On Thursday 29 November 2018 a Honduran criminal court is expected to issue a ruling against eight individuals accused of involvement in the 2016 murder of the activist Berta Caceres.
The case has attracted large international interest, including a letter last Thursday (22 November 2018) from 32 MEPs from the European Union (EU) Parliament, alongside Federica Mogherini the High Representative for the EU, calling upon the Honduran authorities to guarantee a fair trial for Berta Caceres.
However, worries are felt in some quarters that two of the accused, including DESA executives Sergio Rodriguez Orellana and Roberto David Castillo (the latter of whom is being tried separately), who have been held in pretrial detention for an extended period, are political prisoners, victims of the international pressures felt by the Honduran authorities.
Robert Amsterdam, the lead lawyer for DESA in the case said:
“The European Parliament’s intervention into the Berta Caceres trial at this point could not be more dangerous. The continued pressure applied by the EU risks increasing the likelihood of false prosecutions rather than delivering the fair trial they call for.
“Applying undue pressure on the Honduran authorities to prosecute those currently charged, before the full evidence has been heard, is a blatant disregard to their human rights and safeguarding of the rule of law.
“Justice for the relatives and friends of Ms. Caceres will only be delivered if those accused of her murder receive a trial that is fair and free from interference and coercion.”
Mr. Amsterdam said that problems with the legal process have been suffered by both sides and calls to ensure a fair trial have been made by both the victims and the defendants.
“Currently, the trial cannot deliver a just outcome. Central to our concerns is that COPINH, the organization of which Ms. Caceres was a member, is interfering in the judicial process with a reckless pressure campaign, spreading misinformation about the defendants and DESA to further a political agenda.
“I call upon the European Parliament to ensure the environment around this case does not become more fervent and vitriolic, and we ensure the rights to a presumption of innocence and a fair trial are upheld, for all Hondurans.”
Amsterdam concluded by saying he’s written to the MEPs to respond to the letter dated 16 November 2018.
The letter follows the publication of the white paper “War on Development” released by Amsterdam & Partners LLP on 15 November, 2018. The report accuses activists of spreading false information, attacking the right to a fair trial, and blocking economic development in Honduras.
The Paper is available to download in English and Spanish https://casocaceres.com.
More information about Amsterdam & Partners LLP is available at https://amsterdamandpartners.com.