Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, an internationally recognized activist, was brutally murdered in her home in 2016. At the time of the murder, she was involved in a dispute over the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in Honduras. As the recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, her death received international attention.
“We want justice but we want a fair trial, which respects due process for us the victims and the accused,” said Bertita Zuniga Cáceres
Honduras is a country in which The Inter American Human Rights Court found the impunity rate for human rights trials to be as high as 98 percent. Cáceres’ prominence lead to an international campaign to pressure the Public Prosector’s Office to take action. Although this attention brought attention to criminal justice problems in Honduras, it also further politicized the trial.
Although both sides in the case maintained respective criticisms of the investigation, they were in agreement that clear violations of due process, poor information sharing, and other serious problems were undermining the trial. The defense also argued that Cáceres’ fame and political influence meant that the defense’s concerns were simply ignored by the international community. Likewise, the family maintained a flawed investigation was preventing those who were ultimately responsible from standing trial.
Uncommon Union engaged numerous NGOs, government offices, and reporters to stress the importance of a due process. Although the right to a fair trial is often invoked, the temptation to pick sides is rarely resisted in the press. Meanwhile, Honduras is currently experiencing unprecedented violence and corruption. Institutions are precarious. For this reason, it is even more important to build genuine support around due process.
Uncommon Union’s experience working through contentious issues in Central America and the Middle East guided us stressing the importance of a right to a fair trial.