On August 21, 2020, Judge Carlos Irías de León, a newcomer to the judicial process involving the murder of Berta Caceres, decided to expel her son and daughters, who were to testify against an individual implicated in her murder, David Castillo. The judge also canceled the live transmission that was to be screened on the web page of the Honduran Judiciary.
Irías de León made this arbitrary decision in response to a petition filed by David Castillo’s defense attorneys despite its interference with transparency in the trial and with the right of Berta’s grown children to be present at the hearing.
Castillo is the former Manager of the DESA Company and has been accused of being the liaison between the masterminds and the gunmen responsible for the defender’s murder. .
Berta was assassinated on March 3, 2016, in La Esperanza, Honduras. For more than 20 years, she had been defending the territory, communal property and human rights of the Lenca people. In addition to being a co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH), she struggled along with other rights defenders to stop businesses and multinational corporations from trying to destroy the environment and livelihoods of the country’s indigenous communities.
In 2016, DESA, in alliance with other companies, constructed the Agua Zarca hydroelectric power plant in Lenca indigenous territories, destroying hydric and environmental resources and expelling entire communities. After years of struggle by the Lenca people against the megaproject, armed men assassinated the defender. Several years later, ties between these gunmen, DESA, and its associates were proven in court.
We of the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders of Honduras and the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders hereby make the following demands of the Honduran government:
- Immediate publicity, openness and transparency in the proceedings against David Castillo, former DESA Manager. Justice cannot be achieved behind closed doors.
- The restitution of the right of Berta Cáceres’ daughters and son to take part in the judicial proceedings against David Castillo.
- We take up the demand formerly made by COPINH: “We urge authorities to conduct the hearings without violating due process of law. The judge must hear from the legal team representing the victims.”
We urgently request that the international community, human rights organizations, and social movements join with us in our oversight and demands:
- Immediate comprehensive justice in all proceedings related to defender Berta Cáceres, her family, COPINH and the Lenca people.
- Visibility and condemnation of the obstructions produced by a corrupt legal process that assures the impunity of persons involved in Berta’s assassination.
- Protection for the victims, including Berta’s family, and restitution of the rights that will allow them to be part of the search for justice for the defender.