GENEVA (7 December 2018) – UN experts welcomed the decision of the court in Tegucigalpa to convict the murderers of the environmental rights defender, Berta Cáceres, but reiterated their concern that the masterminds of her murder remain at large.
On 28 November 2018, a Sentencing Tribunal of the Honduran Judiciary in Tegucigalpa convicted seven men of the murder of the Lenca leader, an environmental and indigenous rights defender who was shot dead in her home on the night of 2 March 2016. Significant concerns have been expressed internationally about the trial, particularly regarding the exclusion of victims and the delay in trial proceedings.
Berta Cáceres had led protests and spoken out against the construction of the Agua Zarca dam, which threatened the traditional lands and water resources of the local Lenca indigenous communities. The project was being built on the Rio Gualcarque, a river considered sacred by the indigenous Lenca peoples.
“While we acknowledge that the decision of the court is a positive development, we remain concerned that the intellectual authors and the financiers of the crime have still not been investigated, prosecuted and sanctioned,” the experts said. “We call on the Honduran authorities to ensure complete and transparent justice for Berta Cáceres.”
The experts urged the authorities to provide effective protection for all human rights defenders in Honduras, adding that such protection is imperative for the work of land and indigenous human rights defenders, particularly environmental defenders and those working to protect land rights.
They noted that attacks against human rights defenders – both in Central America and worldwide – often happen because they raise concerns about adverse human rights and environmental impacts of business operations, while States take little or no action to protect them.
The experts have repeatedly appealed to the Government of Honduras to provide justice and to end impunity with regard to the killing of the woman human rights defender, and to ensure the security and protection of all people defending the environment and human rights in the country.
The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli Corpuz, raised their concerns regarding the murder of Berta Cáceres following their official visits to Honduras in 2018 and 2016 respectively. The experts are following up on the issue with the Honduran authorities.
* The UN experts: Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. DavidR. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; The Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises: Mr. Surya Deva, Ms. Elżbieta Karska, Mr.Githu Muigai, Mr. Dante Pesce and Ms. Anita Ramasastry.
The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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