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Oxfam expresses its concern about the decision to exclude the victims’ attorneys in the trial for the assassination of Honduran human rights defender and environmental activist Berta Cáceres.
“Impeding the Cáceres family and members of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) from participating in the trial – and, as a result, from having effective and independent legal representation – could gravely compromise their right to due process of law,” said George Redman, Oxfam Country Director in Honduras.
These irregularities were denounced by the Legal Observer Mission, consisting of national and international organizations and experts in human rights, international law, and criminal law, which has been observing the Cáceres trial since August 31.
Three teams of private attorneys representing the victims’ interests – Berta’s children and mother, as well as Gustavo Castro, victim of attempted murder in the same case – were removed from the legal proceedings by the judges of the First Tribunal. Honduran law allows for victims to participate through private attorneys.
The trial was scheduled to begin on September 17 but, as reported by the Legal Observer Mission, was suspended after the victims’ legal team filed a request to disqualify the judges “based on a criminal complaint accusing them of abuse of authority, concealment, denial and delay of justice and violating the duties of public servants.” This petition was rejected by the court.
On October 19, the victims’ legal team, citing several unresolved appeals, did not attend the opening of the trial. As a result, the judges declared that the attorneys had abandoned the proceedings, removed the legal team and assigned the public prosecutor’s office to represent the victims.