obstacles that characterize our fight against impunity which serves only to perpetuate cycles of violence, corruption and impunity.

We, therefore, urge the Supreme Court of Justice of Honduras to finalize the judicial processes related to Berta Cáceres’ murder and confirm the sentences without further delay. It is imperative that all those involved, including the intellectual authors of this heinous crime, are held accountable. 

The Supreme Court of Justice has the opportunity and obligation to protect the right to justice of Berta, her family, and the Lenca people, and address the abuse of power by corporations who use violence against indigenous communities in pursuit of profit, causing irreparable environmental damage and threatening the survival of their people.

As we continue to raise our voices in solidarity with Berta's family and all defenders of human rights, we remind the Honduran State of its international human rights obligations to respect and protect its citizens and ensure justice prevails. The eyes of the world remain watchful, and our resolve to support justice and accountability in Honduras remains unyielding.

For Berta, all truth, all justice.

An Urgent Letter to the Honduran Supreme Court

In addition to this statement, in May 2024, ESCR-Net sent a letter to the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice, addressed to Justice Rebeca Ráquel Obando. Signed by Executive Director Chris Grove, the letter urged the Court to urgently resolve the pending cassation appeals in the case of the murder of Berta Cáceres, underscoring the importance of swift action to ensure justice and comply with Honduras' international human rights obligations.

Read the letter here (Spanish)



Additional Resources:

*To learn more about Berta’s case and the struggle of the Lenca Peoples, please visit COPINH at: https://copinh.org/category/berta-caceres/ 
You can also read the report as well as this statement from the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders ( IM-Defensoras)’