Press release | Nov. 30, 2018

Comment on trial of Honduran indigenous environmentalist Berta Cáceres.

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This week, seven men have been found guilty of the murder of the Honduran indigenous environmentalist Berta Isabel Cáceres.

Cáceres was shot dead in March 2016 in her home town of La Esperanza after protesting the negative human rights impacts of the Agua Zarca hydropower dam – less than a year after she was awarded the 2015 prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. She had received multiple death threats, attempted kidnappings and threats of sexual assault following her opposition to the hydro-electric dam being built on indigenous community land and the sacred Gualcarque River. 

Ben Leather, Senior Campaigner, Global Witness said:

“This ruling proves what Global Witness and multiple local and international organisations have said time and time again: that DESA employees colluded with US-trained current and former soldiers to deliberately murder Berta Cáceres and silence her opposition to the Agua Zarca dam.”

“And it highlights again, the critical importance of ensuring that the intellectual authors of the attack are also brought to justice if these kinds of crimes are to be prevented from happening again. The seven triggermen may be behind bars – but it is imperative that those who ordered and financed the murder do not go free.

“Justice for Berta could go a long way towards ensuring the murder rate of land and environmental defenders in Honduras continues on its downward trajectory - but letting the intellectual authors off the hook could have the opposite effect. We stand by her family, community and organisation COPINH in calling for real justice for Berta.”

Honduras has been the most dangerous country per capita across the majority of years that Global Witness has gathered data. The victims, like Berta, were ordinary people who showed extraordinary bravery to stand against dams, mines, logging or agriculture on their land –murdered by state forces, security guards or hired assassins. Countless others have been threatened, attacked or imprisoned.

In 2017 Global Witness produced a report on attacks on land and environmental defenders in Honduras, highlighting the ties between the Honduran state, its military and DESA, the company building the dam. Most of those prosecuted for Cáceres’ murder have links with the Honduran military or DESA, but Global Witness and COPINH believe they don’t include all of those responsible for ordering her murder, who go higher up the food chain. 

DESA has repeatedly denied any involvement in the murder of Berta Cáceres or any links between the company and the army or powerful business actors.



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