Courtesy CICA
Rio Blanco community members and COPINH protest the hydroelectric dam project, May 2013.

Indigenous Leader Acquitted of Weapons Charges Connected to Protest

Rick Kearns
2/19/14

Indigenous Honduran leader Bertha Cáceres, Director of the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), was acquitted on possession of an illegal weapons charge on Tuesday, February 11 at the First Court of Law in Santa Barbara, Honduras.

RELATED: Honduran Military Kill Indigenous Protestor at Agua Zarca Project

The Honduran government had charged Cáceres with illegal possession of a weapon as a threat to the internal security of the state on May 24 of last year; on the previous day, May 23, police had removed protestors from the site of the contested Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project. Cáceres was one of the leaders of the protest, and they noted that the government had not consulted with the indigenous community before selling the property to Desarrollos Energeticos, SA (DESA), which made the sale illegal. COPINH had also released a press statement at the time saying that they considered the hydroelectric dam to be a threat to the environment as well as an attack against indigenous rights to control of their territory.

RELATED: Indigenous Leader of Protests Arrested Again in Honduras, New Charges

In this recent case COPINH noted that, “The Honduran government has recognized its error, and has abandoned judicial persecution in this case and accepts…the obligation of the Government of Honduras to respect international treaties that protect this activity and the right to culture and defense of indigenous territories.”

RELATED: Arrested Honduran Indigenous Leader Promises More Mega Projects Protests

The rights of the indigenous communities that are spelled out in international treaties was a very important aspect of this case said Paola Limon, an attorney with the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL). CEJIL attorneys were part of the legal team that represented Cáceres in her precautionary measures before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Limon stated that the measures were granted by the IACHR immediately following the Coup in 2009 and have been maintained since that time in order to protect her life, “given the dangerous context in which environmental and human rights defenders carry out their activities in Honduras.”

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