New findings in Berta Caceres' murder investigation
On 31st October, the independent group of experts - Grupo Asesor Internacional de Personas Expertas (GAIPE) - responsible for carrying out an independent investigation into Berta Caceres’ murder released its final report. GAIPE concluded that the Prosecutor's Office had enough information to determine who was responsible for her death. The group also found a criminal network that includes public officials, illegal armed actors and members of a private company that are allegedly behind the crime. The report also reveals that the plan to murder the activist began in November 2015.
Also in connection with the investigation, it was reported that on 20th November two police officers were arrested and accused of tampering with evidence when they were responsible for the initial investigation in 2016.
On 14th October, two unidentified men murdered Silvino Zapata Martinez. Martinez was a leader of the Afro-descendant community, Masca, who dedicated his life to protecting water resources for his community and was able to stop, at least temporarily, the building of a hydroelectric plant by the company Hidromasca.
On 21st October, Mauricio Reinieri Gonzalez, a political activist of the ruling party, was murdered. The attackers left a message on Gonzalez’s dead body, writing that “this is what happens to those who support Juan Orlando Hernandez”. The next day, nine members of a gang were arrested for alleged involvement in Gonzalez's murder.
#WHRDAlert— IM-Defensoras (@IM_Defensoras) November 23, 2017
HONDURAS / Intimidation of Nancy García of the Broad University Movement (MAU): https://t.co/uA7qCGEI0f
NICARAGUA / @IACHumanRights @CIDH Commissioner Denied Entrance to Nicaragua: https://t.co/Xgpian14Pb pic.twitter.com/qO23LCIzoe
On 17th October, a new protest took place on the Universidad Nacional de Honduras’ campus (UNAH). This time students protested changes to article 590 of the Criminal Code that criminalises the right to protest. Police dispersed the protest that, according to some student leaders, had not been initiated by the Movimiento Estudiantil Universitario (MEU)
In a separate incident, on 6th November a group of students from UNAH, this time led by MEU, rallied against the constant criminalisation of their leaders during a series of protests in 2017. Erick Josue Garcia, a student leader who was released on probation in September 2017, was injured and taken back into custody as police used tear gas to disperse the protest.
On 14th November, three unidentified police officers dressed as civilians broke into Nancy Garcia’s home saying they received a report of two men being inside the house. Garcia is one of the student leaders that was expelled from UNAH and is facing charges following the series of protests from 2017. When Garcia asked if they were police officers, she was told that “they weren’t officers, they do other types of job”. They searched the house, took photos of Garcia’s ID and left.
According to reports, four men attacked journalist Osmin España on 5th October. The journalist hosted a TV show where he used humour to criticise the country’s situation. 24 hours after the attack, España died due to the gun wounds. One person has thus far been arrested in connection with the case.
In a statement, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression within the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights:
"calls on the Honduran State to investigate in a complete, effective, and impartial manner this crime, clarify its motives, and judicially determine the relationship it could have with journalistic activity and freedom of expression. Authorities should not rule out the practice of journalism as a motive for murder and/or aggression before the investigation is completed, they should also provide appropriate resources and specialized personnel to the institutions responsible for investigating such cases".
On 23rd October, cameraman Carlos Oveniel Lara was murdered. Oveniel had previously filed a report due to death threats against him. The motive behind the murder was unknown at the time of writing.
Two television programmes were shut down over the last months, both due to political pressure according to the affected journalists. In early October, journalist Isaac Calix was notified by the owner of Channel 27 that his programme, where he discussed political and electoral topics, had been cancelled. Calix reported that Roatan’s mayor was behind the decision, as the mayor had been the subject of criticism in the show for his attempts at reelection under a different party afiliation. On 27th October, Jackie Bonilla, a journalist and economist, was notified by the owners of Channel HONDURED that her show was cancelled. She asserts that the decision was made due to recent criticism of President Juan Orlando Hernandez on the programme.
Another case regarding access to public information was identified. Emy Marcela Reina, who acted as Officer of Access to Public Information of the Energy Company of Honduras, was fired for giving information on suppliers’ bills and the communications' department budget. This information was requested by a citizen through the authorised channels. In the notification of release from her position, the company stated that information regarding suppliers’ bills was classified.