In November 2018, a Honduran court convicted seven people for the murder of indigenous leader and human rights defender Berta Cáceres.
38 months after the unfortunate event, her family and members of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH, for its acronym in Spanish), still demand that the Honduran authorities also investigate, prosecute and convict the masterminds of this crime.
La Esperanza, May 8, 2019
I am writing with concern about the legal proceedings against the persons accused of the murder of my
daughter, Berta Isabel Cáceres and the attempted murder of Gustavo Castro.
In the first place, there is a delay in the delivery of the judgment against the seven people already
convicted according to the judgment issued by the First Chamber of the Judgment Court with National
Territorial Jurisdiction in Criminal Matters on November 29, 2018. According to the penultimate
paragraph of the Article 340 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, any sentence must be delivered within 5
days after the oral ruling. However, five months after the ruling, the Court has not yet delivered the
sentence, thus violating due process, the right to a sentence within a reasonable time and the right to
challenge said decision within the time limits provided by law. This situation was denounced by the
Qualified Observation Mission on April 10, 2019.
Secondly, we observed disturbing irregularities during the preliminary hearing in the case of Roberto
David Castillo Mejía, one of the alleged masterminds of the murder of my daughter Berta Isabel Cáceres.
On April 4, 2019, the preliminary hearing began in which the Public Ministry formalized the accusation
and requested that this case be referred to the stage of oral and public trial. According to the procedure
established in Article 301 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, in the preliminary hearing the accuser
formalizes the accusation, the defense answers charges and the judge decides whether the case is
supported to go to trial. However, in this case the defense, before answering charges, requested that the
testimonies of two experts be heard. The judge's decision was to accept this request, violating due
process. It is not usual to evacuate evidence in this preliminary stage. The Public Ministry filed an appeal
against this resolution which is under review by the Court of Criminal Appeals.
On the other hand, on April 5 the defense of David Castillo filed a complaint with the Prosecutor's Office
for the Prosecution of Justice Officials, against prosecutors Ingrid Figueroa and Javier Núñez, accusing
them of the crimes of using false public documents and violating the duties of the officials, and against
the expert in analysis of telephone interventions Brenda Barahona for the crimes of forgery of documents,
violation of the duties of officials and theft of documents. In addition, on April 8 the defense filed a
challenge against prosecutors Ingrid Figueroa and Javier Núñez and against the expert in the analysis of
telephone interventions Brenda Barahona, accompanying these complaint documents. The court has
remitted this recusal to the Court of Appeals.
The attempt to violate due process in the preliminary hearing seems to be a strategy of the defense to
avoid at all costs a public trial, where the evacuation of evidence is allowed and where there is a higher
level of citizen control through observation of the proceedings. The complaints filed against the two
prosecutors and the expert in the case prior to the demonstration of the alleged falsehoods, can be
considered acts of intimidation and extra-procedural persecution against the main actors of the
prosecution in order to separate them from the case.
As the mother of Bertha Isabel Cáceres, I ask you to maintain the international observation of this case,
as a guarantee of due process and application of justice both for the material authors of my daughter's
murder and for those who ordered and paid for her to be killed.
Austra Bertha Flores López