RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Court
papers relating to the murder of high-profile Honduran land
rights activist Berta Caceres have been stolen, the United
Nations said, urging government officials to quickly recover the
documents and investigate how the theft occurred.
Local media reported that the documents were stolen on Sept.
29 in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa.
Caceres, who had received death threats over her work
campaigning against the encroachment of hydroelectric dams and
mines on indigenous lands, was killed in March.
It is unclear how the theft of the documents will affect the
prosecution of the case in the Central American country, which
has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
"If this is how the state is handling evidence in the case,
then how can we trust their final outcome?" said Candido Mezua
Salazar, a colleague of the environmental rights activist.
"Immediate action is needed to safeguard the rights of
communities living in Honduras," Salazar told the Thomson
Reuters Foundation via email late on Monday following the
release of the U.N. statement.
Caceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for her
struggle to prevent the construction of a $50 million dam that
threatened to displace hundreds of indigenous people.
European lenders who had backed the dam project froze their
investments following international outcry over the murder.
In May, Honduran officials arrested four people in
connection with the activist's murder, including an employee of
the company whose dam project she helped block.
More than 100 land rights activists and environmentalists
have been murdered in Honduras since 2010, the U.K.-based
campaign group Global Witness said in March.
"The general climate for land rights activists in Honduras
is increasingly critical and feels worse now given the theft of
Berta's case files," said Salazar from the Mesoamerican Alliance
of Peoples and Forests.
(Reporting by Chris Arsenault; Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)