Honduras: Group of Experts Calls for International Supervision of Honduras police investigation in Berta Caceres’ murder | Press Release

GAIPE, an international group of experts, have examined and reported on the investigation by Honduras of the 3 March 2016 assassination of prominent indigenous land rights activist Berta Cáceres. The report, entitled “Dam of Violence: the Plan to Kill Berta Cáceres,” reveals a failure on the part of Honduras to properly investigate the murder and hold the perpetrators accountable. GAIPE found that the prosecution denied victims’ lawyers access to the file of the criminal investigation and failed to indict individuals known to have participated in the orchestration or execution of the assassination of Berta Caceres. The report calls on Honduras to effectively guarantee a “serious, comprehensive, and exhaustive investigation of the assassination of” Berta Caceres, to investigate the misconduct of authorities previously in charge of investigation, and to properly investigate and prosecute other individuals who suspected of being involved in the assassination.  LRWC has previously called upon the Government of Honduras to ensure an impartial and competent investigation in compliance with Honduras’ international law obligations. Read the executive summary of the report here.

Group of Experts Calls for International Supervision of Honduras police investigation in Berta Caceres’ murder

GAIPE, as the group is known, analyzed over 50 GB of files regarding Berta Caceres’ case provided by the Honduran Public Ministry in May 2016; conducted on-site interviews and obtained additional evidence. The report concludes that the public prosecutor’s office has sufficient evidence to indict the intellectual authors of Berta Cáceres’ murder. 
Washington DC, November 21st, 2017.- A recent report released by an international group of experts presents damning evidence of high-level involvement behind the murder of environmental activist Berta Cáceres.
Initially launched in Tegucigalpa, the group traveled on November 2 to Washington, D.C. to present the report to U.S. Congressional and Senate representatives. The objective of the visit was to demand greater accountability from the United States when providing financial assistance to Honduras’ public security forces, which, the evidence demonstrates,  played a key role in supporting the private actors responsible for Berta Cáceres’assassination.
The visit prompted several statements of support of the initiative by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA); Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committe, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT);  Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD); and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). Additionally, the group met with members of civil society, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, to catalyze additional international support for   additional impartial and independent investigation into the case.
The report, “Dam of Violence: the Plan to Kill Berta Cáceres,”  comes after an analysis of  40,000 pages of telephone call records,  as well as chats, texts, GPS signals, and mails extracted from phones of persons of interest in the death of the former Goldman Prize winner,  The report  provides GAIPE’s group’s conclusions and makes  several recommendations for relevant stakeholders to address the failure of the Honduran authorities to carry out a satisfactory and  and thorough investigation of Cáceres murder.
The report reveals that Honduran authorities failed to indict several high-level suspects, including corporate  executives and members of State security forces.
According to the experts, Honduran government attempted to criminalize Berta Cáceres’ lawful activities in defense of  human rights  and perceived her as an enemy of the state. . Before her death, Berta had mobilized indigenous Lenca communities in a grassroots campaign that prompted the world’s largest dam builder to withdraw from the Agua Zarca Dam project – one of dozens of dam projects approved by the Honduran government on Lenca land. As a result, Berta achieved international acclaim and became the target of death threats and the victim of physical attacks and legal persecution.
The evidence examined by GAIPE indicate that multiple legal charges were filed against Berta Cáceres between 2012 and the time of her death. In the report, the group of experts also demonstrate that Berta was under surveillance by both national and private security agents.
Furthermore, the report highlights that planning for the murder began at least four months in advance, beginning in November 2015. Based on  of the telephone data, sufficient evidence exists to conclude that a prior attempt on  Berta Cáceres’ life took place between February 4 and 5, 2016. However, this attempt failed.
Immediately after the murder, the Cáceres family called for an independent investigation into her death. As a result, in November 2016, the International Expert Advisory Panel (GAIPE) was created at the request of the Cáceres family and with the support of national and international civil society organizations. GAIPE’s mandate was to carry out an impartial and independent examination of the criminal investigation, conduct an analysis of the context in which the attacks occurred, and issue recommendations.
The group’s results illustrate the threats human rights defenders, especially land defenders, face in Honduras.  GAIPE observes that, rather than supporting their role in order to strengthen democracy, the country has failed to protect those working for the public good.
Based on its findings, GAIPE makes a number of recommendations, including that Honduras revoke the concession, licenses, and permits for the Agua Zarca Dam; that the Public Ministry dismantle the criminal network responsible for Berta Caceres’ murder and other crimes by conducting an exhaustive investigation that leads to the prosecution and punishment of the intellectual and material authors; and that international financial institutions provide  all information pertaining to the murder and other crimes; and that the State of Honduras implement effective policies to protect critics and opponents of development projects from reprisals.