Honduran environmental rights defender Berta Cáceres was killed by a criminal structure that spanned from senior executives of an Honduran dam development company to state officials and criminal organizations, according to an international group of lawyers reviewing the investigation.
"The existing proof is conclusive regarding the participation of numerous state agents, high-ranking executives and employees of Desa in the planning, execution and cover-up of the assassination," the lawyers wrote in a report reviewed by the New York Times.
Cáceres and other members of her organization, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, known as Copinh, were known internationally for their struggle against a dam planned on indigenous Lenca community land. Desarrollos Energéticos, known as Desa, is the Honduran company holding the dam concession.
About 40,000 pages of text messages seized by government investigators show that the orders to threaten Copinh and sabotage its protests came from Desa executives who were exercising control over security forces in the area, issuing instructions and paying for police units’ food, lodging and radio equipment.
Though eight suspects are in custody, including a Desa employee and a retired army lieutenant who also worked for the company, the international group of lawyers say there is no sign the official government investigation has moved beyond them to the ultimate masterminds of the assassination. The group says the evidence reviewed demonstrates a plot that goes far beyond the eight aprehended suspects and points towards state agents, reports CNN Español.
The group of prominent human rights lawyers from the U.S., Colombia and Guatemala -- Grupo Asesor Internacional de Personas Expertas (GAIPE) -- was chosen chosen by Bertha Zúñiga, Cáceres’s daughter, with recommendations from the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), according to the NYT.
The piece also examines Desa's history and relationship to powerful Honduran business groups. The OAS backed anti-impunity commission, MACCIH, is investigating Desa’s contracts, a move that has angered some of the country's elite.
Environmental activists regularly face mortal danger in Honduras, where more than 120 activists have been murdered in the last eight years. A recently approved law that could be used to label protest organizers as criminals or terrorists now makes the burden of activism even greater, notes the Wire.
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