Dems want oversight after 4 arrested for Honduran activist’s murder

Dems want oversight after 4 arrested for Honduran activist’s murder
© Greg Nash

Dozens of House Democrats are pressing the Obama administration to make sure an international human rights panel is “actively involved” in the investigation of the murder of an environmental and indigenous rights activist in Honduras.

Shortly after four people were arrested Monday for the March murder of Berta Cáceres, 59 House Democrats told Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryHow the US could help Australia develop climate action Equilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Clean power repurposes dirty power No. 2 State Department official to travel to China amid tensions MORE that the human rights arm of the Organization of American States should be involved in the probe, despite the Honduran government’s opposition.


“We are acutely aware that skepticism abounds regarding the willingness and capacity of Honduran authorities to carry out an effective investigation in this case,” the lawmakers wrote in their Monday letter.

Cáceres had fought relentlessly to block construction of a dam along a river considered sacred to her and other indigenous Lenca people. Last year, she was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her work.

In March, Cáceres was killed in her home in western Honduras, in what many have suspected was retribution for her activism.

At least two of the suspects arrested on Monday are reportedly linked to the Honduran company building the dam.

Cáceres’s family has previously pushed for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to conduct an independent investigation, but the government in Honduras has rejected the call. 

“Given the high profile of this case and the degree of skepticism toward the official investigation, we believe that IACHR involvement is warranted,” the 59 Democrats wrote in their letter. The letter was led by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Norma Torres (D-Calif.), Sam FarrSamuel (Sam) Sharon FarrMedical marijuana supporters hopeful about government funding bill Marijuana advocates to give away free joints on Capitol Hill DEA decision against reclassifying marijuana ignores public opinion MORE (D-Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The regional group was previously called in to help with a 2014 disappearance of 43 students in Mexico, the lawmakers noted, which should serve as “a compelling precedent” for its involvement now. The Mexican students are believed to have been killed.

“While the circumstances of Ms. Cáceres’ murder are in many ways distinct from the circumstances of the disappearance of the 43 students in Mexico, we absolutely believe the U.S. government should press for robust IACHR involvement in the investigation of the Berta Cáceres case,” they wrote.

In recent weeks, activist groups and allies of Cáceres have descended on Congress to push it to weigh in on the process in Honduras, given the strong security ties between the two countries.

Honduras has a troubling track record on human rights, but is still considered a bulwark against growing violence in Central America.