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A Honduran court convicted on Thursday Sergio Rodríguez, Mariano Díaz, Douglas Bustillo, Henry Hernández, Elvin Rápalo, Óscar Torres and Edilson Duarte of the murder of Honduran indigenous leader and human rights defender Berta Cáceres.
Furthermore, the court convicted Rápalo, Torres, Hernández and Duarte for the attempted murder of Gustavo Castro and absolved Emerson Duarte of all responsibility.
For Oxfam, the advances in the investigations carried out by the Public Prosecutor's Office and the ruling issued by the court are significant steps in the search for justice for the Cáceres family, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) and Gustavo Castro. At the same time, we share the demands of the family and COPINH that the Public Prosecutor's Office carries out a swift, exhaustive and transparent investigation with the full participation of the victims, to identify, prosecute and convict all those responsible.
"The verdict that has just been issued does not satisfy our demands for justice as victims in the murder of Berta Cáceres and the attempted murder of Gustavo Castro", said Berta Zúniga, daughter of Berta Cáceres and Coordinator of COPINH.
"Partial justice is not justice; they have to punish the real actors, those who paid to kill her", said Austraberta Flores, mother of Berta Cáceres, after hearing the sentence and seeing for the first time the murderers of her daughter.
In their ruling, the court judges showed that a high-level executive of the company Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA) and hitmen linked to the Armed Forces of Honduras participated in her murder. In addition, they concluded that her murder was planned and carried out with "full knowledge and consent" of DESA executives, in retaliation for the resistance led by Berta Cáceres and COPINH in the defense of indigenous territories and, specifically, of the Gualcarque River where the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project is located.
This is the reason why the Cáceres family and COPINH have stated that "these sentences are the first step in the search for justice" and demand that investigations continue until all the intellectual authors of the crime are brought to justice.
The trial against Roberto David Castillo, Executive President of DESA, who the Public Prosecutor's Office accuses of being an intellectual author of the murder of Berta Cáceres, will begin in February 2019. However, the Cáceres family and COPINH continue to denounce the reluctance of the Honduran authorities to promptly press charges against all the intellectual authors, which contributes to heightened impunity in crimes committed against human rights defenders in the country.
According to Olivia Zúniga, Berta's eldest daughter and congressional representative, the conviction of DESA’s environmental manager (Sergio Rodríguez), as well as the alleged involvement of its Executive President (David Castillo), must lay the foundation for the definitive cancellation of the concession granted to this company for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project. On 2 March 2018, Olivia presented a bill to National Congress for the cancellation of the concession, which is still awaiting discussion and approval by congressional representatives.