Independent Commission Should Investigate the Murder of Berta Cáceres

  • Written by  Luciano Joshua González

In the wake of the killing of prominent community leader Berta Cáceres, people in Honduras are asking themselves many questions. Among them is whether the Honduran government can be trusted to truly investigate this crime?  One reason for this is that people remember that Ms. Cáceres was regularly stalked and punished by the authorities for her environmental activism and resistance to government programs that hurt indigenous group such as the Lenca people in Honduras. 

There was an instance where a bus carrying indigenous leaders and organizers was forced to stop by Honduran police prior to entering an area near the construction site of the Agua Zarca dam where Ms. Cáceres was leading a group resisting work on the project. The police believed she was on the bus. They wanted to question her and perhaps try to intimidate her, but it turns out she was not on the bus. Ms. Cáceres has been jailed on numerous occasions for her resistance activities, and she was threatened with jail time countless other times. 

Being a resistance leader in Honduras is a dangerous job—one that requires individuals who are willing to risk their lives and stand up to authorities, often times alone and without much hope of assistance. It takes persons who understand that they may often be treated as if they are outlaws, simply for speaking out, defending their human and civil rights, and demanding justice.

 

It is right that people insist that the murder of Ms. Cáceres be investigated by an international and independent commission with no ties to the Honduran government.  That is the only way to ensure that this case be given the care and attention it deserves.

 

There are many people in Honduras who are certain that the government cannot be trusted with this critical and sensitive investigation. Among them are the mother and daughters of Ms. Cáceres. The oldest daughter, Olivia Marcela, firmly believes the only chance to identify and bring to justice her mother's killer is to allow such a commission to head up the investigation. Many Hondurans share Olivia's view.

 

Whether President Juan Orlando Hernández agrees to an international commission is another matter. It will depend on the level of public pressure he receives in Honduras, as well as from foreign governments and international organizations. Berta Cáceres was internationally recognized and honored for her social activism in Honduras, so that may have an impact.


Note: This article was originally published by The Honduras Report.

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