Honduras: David Castillo found guilty, Co-perpetrator of the Murder of Berta Cáceres

July 5, 2021.

Berta Cáceres, photo credit: Goldman Environmental Prize.

A Sentencing Court with National Jurisdiction found hydroelectric company executive Roberto David Castillo Mejía guilty as a co-perpetrator for the 2016 murder of environmentalist Berta Cáceres in western Honduras.

The court declared, by unanimous vote, the guilt of Castillo, who must continue with the prison measure pending the sentencing hearing scheduled for August 3, 2021 at 1:30 in the afternoon.

After four months since the beginning of the oral trial, the verdict was announced this Monday morning, July 5, to the expectation of the national and international press that closely followed the hearing transmitted by the Judiciary’s digital platforms.

Berta Cáceres was murdered on March 2, 2016 while sleeping in her home in the Residencial El Líbano in the city of La Esperanza, department of Intibucá, in western Honduras.

At all times the relatives of the environmentalist, who was also coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh), argue that Berta was killed for her opposition to environmental violations in the area.

The spokesperson for the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Yuri Mora, said that at all times the State prosecutor had the burden of proof to demonstrate the guilt of the accused. He added that the Prosecutor’s Office is in agreement with today’s ruling.

In December 2019, a Honduran court sentenced 4 of 8 defendants to 34 years in prison for the murder of Cáceres and 16 for the attempted murder of Mexican Gustavo Castro. Another 3 were sentenced to 30 years in prison as co-perpetrators of the crime.

The persons found guilty were: Mariano Díaz (Army officer), Douglas Geovanny Bustillo (ex-military) and Sergio Ramón Rodríguez, manager of the Agua Zarca Project company; in addition to Elvin Heriberto Rápalo Orellana, Henry Javier Hernández, Edilson Duarte Meza and Óscar Arnaldo Torres Velásquez.

The Prosecutor’s Office acquitted Emerson Duarte Meza, initially accused of concealment, of the charges.

Copinh Statement:

Communiqué: A Popular Victory for Justice for Berta; a Step towards Breaking the Pact of Impunity

July 5, 2021

The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, COPINH, the legal team of the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice, together with the daughters, son and mother of Berta Cáceres on the conviction against the accused David Castillo for the murder of our colleague Berta Cáceres, issued by the First Chamber of the Court of First Instance with National Jurisdiction, we inform the national and international community of the following:

The conviction issued by this court means that the power structures did not succeed, in this case, in corrupting the justice system, and that the criminal structure of the Atala Zablah family, of which the convicted David Castillo Mejía is an instrument, did not achieve its objectives.

We reaffirm that the Berta Cáceres Cause for Justice in Honduras does not end with this resolution but is firmly on track to bring to justice the intellectual authors of this crime, Daniel Atala Midence, José Eduardo Atala, Pedro Atala and Jacobo Atala and other individuals and institutions involved.

We recognize this step of justice as a victory for the people of the world who have accompanied this process, for the solidarity and human rights community.

We demand the immediate cancellation of the concession on the sacred Gualcarque River of the Lenca community and the prosecution of all persons involved in its illegal and corrupt concession.

We demand the dismantling of the criminal networks that currently persist and that acted during the trial to promote impunity for serious crimes exposed during the trial, for which we provide proof.

We denounce the systematic and constant mistreatment of the victims by public officials; it is unacceptable that a victim in his process is cut off from speaking or is denied or obstructed entry to a judicial precinct.

We are deeply grateful for all the accompaniment of the national and international communities, organizations, institutions and people in solidarity that have shared and made it possible to open the paths to justice in this case.

We urge the international and national community to continue in the efforts against impunity in Honduras and to support the worthy efforts of social and popular organizations

Taking up the words of our Berta Cáceres, we reiterate that justice is built by the people from our daily work, with the defense of our territories, the realization of our life projects and the constant struggle against inequalities and injustices.

Given in the feminist camp Viva Berta in the city of Tegucigalpa on the 5th day of July 2021.

Source: COPINH