Schakowsky, Merkley, Colleagues Urge State Department to Monitor Honduras Trial of David Castillo and Seek Justice for Berta Cáceres

June 25, 2021
Press Release
Letter outlines lawmakers’ concerns around widespread collusion in the case of David Castillo in Honduras and calls on the State Department and international community to closely monitor the trial, ongoing investigations into the murder of Berta Cáceres, and related cases involving human rights defenders.

WASHINGTON - Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) and Senator Jeff Merkley (OR), alongside their 7 co-leads of the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act Reps. Hank Johnson (GA-04), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Jesus “Chuy” García (IL-04), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), and Ilhan Omar (MN-05), and Senators Patrick Leahy (VT) and Dick Durbin (IL), led a group of 26 lawmakers in sending a letter to the Department of State urging them to closely monitor the ongoing trial of DESA hydroelectric company CEO and former military intelligence officer David Castillo.

In their letter, the lawmakers express their great concern with reports of wide spread collusion among government officials, state and private security forces, organized crime, and members of the private sector, and the failure of the Government of Honduras to protect the rights, interests, and physical security of indigenous peoples in land and natural resources disputes.

The lawmakers state: “Holding both material and intellectual authors accountable in Berta Cáceres’ case is essential for progress in addressing impunity in Honduras and ensuring the protection of activists. While related prosecutions and investigations indicate that others were involved in a range of crimes surrounding her murder, and even in her murder, five years later no further indictments have been made. The independence of the judiciary, crucial to the democratic process, remains a major challenge in Honduras.  Problems such as judicial delays, corruption, impunity, human rights violations, citizen insecurity and violence are some of the factors that have called into question the government’s commitment to justice in this and other human rights cases.”

The letter concludes: “Berta Cáceres’ murder is an emblematic case.  It is essential that the final decision on the David Castillo trial and other ongoing investigations into Cáceres’ murder be monitored closely by the international community.  Progress in achieving accountability for her murder is a necessity for progress toward justice and protection for human rights defenders and other activists in Honduras.”

In addition to Schakowsky, Merkley, Johnson, Castro, García, Kaptur, Omar, Leahy, and Durbin, the letter was signed by the following 19 Members and Senators: Donald S. Beyer Jr., Earl Blumenauer, Emanuel Cleaver, II, Steve Cohen, Adriano Espaillat, Raúl M. Grijalva, Pramila Jayapal, Alan Lowenthal, James P. McGovern, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mark Pocan, Jamie Raskin, Rashida Tlaib, Juan Vargas, Peter Welch, and Senators Markey, Warren, Van Hollen, and Reed.

Full text of the letter is available here.