As we approach the second anniversary of the murder of the renowned indigenous, feminist human rights defender Berta Cáceres, the need for the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act is as great as it has ever been. With the support of US financing and training for police and military forces, the Honduran government has become one of the most repressive in the world, engaged in a murderous crackdown of pro-democracy demonstrators, with state security forces routinely murdering and firing live bullets at protesters and bystanders. There also continues to be targeted campaigns of violence, arbitrary detention, and assassinations against journalists, human rights activists, LGBT Hondurans, and Black and Indigenous community leaders. Much of the pattern of targeted harassment, defamation campaigns, and criminalization that led to Berta’s assassination is being repeated with other Honduran leaders. What’s more, many of the irregularities that plague the prosecution of her murder are being repeated in the cases of political prisoners arrested in the wake of the 2017 election.
Two years on, the investigation into Berta’s assassination and the criminal case against 8 alleged material authors has been characterized by numerous irregularities and problems. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has consistently failed to turn over all the necessary information to the family’s lawyers in the prosecution of the accused, disobeying the judge’s order to do so, and resulting in hearings being suspended six times. Furthermore, authorities have refused to arrest and prosecute the high-level intellectual authors, despite an independent report by international legal experts finding that the Public Prosecutors Office has had information identifying some of the intellectual authors since May 2016.
This is a troubling but not altogether surprising development in a country where impunity is the norm, and human rights conditions have reached tragic new lows since the election. At least 35 people have been killed during post-election protests, the vast majority by state security forces, and their cases remain in impunity. Thousands have been arbitrarily detained, with widespread reports of torture, forced disappearance, kidnapping, and the systematic use of excessive force against peaceful protests. The Honduran administration has denied access to OAS human rights investigators, while failing to investigate and prosecute the state security forces responsible for murdering, injuring, and torturing demonstrators, much less those who gave the orders to do so.
Against this backdrop, dozens of political prisoners have been held in newly built US-style maximum security prisons. The political prisoners have been targeted for their role in the opposition and anti-fraud protests, and have faced draconian charges including accusations of terrorism, in some cases reviewed by judges embedded in military led task forces. As in Berta’s case, their cases have been plagued by the refusal of the US-supported Honduran state prosecutors to share information with their attorneys. US-backed security forces have not only carried out the arbitrary detentions of political opposition and social movement leaders, but in some cases run the prisons. Human rights defenders, journalists, and even the attorneys and families of the accused have been denied access so it’s impossible to verify their conditions, but we know that they’ve been held for long periods in solitary confinement and denied their essential rights under the law.
Berta Cáceres’s case has become emblematic of the deep structural violence perpetrated by the Honduran state, and of the United States’ role in supporting the militarization of the country and the criminalization of its people. Given the extreme level of repression and murder perpetrated against the Honduran people by the current regime, suspending US security aid to Honduras, as the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (HR1299) calls for, is a moral imperative and the least that Congress should do. US taxpayer dollars should not be spent propping up an illegitimate regime that uses that money to terrorize its people.
Please join over 70 of your fellow Representatives as a co-sponsor of the bill TODAY to send the clear message that the US government will not finance the torture, forced disappearance, and murder of Honduran human rights defenders, journalists, and protesters.
Thank you for your action at this critical time.
School of the Americas Watch (SOAW)
Witness for Peace (WFP)
WFP and SOAW join over 250 Honduran, US, and International human rights organizations, environmental organizations, labor unions, and faith communities in endorsing the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, including the AFL-CIO, the United Steelworkers (USW), the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), the Sierra Club, the Latin American Working Group (LAWG) and many more. Organizations that have endorsed the Berta Cáceres Act include the following:
About Face: Veterans Against the War
All African People’s Revolutionary Party
Agricultural Missions Inc
Alliance for Global Justice
American Federation of Government Employees, Local 3354
American Friends Service Committee
American Jewish World Service
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (AFL-CIO)
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests
Bay Area Latin America Solidarity Coalition (BALASC)
Bautistas por la Paz
Benedictine Sisters of Erie
Bernardine Franciscan Sisters OSF
Brazilian Expats for Democracy and Social Justice
Brooklyn Greens/Green Party
Casa Baltimore/Limay, MD
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Human Rights and International Justice, Boston College
Center for International Environmental Law
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha
Center on Conscience & War
Central Americans for Empowerment at UC Berkeley
CIP Americas Program
Chicago ALBA Solidarity Committee
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
Chicago Teachers’ Union
Church Women United in New York State
Climate Justice Alliance
Climate Justice Committee of the Rochester, Minnesota Franciscans
Colectiva Centroamericana – Spain
Colombia Human Rights Committee
Colombian Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador
Coloradans for Immigrant Rights, AFSC Colorado Office
Community Alliance for Global Justice
Congregation of Notre Dame US Province – Justice and Peace Office
Congregation of St. Joseph Peace and Justice Team, Nazareth MI
Congregational UCC Global Ministries Team, Ashland, Oregon
Cross Borders Network
Denver Justice and Peace Committee
Doctors for Global Health
Dominican Sisters – Grand Rapids, MI
Dominican Sisters of Houston
Environmental Association for Latin America
8th Day Ce