Lic. Rolando Edgardo Argueta Pérez
President of the Supreme Court of Justice
June 23, 2021
Dear Supreme Court President Argueta:
We are hopeful that the trial of David Castillo, charged with the March 2, 2016 assassination of indigenous environmental defender Berta Cáceres, be free of political influence. Berta Cáceres was the co-founder of COPINH (Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras). The trial of David Castillo is expected to conclude within the next two weeks.
David Castillo is a former military intelligence officer and chief executive officer of DESA (Desarrollos Enérgeticos S.A.). Prior to this current trial, on Nov. 29, 2018, five paid assassins and two former DESA executives were convicted of murdering Berta Cáceres. Three other ongoing prosecutions are related to fraud and abuse of power in the granting of the permits and contracts for the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project on the Río Gualcarque, a sacred ancestral waterway of the indigenous Lenca community in Intibucá Department.
Despite lobbying and public relations efforts intended to obscure the facts, the evidence indicating that David Castillo directly participated in the murder of Berta Cáceres is conclusive. Given the emblematic nature of, and international focus on this crime, holding both material and intellectual authors accountable is essential for progress in addressing impunity in Honduras and ensuring the protection of Hondurans who are active in organizing environmental and indigenous defense.
The extensive and detailed evidence submitted in this trial (and related prosecutions) demonstrates that David Castillo was part of a criminal structure that engaged in a range of crimes, including financial crimes and violence. Besides his trial for the murder of Berta Cáceres, David Castillo is also one of six people awaiting trial for corruption charges related to the construction of the Agua Zarca project. COPINH, whose membership includes indigenous Lenca farmers who organized (with the assistance of Berta Cáceres) to stop the hydroelectric project, has been unduly excluded from the legal process as victims.
We strongly urge that you
· ensure that the judges overseeing the trial of David Castillo’s be able to make their decision without pressure from powerful actors interested in swaying the verdict and obscuring the truth about the intellectual authors of this crime
· ensure that COPINH be permitted to be included in any future legal proceedings involving David Castillo and DESA, as is their right under Honduran law
Brian J. Stefan Szittai and Christine Stonebraker-Martinez