In the months leading up to her murder, Berta Caceres denounced dozens of death threats, incidents of harassment, and threats of sexual violence, allegedly at the hands of state and private agents
The judge—who supposedly carried the files in her car—was acting irresponsibly, said the OAS launched Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity.
The case files on the murder of Honduras’s Berta Caceres were stolen, the Organization of American States said on Friday, further impeding a popularly-discredited investigation of the renown Indigenous environmental activist.
“The theft of the case files on Berta Caceres is a criminal offense that requires enthusiastic action from the public prosecutor and the judiciary to find and sanction those responsible,” said Juan Jimenez Mayor, spokesperson of the OAS mission and special representative of the body’s Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity, better known as MACCIH.
The judge—who supposedly carried the files in her car—was acting irresponsibly, said a statement from MACCIH. The body will evaluate the harms done to the case and will designate an officer to oversee the reconstitution of the files, which contained evidence incriminating those directly and indirectly responsible for the death of Caceres.
MACCIH has up until now been applauded by the United States for conducting a more reliable investigation than Honduran authorities, but activists say that it is not enough.
“MACCIH is not what the people were asking for,” Ariel Varela, a member of the Indignados movement launched last year in Honduras, told teleSUR when it was first launched. “It doesn’t seem to have sufficient autonomy and strength in its investigative ability.”
According to Varela, MACCIH can be a tool in the fight against corruption, but it has major limitations and will not be able to solve the deep problems and rampant impunity suffered in the country.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro launch MACCIH in January after widespread high-level government corruption implicating the ruling National Party came to the fore last year, sparking months of protests.
Caceres’ family and movement members have demanded an independent probe since day one, expressing skepticism in the local justice system to carry out a reliable investigation given its track record of corruption, impunity and botched cases. They have claimed that the Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos, or DESA, and the Honduran government are ultimately responsible for the Indigenous leader’s murder.
But Honduran authorities have not answered their calls and have instead largely excluded family and colleagues from the process.
MACCIH said that it will consult the Honduran judiciary for more information on how documents are regulated when they leave judicial headquarters and will propose reforms so that such an issue is not repeated. It said it will also oversee the investigation of the public prosecutor on the issue.
In the months leading up to her murder, Caceres denounced dozens of death threats, incidents of harassment, and threats of sexual violence, allegedly at the hands of state and private agents.
Over two years ago, DESA sought charges against Caceres and two fellow leaders from the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, for land usurpation, coercion, and damages and painted the activists as violent “anarchists.” COPINH members and human rights defenders interpret the case as one part of a larger campaign by DESA to criminalize COPINH and eliminate opposition to the Agua Zarca project.
COPINH and Caceres’ family members continue to call for an independent expert investigation into the murder in the name of identifying those who ordered the killing, not just those who pulled the trigger. They also demand the permanent cancellation of Agua Zarca.