In June, 2021, the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network initiated this organizational and individual sign-on letter calling for justice for Berta Cáceres.
Canadian Civil Society Calls for Justice for Berta Cáceres in Honduras
Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs
James K. Hill, Ambassador to Honduras
Juan Orlando Hernández, President of the Republic
Mauricio Oliva, President of the Congress of the Republic
Rolando Argueta, President of the Supreme Court of Justice
Lidia Estela Cardona, Solicitor General of the Republic
Oscar Chinchilla, Attorney General of the Republic
Sofia Cerrato Rodriguez, Ambassador of Honduras in Canada
June 25, 2021
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals write to you to underscore the importance of ensuring full access to truth and justice in relation to the assassination of renowned Indigenous Rights Defender Berta Cáceres, in Honduras. In particular, we urge you to act to ensure due process standards in the trial of David Castillo for his alleged role as co-perpetrator in the murder.
Berta Cáceres, co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), was murdered in her home five years ago after leading a campaign to stop the illegal implementation of the "Agua Zarca" hydroelectric project on the Gualcarque River, sacred to the Lenca People. This project, owned and operated by the Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA) Company of the Atala Zablah family, was financed with international funds. In 2018, seven people were convicted of her murder as material authors, while the trial of former military intelligence officer David Castillo, general manager of DESA, began in April 2021 and is scheduled to end this month.
Through the evidence presented by the Public Prosecutor's Office and the private prosecution representing the family of Berta Cáceres, the ongoing murder trial has established that David Castillo was a key player serving as a liaison between the operational hit squad structure, convicted in 2018 and the executive and management/political structure of the DESA company that knew about and consented to the assassination.
The murder of Berta Cáceres on March 2, 2016 has its origins in 2010 when the concession of the Gualcarque River was granted to DESA, a company that committed acts of corruption and coordinated attacks against the Lenca people defending their rights; this has been demonstrated through the parallel "Fraud on the Gualcarque" corruption case, brought forth by the former OAS Support Mission to End Impunity and Corruption in Honduras (MACCIH) and the Special Prosecutor Against Corruption, in which David Castillo is also being prosecuted. Due to the tireless work of Berta's family and COPINH to bring to justice all perpetrators of the crime, and to cancel the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, they face defamation campaigns, threats and intimidation. As a result, they are beneficiaries of precautionary measures by the IACHR, which must be fully implemented and guaranteed.
Berta Caceres’ tragic assassination was a blow not only to the defender community in the Americas, but to the entire world, as it clearly reflected the context of risk that human rights defenders in Honduras face. Berta Cáceres has become a symbol of hope and courage for all people fighting for justice, dignity and the vindication of their rights in the face of the illegal implementation of extractive projects in their ancestral territories.
Honduras is the most dangerous country in the world for land and environmental defenders. According to the latest Global Witness report, Honduras has the highest per capita murder rate of these defenders in the world. The failure to identify and charge all those responsible for the murder of Berta Cáceres puts other defenders at risk and leaves those responsible for the crime unpunished.
It is for these reasons that we urge the Canadian government, through Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa and the Canadian Embassy in Honduras, to impress upon Canada's Honduran colleagues the importance of the Honduran authorities to take all measures to:
1. Ensure that due process guarantees, and judicial independence are fully respected in the trial of David Castillo, accused of being a co-perpetrator of the murder of Berta Cáceres;
2. Guarantee that an impartial, independent, timely and thorough criminal investigation is carried out to identify and prosecute those who ordered or otherwise had a role in the assassination of Berta Cáceres, including DESA company Board Members, major shareholders from the Atala Zablah family and senior state officials who have been implicated in the crime through state evidence during the present trial in order to guarantee the victims' right to truth and justice.
3. Publicly recognize that the defense of COPINH and the rights of the Lenca People, in particular the search for justice in the case of Berta Cáceres, is legitimate and should not be subject to attack and ensure that such recognition is made at the highest level of the Honduran government.
4. Recognize COPINH's role as a victim and private prosecutor in the separate bur related "Fraud on the Gualcarque" case.
5. Ensure that the allegations of attacks on COPINH are investigated in a timely, thorough and impartial manner so that those responsible, both material and intellectual, are brought to justice.
Amnesty International Canada
Atlantic Region Solidarity Network
British Columbia Teachers' Federation
Canadian Foreign Policy Institute
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine (CDHAL)
Fonds humanitaire des Métallos
Food Empowerment Project
Green Turtle Counselling and Consulting
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN)
Mining Justice Action Committee
National Organization of Retired Postal Workerss
Plataforma Canada de Guatemaltecxs Exiliadxs
Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala, Quebec
Todos por Guatemala/All for Guatemala Canada
Andrea Chisholm, ON
Bev Sellars, BC
Brisna Caxaj Quebec
Brisna y Gerry Rowe, Quebec
Caren Weisbart, ON
Carole Woodhall, NS
Catherine Hughes, NS
Coralie Cameron, Nova Scotia, Canada
Cory Greenlees, BC
Diego Mendez, ON
Dirk Groenenberg, New Brunswick
Eric Mills, ON
Harry Smaller, ON
Jackie McVicar, NS
Jacqueline Darroch, ON
Janette Fecteau, Nova Scotia
Joan McFarland, New Brunswick
Joëlle Gauvin-Racine, ON
John Liss, Ontario
Kathryn Anderson, NS
Kathy Price, ON
Kristine Johnston, ON
Laura Avalos, Quebec
Laura Robinson, New Brunswick
Lenora Yarkie Alberta
Lenora Yarkie Alberta
Linda Scherzinger, NS
Lisa Rankin NS
Louis Dupont, Quebec
Marie-Dominik Langlois, PhD student, University of Ottawa
Marie-Eve Marleau, Quebec
Marta Hernandez, ON
Marvin Cohodas, BC
Mélisande Séguin, Quebec
Olivier Spencer, Quebec
Philippa Strachan Nova Scotia
R Leitold, NS
Ruth Leckie, BC
Tito Medina, ON
Wayne Mundle, Nova Scotia