Berta Cáceres and the justice that has not been served

Text and photography: Fernando Destephen
Translated by: Amy Patricia Morales 

Members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh) mobilized last Tuesday, December 12 in Tegucigalpa, marching from the Central Bank of Honduras (BCH) to the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), demanding that the judges presiding over the case ratify the sentences against those involved in the murder of environmentalist Berta Cáceres, who was killed in March 2016 in La Esperanza, Intibucá, western Honduras. Additionally, Copinh members also called for the prosecution and punishment of the intellectual authors.

On December 1, the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) issued a new indictment against another person implicated in Cáceres’ murder. Berta Zúniga Cáceres, coordinator at Copinh, revealed that Daniel Atala, a member of one of the most powerful families in Honduras, served as financial manager of Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA). According to Copinh, Atala has been charged by the Public Prosecutor’s Office for his participation in the murder of the environmentalist.

In November 2018, the first convictions were issued against eight people involved in the case; one of those convictions, for 22 years and six months of imprisonment, is against Roberto David Castillo Mejía, executive president of DESA. These advances, however, do not mark the conclusion of the case, according to Copinh.

“For seven years and ten months, we have been awaiting the confirmation of sentences, despite the conviction of certain perpetrators, to progress towards justice,” stated Berta Zúniga Cáceres during the press conference held at the Court. Blankets, banners, and placards featuring Berta Cáceres’ face adorned the venue, as demonstrators shouted their calls for an end to impunity.

Zúniga referred to her mother’s murder as a political femicide, and asked the president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Rebeca Ráquel Obando, to “confirm the sentences already issued in the case of the first seven people convicted of the murder”.

Daniel Atala was called as a witness in June 2021 during the trial against David Castillo, who was found guilty of being an intellectual co-author of Cáceres’ murder. But Atala refused to testify at the time, arguing that he was also under investigation for Berta’s murder.

The demand to prosecute the masterminds of Cáceres’ murder continues to be a litmus test for justice operators in Honduras.

Fernando Destephen 1985 Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photojournalist and storyteller.

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