Professor Joseph Berra (Clinical and Experiential Project Director) and Amy Kimbel (J.D. 2019) will travel to Tegucigalpa as members of the Legal Observer Mission to the murder trial of Honduran environmental and Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres. Berta Cáceres was assassinated in March 2016, after winning the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her work as the General Coordinator of the Lenca Indigenous organization COPINH to fight construction of a dam on the Gualcarque River. Eight defendants will soon stand trial for her murder. In addition to the Promise Institute for Human Rights, the Legal Observer Mission includes 16 other human rights organizations from North and South America and Europe. The Mission will observe the trial with a focus on the rights to due process, effective judicial protection, and access to justice, in order to ensure that the trial develops in accordance with international standards and Honduran law. Amy is excited to participate in the mission as a 3L after working with partner organizations in Honduras in the International Human Rights Clinic (LAW 717) and visiting Honduras as part of the International Human Rights Clinic: International Field Experience (LAW 927) during her 2L year. Professor Berra has over 35 years of experience working in Honduras and the Central American region, and has developed collaborative partnerships with human rights and grass-roots organizations there.
Professor Berra traveled to Honduras in September to help launch the mission and meet with representatives of the parties and with various diplomatic missions conducting their own observation. On the scheduled date for opening the trial, attorneys for the family of Berta Caceres filed various motions challenging the exclusion of evidence to support their theory of the case, which seeks to tie the accused to broader criminal structures and the true intellectual authors of the crime. They also filed a petition for recusal of the three-judge panel on the grounds of bias and discrimination towards the victims and their representatives. The start of the trial was postponed until these motions could be resolved. A first Preliminary Report on these motions can be found here.
The trial started on Friday, October 19, 2018 with members of the Promise Institute as observers.