The family of Berta Cáceres files action to disqualify judges. Hearing suspended.

The family of Berta Cáceres and their legal representatives filed an action on Monday to disqualify the judges that are hearing the case of the murder of the Honduran defender. This resulted in the suspension of the hearing.

In a press conference held on Monday 17, minutes before the first hearing over the murder of the Lenca defender, Berta Cáceres, her daughters, Bertha and Laura Zúñiga read a statement where they announced that they were going to file an action to disqualify the members of the tribunal, asking for them to be replaced, due to rejecting “their actions and aptitude to hear the case”. We ask “that they be replaced by a Court that will guarantee the conditions to find justice in this process”, said the current coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH).

Several social organizations and individuals had gathered outside the Supreme Court, but the family of Cáceres and COPINH denounced the “ill-intended actions by the judges hearing the Berta Cáceres case, who set the beginning of the first oral and public trial for 9 am this morning, but informed the people present that they were going to hear about another judicial process”.

One of the lawyers highlighted that the action was being filed because not all evidence had been submitted to the legal representatives of the victim. He also denounced that the Court “acted in complicity with the Prosecutor´s Office”. “A legal system that issues resolutions but does not enforce them gives way to a sense of defenselessness, impunity and lack of access to justice for the victims, and does not ensure the impartiality needed to access justice. He also added that this was part of the intent by the judicial system to “protect the criminal structure responsible for the murder of Berta Cáceres”.

We share the statement read by the family of Berta Cáceres, where they inform about their decision to file an action to disqualify the judges:

Today, as the first trial for the horrendous murder on March 2, 2016 is set to start, we, the family of Berta Caceres, members of her organization – COPINH – and our legal team from the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ), come together to share our position.

Since the tragic day of March 2 2016, when we learned that criminal hands had taken the life of our beloved Berta, we have denounced that this death was not a fortuitous event but the result of a series of crimes against her and COPINH for its resistance work against the imposition of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project.

Despite the severely adverse circumstances we have faced in our struggle for justice for the past two and half years, we have been able to reveal the existence of a criminal structure behind the murder.

This is a structure that still exists today, active in its attacks of COPINH with the incorporation of the Amsterdam and Partners Law Firm and its defamation and stigmatization campaign against COPINH and the Berta Caceres Cause.

We want – and have demanded – justice. But not justice at any cost, in any which way. We have done everything possible, more than necessary as victims, but the State has failed to ensure the guarantees of due process.

The three judge panel responsible for this case has failed to guarantee our rights as victims and even the rights of the accused by allowing the Public Prosecutor to conceal information, and as a consequence, the truth, showing partiality constitutive of a crime.

As we speak, through our legal representatives of MADJ, we are filing an action to disqualify the judges of the Trial Court  (Courtroom 1). We reject their actions and aptitude to hear the case and ask that they be replaced by a Court that will guarantee the conditions to find justice in this process.

We are seeking justice not only for the brutal crime against Berta Caceres, but as an opportunity for the Honduran People to vindicate justice with truth. As an opportunity to confront and dismantle the structure that continues to work against Honduran communities and the Rule of Law.

We demand justice, but not at any cost and not in any which way.

Tegucigalpa, September 17, 2018.


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