Statement from the family of Berta Cáceres on Honduran government deception

It has been 15 months since the assassination of our beloved Berta and the Honduran government continues to obfuscate, delay and impede justice. Our family and our legal team have repeatedly requested documents pertaining to the case that we – by law as a private prosecutor — have a right to have. Yet, the Attorney General and Pubic Ministry have refused to hand over relevant information, violating a court decision.

An example of the hubris with which they operate is that the hearing that began on April 19, 2017 was forced to suspension because the Public Ministry had not provided the family’s legal team with the necessary information.  The court stated the information would be provided on April 28, 2017, however this has yet to happen.   Our legal team went so far as to offer to pay for photocopies, and yet they still will not provide the information.  The legal team has also asked why the government did not seize certain relevant documents during raids conducted at DESA’s offices and is asking why they have not shared the information they did seize.

The government’s machinations illustrate exactly why there is a need for an independent international investigation as we — and the international community — have demanded since Berta’s assassination in early March of 2016.

We demand that the government stop covering up for the assassins and the yet-to-be captured intellectual authors. Is the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez afraid of where a legitimate, unobstructed investigation might lead? Who are they protecting?

We demand justice for Berta.

The Family of Berta Cáceres

Rep. Norma Torres Refuses Family of Berta Cáceres’ Call to Support Berta Cáceres Act

 
(Rep. Norma Torres D-CA with Honduran Pres. Juan Orlando Hernandez)

First, I would like to offer my heartfelt and sincere condolences for your loss. To lose a loved one in such a violent manner is a tragedy that none of us should have to face. To be forced to wait so long to see justice done is simply unacceptable.

Like many people across the world, I was shocked and outraged when Berta Caceres was killed on March 3, 2016. It was clear to me then, and it remains clear to me now, that her murder was not only an unspeakable act against a brave individual, but also an attack against the right of all Hondurans to speak out in defense of human rights, indigenous rights, and the environment. I have joined my colleagues in calling for justice, and in particular for calling on Honduras to invite the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation. I have also sent letters about these concerns to the Secretary of State and to the United States Ambassador in Honduras, and my colleagues and I have raised the case of Berta Caceres with representatives of the Honduran government, including the President of Honduras.

Human rights are at the core of the United States’ relationship with Central America. We will continue to hold our partners in the region accountable, and I have supported strong conditions on our assistance to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Furthermore, I believe that improving protections for human rights defenders and improving the capacity of justice systems to investigate and prosecute violent crimes must be top priorities for our assistance in Honduras. However, as you note in your letter, I have not cosponsored the Berta Caceres Act. While I share many of the goals of that legislation, I do not believe that suspending all civilian security assistance to Honduras is the best way to achieve those goals.

Please know that I will continue to advocate for truth and justice in the case of Berta Caceres’ murder. Furthermore, I will work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that we hold our partners in Central America accountable for making progress on human rights issues.

Sincerely,

NORMA J. TORRES Member of Congress

Letter to Rep. Norma Torres Asking for Berta Cáceres Law Support

Family of Berta Cáceres XXXX Xth Ave.
Oakland, California XXXXX

March 2, 2017

3200 Inland Empire Blvd. Suite 200B
Ontario, CA 91764

Dear Rep. Norma Torres,

We, the family of assassinated Honduran environmental and indigenous rights leader Berta Cáceres, write to you today to appeal for your support for the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which was introduced this week in the U.S. House of Representatives

As the first Central American to serve in Congress and as a leader of the Central American Caucus in the House of Representatives, your knowledge and leadership on issues involving Latin America is crucial. We believe that your support for the Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act will further strengthen your standing as an advocate for Central Americans and human rights, both in the U.S. and in Honduras.

The Cáceres Act calls for the suspension of “…United States security assistance with Honduras until such time as human rights violations by Honduran security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice,” for wide-ranging human rights abuses, such as the murders of dozens of activists including 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, Berta Cáceres.

A government that fails to protect its citizens and whose security forces are implicated in attacks and killings of activists should not be receiving security funding and training from the U.S. government.

In Berta’s case, after dozens of death threats and attempts to jail her on trumped up charges by state and non-state affiliated security forces, she was finally silenced. Three state security agents – one active and two former – are among those implicated in her killing so far. A former member of the military police, now in hiding, reported that Berta’s name was at the top of a “hit list” that his U.S.-trained unit received. The former soldier told the Guardian that he was “100% certain that Berta Cáceres was killed by the army.”

With Berta’s assassination, Honduran girls and boys lost a heroine, someone they could look up to proudly and who they wanted to emulate. The subsequent investigation into her assassination has made a mockery of proper law enforcement procedures. The incompetence ranges from a trampled crime scene to the inexplicable disappearance of one of Berta’s computers from her house, to the burglary of her case files from a magistrate’s car and the arbitrary detention and torture of the key witness to the killing.

For many Hondurans and friends of Honduras, the killing of Berta – one of the country’s most beloved and high profile activists – was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Since 2009, hundreds of social leaders have been murdered in Honduras, often with the alleged complicity of state security forces. The vast majority of these killings are never investigated, and those responsible are never brought to justice.

As the original Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act states in its findings, “Impunity remains a serious problem, with prosecution in cases of military and police officials charged with human rights violations moving too slowly or remaining inconclusive.” It adds: “[T]he Department of State in its 2015 Human Rights Report for Honduras reports “corruption, intimidation, and institutional weakness of the justice system leading to widespread impunity.”.

This is why we ask for your help in supporting the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act. It is increasingly clear that the government of Juan Orlando Hernández is unwilling to act decisively to stop the killings of social activists in Honduras and to conduct honest and thorough investigations of killings and attacks. In addition the government has consistently failed to respect basic indigenous land rights as it is required to do under its international treaty obligations.

We ask you to stand with us, with Honduras, with Berta and our family.

Respectfully,
The Family of Berta Cáceres

Activists Family Asks Congresswoman to Support Act to Stop Honduran State Repression

Link to original report.

Human rights activists argue that Washington has blood on its hands for its complicity in abuses carried out by Honduran state forces.

One year after the assassination of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Caceres, human rights organizations and Indigenous communities continue to demand justice in the case, while the international branch of the struggle pressures to an end of U.S. funding for police and military forces accused of human rights abuses in the Central American country.

Caceres’ family sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Representative Norma Torres to ask for her support for the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which was reintroduced the same day to the House of Representatives after stalling without adequate support since last year. The bill seeks the suspension of Washington’s security aid to Honduras until the country fulfills more rigorous human rights conditions — including an end to abuses by the police and military and justice in cases like Berta Caceres’ murder.

“It is increasingly clear that the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez is unwilling to act decisively to stop the killings of social activists in Honduras and to conduct honest and thorough investigations of killings and attacks,” Caceres’ family members state in the letter to Torres, urging her to “stand with” them and with Honduras. “In addition, the government has consistently failed to respect basic indigenous land rights, as it is required to do under its international treaty obligations.”

The original U.S. bill inspired by Caceres’ murder paints a grim picture of Honduras’ grave human rights situation, including the lack of justice in cases like Caceres’ murder. “Impunity remains a serious problem, with prosecution in cases of military and police officials charged with human rights violations moving too slowly or remaining inconclusive,” it states, adding that the U.S. State Department itself reported in 2015 problems of “corruption, intimidation, and institutional weakness of the justice system” in Honduras.

Caceres’ family addressed the letter to Torres to ramp up individual pressure for support of the bill. Torres, the first and only Central American in Congress and the founder of the bipartisan Central American Caucus, has faced criticism for aligning herself with the Honduran government, backing Washington’s controversial Alliance for Prosperity security aid package for Central America’s Northern Triangle and for refusing to support the Berta Caceres bill.

“We believe that your support for the Berta Caceres Human Rights Act will further strengthen your standing as an advocate for Central Americans and human rights, both in the U.S. and Honduras,” the family wrote in its letter to Torres, imploring her endorsement of the bill.

Caceres’ family also highlighted in the letter the involvement of active and former members of the military — including suspects trained at the infamous U.S. School of the Americas — in her murder, underlining the urgent need for more rigorous conditions on security aid to Honduran state forces. A former member of the military police in Honduras revealed to the Guardian that her name had been at the top of a “hit list” that a U.S.-trained unit received.

“A government that fails to protect its citizens and whose security forces are implicated in attacks and killings of activists should not be receiving security funding and training from the U.S. government,” the letter stressed, adding that Caceres’ murder is only one example among scores of assassinations, attacks and other forms of intimidation targeting activists in the country.

According to a recent report by the international rights organization Global Witness, 120 land and environmental defenders have been killed in Honduras since 2010 after an increase in state-sanctioned abuses in the wake of the 2009 U.S.-backed military coup.

Meanwhile, in Honduras, members of the organization that Caceres founded — the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras or COPINH — held a march Wednesday in the capital city Tegucigalpa demanding justice one year after her death.

They blasted Honduran authorities over the fact that, to this day, the motive for her assassination has not been identified and perpetrators in the killing not brought to justice. Demonstrators with banners shouted slogans demanding that authorities arrest the masterminds behind Caceres’ murder.

Caceres rose to international prominence for leading the Indigenous Lenca people in a struggle against a controversial hydroelectric dam project in the community of Rio Blanco that was put in motion without consent from local communities. She was also a key leader in the post-coup resistance movement that demanded a constituent assembly to rewrite the Honduran Constitution.

For her environmental and land defense work, she was awarded the prestigious 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, while at the same time suffering dozens of death threats and other forms of harassment. Berta Caceres was shot dead just before midnight March 2, 2016, when gunmen stormed her house and attacked her.

Caceres’ family claim that the Honduran company behind the hydroelectric project she fought against, Desarrollos Energeticos or DESA, and the Honduran government hired contract killers to murder her and other activists.

Her family and fellow activists insists that her legacy will continue to inspire a movement for rights and justice.

In a statement ahead of the anniversary of her murder, Caceres’ COPINH reiterated calls for justice and an end to unwanted corporate projects on Indigenous land and vowed to forge on in the struggle that Caceres championed in the name of a “just society where life is respected.”

“One year after Berta’s murder, she continues teaching us that ideas cannot be killed and the processes of the people cannot be stopped,” the organization said. “May she continue to be present and our task continue with her legacy of resistance and struggle against injustice.”

CNN: Berta Cáceres’ family seeks justice on anniversary of fearless activist’s death

Link to original post.

(CNN)In one of the most dangerous countries in the world, one woman paid the ultimate price for her cause.

One day before her 45th birthday on March 3, 2016, Berta Cáceres was shot dead in her home after years of threats to her life for her work as a fearless human rights activist.

The mother of four, herself a member of the indigenous Lenca group, was a hero to rural indigenous populations in Honduras, who have been under constant threat in recent years from groups wanting to build mega-projects such dams and mines and carry out logging on their land.

She was tireless in their defense.

Awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, Cáceres was regarded as one of the world’s leading grassroots environmental activists.

On the one-year anniversary of her death, we speak to her nephew and one of her close friends about her lifetime protecting human rights — and their fight for justice — in one of the world’s most corrupt nations, as ranked by Transparency International.

Strong female role model

Growing up in the 1980s, Cáceres was no stranger to the violence of Central America and civil wars in Honduras and neighboring El Salvador.

Her mother, Austra Bertha Flores López, was throughout her life a midwife, two-term mayor of their hometown of La Esperanza, a congresswoman and a governor.

She also helped many El Salvadoran refugees fleeing a bloody civil war which started in 1980.
Berta Cáceres, pictured as a toddler in Honduras. Her nephew says she learned from a young age to care about less fortunate people.

Berta Cáceres, pictured as a toddler in Honduras. Her nephew says she learned from a young age to care about less fortunate people.

“She was raised by a powerful woman,” Karen Spring tells CNN. Spring befriended Cáceres in 2009 while working as the coordinator for the Honduras Solidarity Network, a Canadian-U.S. group which supports social causes in the country.

“She (Cáceres’ mother) taught her about indigenous communities, the difficulties of indigenous women, and the racism they lived with. Berta was raised in that environment,” explains Spring.

Before this time, there was generally little tension with the Lencas because their lands had not been targeted for development projects, explains Caceres’ nephew Silvio Carrillo.

Carrillo says Cáceres’ mother (his grandmother), looked out for the underprivileged Lencas of the region, who often lacked access to education, and were subject to what he calls “pervasive racism.” This had a huge influence on Cáceres’ views.

“Every day my grandmother tended to tens of dozens of indigenous people that would come down from the mountain to get healthcare,” says Carrillo, a California-based journalist who is working to forward the investigation into his aunt’s murder.

“She helped give birth to over 5,000 children. Berta saw this every day of her life.

“Imagine what that did to her?”

Back to the beginning

To truly understand Cáceres, one must examine Honduras’ recent history, struggles and its increasingly dangerous atmosphere.

She was superwoman. In a place that doesn’t have heroes, she’s a true hero to so many.

Silvio Carrillo, nephew of Berta Caceres

In 1993, Cáceres co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) with her ex-husband Salvador Zúniga, who she met in her teens.

The organization helped fight for the Lenca people’s rights as they witnessed the destruction of their homeland and rivers.
Because of her upbringing, Cáceres had realized that despite indigenous rights being recognized by law, many indigenous groups lacked clear titles to their land and suffered land grabs by powerful business interests, said Carrillo.

This conflict over land is the main driver of violence against Honduran activists, says watchdog Global Witness.

COPINH grew to defend about 240 Lenca communities, who live in western Honduras and El Salvador, and campaigned against the privatization of their land, says Spring.

As the organization grew, so did Cáceres’ profile in Honduras.

“(Cáceres) had such an amazing political clarity and understanding of global issues,” recalls Spring.

She was invited all over the world to speak because of her ability to “connect the local to the global.”

Cáceres spoke in Europe, Asia, Latin American and at the United Nations about her work and the plight of indigenous groups everywhere.

Charisma, according to Spring, was her biggest weapon.

“She had the ability to go and talk to poor families, but could also walk into the Honduran Congress and relate to them, and talk on their level. She was a force to be reckoned with,” says Spring.

“It was really hard for any corporation to push forward any project without having to deal with her.”
Carrillo agrees.

“She was a threat. They (those in power) had a problem on their hands. She was clearly on the right side of the people and the law and there’s no impunity in Honduras,” he says.”There was no other way to stop her … she was an obvious problem.”

Troubled country

In 2009, a coup by the Honduran military removed President José Manuel Zelaya from office.
Since then Honduras has sunk to new levels of corruption and danger say both Carrillo and Spring, and reports from human rights groups support their claims.

In its 2016 annual report, Amnesty International describes “a general climate of violence that has forced thousands of Hondurans to flee the country. Women, migrants, internally displaced people, human rights defenders — especially… environmental and land activists — (are being) targeted with violence.”

It also asserts that “a weak criminal justice system (has) contributed to a climate of impunity.”
Graphic created by Sofia Ordonez

It’s in this environment that more than 120 environmental activists have been killed in Honduras since 2010, making it the most dangerous country in the world for environmental activists, according to Global Witness.
The Honduras Secretary for Human Rights declined to reply to the accusations in Amnesty International’s report, when approached by CNN.

Amnesty International says Honduras has to protect human rights activists.

“Honduras has turned into a ‘no-go zone’ for anyone daring to campaign for the protection of the environment. How many more activists have to be brutally murdered before the authorities take effective action to protect them, or even be willing to talk about this crisis?” says Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

The Honduran government has repeatedly said it works hard so those responsible for the crimes are brought to justice, and to ensure that the most vulnerable groups are not bothered or attacked.

When CNN reached out to the Honduran government it provided a press release urging the Prosecutor’s Office to continue its investigation into Cáceres’ case, and expressing their satisfaction with the course of the investigation so far.

Brave work

As Honduras was spiraling into poverty, Cáceres’ fame grew — at a time when she became increasingly critical of the government in an increasingly dangerous environment.

In 2010, she began working on what was to become her best-known — and most dangerous — project.

The Agua Zarca dam was to be built on the Gualcarque River, the spiritual home of many Lenca and a vital source of water and food to the communities that live on its banks.

Over a period of five years, Cáceres was instrumental in a campaign that eventually stopped the dam from being built.
But regular threats, which began in 2013, started to grow.

“She had at least 30 threats to her life via text, voicemail or in person,” said Carrillo.
Three years later came that fateful shot in the night.

“Berta’s assassination wasn’t about one project, it was a calculated assassination of a woman that had gained so much prominence, reputation and power, not through money or academic credentials, but of her lifelong work to defend human rights in the region,” says Spring.

“After the coup, she led the social movement to stop and denounce it. Because of this, she lost her life. She was killed.”

Dangerous place to be an activist

Today, COPINH continues the fight against similar projects.

And Spring points out that when she visits the Lenca communities there is still a lot of hope and happiness.

“Berta said, ‘Well, we always have happiness to help us keep moving forward. They can’t take that away’. That became her slogan,” says Spring.

Cáceres’ nephew continues fighting to keep her case on the government’s radar, and he says that although they have made arrests linked to her death, they must do more to bring justice for her and her family.

This week, the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, said that the executive power is available to provide support to the prosecutor’s office and added that the government of Honduras will do everything they can to get justice.

To date, eight people have been detained by the authorities in connection to Cáceres’ death, including the man who managed the Agua Zarca dam project for Desarrollos Energeticos.

The authorities, however, have said they are yet to capture the “intellectual authors” of this murder. But the family says that is not enough.

“We have to denounce who designed the crime, who planned it, who paid for it, and also the people inside the company who promoted the harassment, prosecution, criminalization that lead to her being murdered,” Cáceres’ daughter, Berta Zuniga Cáceres, told CNN en Español.

The company denies involvement in the killing or any wrongdoing.

“The family has been asking for an international independent investigation to find the masterminds because there is little confidence in a place as corrupt as Honduras that they will be found and tried,” says Carillo.

In a statement to mark the anniversary of Cáceres’ killing, Susan Gelman, president of the Goldman Environmental Foundation, described her death as an immeasurable loss to “grassroots activists around the world who stand at the frontlines of climate change and destructive development projects.”

She added: “We carry on with heavy hearts, filled not with sadness but with determination and what Berta called the best form of resistance: joy.”

Carrillo notes that there is a Honduran saying that Cáceres’ family and friends keep repeating: “Berta no murió, se multiplico.”

In English the meaning is just as poignant.
“Berta didn’t die, she multiplied.”

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On Berta Caceres on the One Year Anniversary of Her Killing

Link to original post

Mr. President, I want to call the Senate’s attention to the fact that it has now been one year since the assassination of Berta Caceres, a renowned indigenous Honduran environmental activist who devoted her life – and ultimately lost her life – defending the land, water, and other natural resources of the Lenca people.

After an initial attempt by the Honduran police – and even some high ranking officials – to falsely portray the murder as a crime of passion, which is a not uncommon ploy to cover up official complicity in such cases, eight men have been arrested including one active duty and two retired military officers.

Although Honduran officials have denied any government involvement in Ms. Caceres’ murder and downplayed the arrest of Major Mariano Díaz who was promptly discharged from the army, there are reasons to be skeptical.

Díaz, a decorated Special Forces veteran, was appointed chief of army intelligence in 2015, and at the time of the murder he was reportedly on track for promotion to lieutenant colonel. Another suspect, Lieutenant Douglas Giovanny Bustillo, reportedly joined the military on the same day as Díaz. They served together and apparently remained in contact after Bustillo retired in 2008.

It is particularly noteworthy and troubling that, according to press reports, both Díaz and Bustillo may have received military training from the United States.

A third suspect, Sergeant Henry Javier Hernández, was a former Special Forces sniper who had worked under the command of Díaz. He may also have worked as an informant for military intelligence after leaving the army in 2013.

According to press reports, First Sergeant Rodrigo Cruz, a former army officer who deserted after Caceres’ death and remains in hiding, said the Honduran military high command gave a hit list with the names and photographs of activists to eliminate to the commander of the Xatruch multi-agency taskforce, to which Cruz’ unit belonged, and that Caceres’ name was on the list. It sounds a lot like the death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s.

Five civilians with no known military record have also been arrested. They include Sergio Rodríguez, a manager for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam that Berta Cáceres had long opposed.

That project is being led by Desarrollos Energéticos SA, (Desa), with international financing and the strong backing of the Honduran government. According to press reports, the company’s president, Roberto David Castillo Mejía, is a former military intelligence officer, and its secretary, Roberto Pacheco Reyes, is a former justice minister. Desa employed former Lieutenant Bustillo as head of security between 2013 and 2015.

Ms. Cáceres had reported multiple death threats linked to her campaign against the dam, including several from Desa employees. The Honduran government largely ignored her requests for protection, and Desa continues to deny any involvement in the murder.

Mr. President, it is inconceivable to anyone who knows Honduras that this outrageous crime was carried out by these individuals without orders from above. The question is whether the investigation will identify the intellectual authors, which almost never happens in Honduras. In fact, as Global Witness, the U.S. Department of State, and others have documented there have been scores of killings of environmental activists in Honduras that have never been credibly investigated and for which no one has been punished.

I have no doubt that one of the reasons this case has progressed at all is because U.S. law enforcement experts, supported by the U.S. Embassy, have assisted in the investigation, and because of the efforts of Honduran Attorney General Oscar Fernando Chincilla.

However, as I have said before, in Honduras where impunity is the norm, a case of such domestic and international importance should also be the subject of a parallel independent investigation. The obvious entities to convene such an inquiry are the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH). Yet the Honduran government continues to reject such an inquiry.

The United States and Honduras have a troubled history, yet we and the Honduran people share many interests. We want to continue to help Honduras address the deeply rooted poverty, inequality, violence and impunity that have caused so much suffering and hardship and contributed to the migration of tens of thousands of Hondurans, including children, to the United States.

But for this Senator that requires solving the Berta Caceres case and undertaking credible investigations and prosecutions of the shocking number of assassinations of other social activists, journalists, and human rights defenders in recent years. It means Honduran officials publicly affirming and defending the legitimate role of such activists, who in the past have been ignored, threatened, and treated as legitimate targets. Only then will it be clear that the Honduran government is committed to justice, and that our assistance will achieve lasting results.

The Department of State needs to thoroughly and transparently investigate whether Major Diaz and Lieutenant Bustillo were in fact trained by the United States. If so, the Congress and the Honduran people deserve to know how they were selected, what training they received, and any steps taken to improve the process of screening potential trainees and to monitor the conduct of those who have received U.S. training.

Finally, as I have said before, as long as the Agua Zarca project and others like it continue over the objections of indigenous people whose livelihoods and cultures are intrinsically linked to the rivers that are impacted, the confrontations and violence will continue. The Honduran government, like other governments in that region, needs to change its way of doing business in areas where the rights and interests of indigenous people have long been violated and ignored.

Given the shameful history of the Agua Zarca project it should be cancelled. Other hydroelectric and extractive projects in indigenous territories should be reconsidered by the Honduran government, and allowed to proceed only after a transparent process based on the free, prior, informed consent of affected communities.

###

Letter to Rep. Norma Torres from the Family of Berta Cáceres

Family of Berta Cáceres
XXXX Xth Ave.
Oakland, California
XXXXX

March 2, 2017

3200 Inland Empire Blvd.
Suite 200B
Ontario, CA 91764

Dear Rep. Norma Torres,

We, the family of assassinated Honduran environmental and indigenous rights leader Berta Cáceres, write to you today to appeal for your support for the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which was introduced this week in the U.S. House of Representatives

As the first Central American to serve in Congress and as a leader of the Central American Caucus in the House of Representatives, your knowledge and leadership on issues involving Latin America is crucial. We believe that your support for the Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act will further strengthen your standing as an advocate for Central Americans and human rights, both in the U.S. and in Honduras.

The Cáceres Act calls for the suspension of “…United States security assistance with Honduras until such time as human rights violations by Honduran security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice,” for wide-ranging human rights abuses, such as the murders of dozens of activists including 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, Berta Cáceres.

A government that fails to protect its citizens and whose security forces are implicated in attacks and killings of activists should not be receiving security funding and training from the U.S. government.

In Berta’s case, after dozens of death threats and attempts to jail her on trumped up charges by state and non-state affiliated security forces, she was finally silenced. Three state security agents – one active and two former – are among those implicated in her killing so far. A former member of the military police, now in hiding, reported that Berta’s name was at the top of a “hit list” that his U.S.-trained unit received. The former soldier told the Guardian that he was “100% certain that Berta Cáceres was killed by the army.”

With Berta’s assassination, Honduran girls and boys lost a heroine, someone they could look up to proudly and who they wanted to emulate. The subsequent investigation into her assassination has made a mockery of proper law enforcement procedures. The incompetence ranges from a trampled crime scene to the inexplicable disappearance of one of Berta’s computers from her house, to the burglary of her case files from a magistrate’s car and the arbitrary detention and torture of the key witness to the killing.

For many Hondurans and friends of Honduras, the killing of Berta – one of the country’s most beloved and high profile activists – was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Since 2009, hundreds of social leaders have been murdered in Honduras, often with the alleged complicity of state security forces. The vast majority of these killings are never investigated, and those responsible are never brought to justice.

As the original Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act states in its findings, “Impunity remains a serious problem, with prosecution in cases of military and police officials charged with human rights violations moving too slowly or remaining inconclusive.” It adds: “[T]he Department of State in its 2015 Human Rights Report for Honduras reports “corruption, intimidation, and institutional weakness of the justice system leading to widespread impunity.”.

This is why we ask for your help in supporting the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act. It is increasingly clear that the government of Juan Orlando Hernández is unwilling to act decisively to stop the killings of social activists in Honduras and to conduct honest and thorough investigations of killings and attacks. In addition the government has consistently failed to respect basic indigenous land rights as it is required to do under its international treaty obligations.

We ask you to stand with us, with Honduras, with Berta and our family.

Respectfully,

The Family of Berta Cáceres

Rep. Johnson reintroduces the “Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act”

Original post here.

March 2, 2017 Press Release

Congressman Johnson is joined by colleagues in efforts to withhold U.S. funds from Honduran police and military in the name of human rights
View in Spanish here

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04), with support from 24 Democratic Members of Congress, reintroduced H.R. 1299, the “Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.”

The bill was first introduced in the wake of the tragic killing of the Honduran environmental and indigenous rights leader Berta Cáceres on March 2, 2016. H.R. 1299 would suspend U.S. funding to the Republic of Honduras for their police and military operations, until the Honduran government begins an investigation into law enforcement violating human rights in Honduras.

“Recent reports indicate that two of the men allegedly involved in a Berta Caceras’ murder were trained in the United States – at Fort Benning in Georgia to be exact – through the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), more commonly known as the School of the Americas,” said Johnson. “This underscores the need for increased oversight of American resources and security assistance provided to Honduras and is another reason why it was important to reintroduce the Berta Caceres Human Rights Act.”

The proposed bill, which also suspends funding for equipment and training, has gained traction and support from other key members in the House.

“I am proud to support this bill that will ensure that U.S. military and police aid is dispensed only when Honduran institutions have demonstrated a firm commitment to bring perpetrators of violence to justice,” said Rep. John Conyers.

“When we send American taxpayer dollars abroad, we are sending a message about our hopes and values as a nation,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky. “A year after Berta Caceres’ death, the Honduran government continues to turn a blind eye to the perilous situation that labor, environmental and indigenous rights activists face in their country, many times at the hands of their own law enforcement officials. Until and unless the Honduran government puts an end to those practices and instead permits an impartial and thorough investigation of past abuses, it does not deserve the support of American taxpayers. I am proud to join Rep. Johnson in re-introducing this legislation. I hope that we will be able to honor Berta Caceres’ legacy by improving the state of affairs for activists in Honduras.”

Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (MI-13), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), José Serrano (NY-15), Jan Schakowsky(IL-09), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Susan Davis (CA-53), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Daniel Lipinski (IL-03), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-01), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-04), David Cicilline (RI-01), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Paul D. Tonko (NY-20), and Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03) are original cosponsors of the bill.