5 years after her murder, Berta Cáceres’ family is still waiting for justice
Today it is 5 years ago that Berta Cáceres was shot in haar home in La Esperanza, Honduras, for defending the rights of indigenous people. The leader of indigenous organisation COPINH resisted the Agua-Zarca hydropower dam that was planned to be build in indigenous territory. The actual murderers have been convicted, but not so the intellectual authors of the murders.
Lawsuits in Honduras
Berta's family, COPINH and their lawyers have been fighting for justice for 5 years. In 2018, 7 suspects have been convicted, including the former communities and environmental manager of DESA, the company that built the dam. COPINH and Berta's daughter have been excluded from the process.
The intellectual authors who ordered the murder are still free. There are clear indications that the murderers followed orders from above. David Castillo, DESA's former manager, has been charged but the trial against him has been postponed repeatedly.
At the same time, the village of Rio Blanco, where the dam would be built, has filed a case with COPINH on the grounds that there is evidence that the environmental permits for the dam were issued under fraudulent circumstances. This legal process is also constantly being undermined.
International attention to these legal processes is crucial. Violence against human rights and environmental activists is commonplace in Honduras as well as in many other countries. To prevent this from happening in the future, it is important that all perpetrators of Berta's murder and the injustice done to indigenous communities are convicted.
Involvement of FMO in the case
One of the financiers of the Agua Zarca dam was the Dutch Development Bank FMO. Despite repeated warnings by COPINH, Both ENDS and other international NGOs that the project caused conflict and violence, FMO invested confidently in DESA.
At the time, FMO saw no indications that DESA would have anything to do with human rights violations and assumed that the environmental permits were in order. It was only a year after Berta's murder that FMO withdrew from the project, although according to FMO they still could not find a connection between DESA and alleged illegal actions.
Changes in FMO
Since the murder of Berta, FMO has made changes: the environmental and social governance team has been strengthened, FMO has issued various statements, including on human rights, and published a human rights annual report in 2018.
However, FMO's approach to "development" has not really changed. It is not clear how FMO ensures that communities, indigenous groups and others who should benefit from FMO's investments co-decide from the start of project design. FMO continues to rely largely on its customers for its information and does not seek enough dialogue with communities and civil society organizations before making an investment decision.
Both ENDS continues to press FMO for a different approach to development, in which the communities in project areas are put central. Only this way serious conflicts around FMO's projects, of which Agua Zarca is a very sad example, can be prevented in the future.
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Indigenous Hondurans are resisting the construction of the Agua Zarca hydrodam. Their fight has cost several lives, including that of Berta Cáceres. After considerable public pressure, Dutch development bank FMO withdrew from the project.
News / 6 March 2018
On Friday, March 2, the director of DESA, David Castillo, was arrested in Honduras on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Berta Cáceres, exactly 2 years ago. The Honduran government refused for a long time to not only detect the actual murderers, but also the intellectual authors of the murder of Cáceres.
News / 16 December 2019
Earlier this month, the seven men found guilty of the murder of Berta Cáceres were sentenced to jail for periods between 30 and 50 years. The court confirmed its opinion that Berta Cáceres was murdered for her role in defending the rights of the indigenous Lenca communities.
News / 10 July 2020
Dutch development bank FMO is considering investing in the controversial Ficohsa bank in Honduras. The bank has close ties with the elite in Honduras, which holds considerable power in politics, the (para)military and the business community. Last Wednesday, a number of Honduran organisations, including the indigenous organisation COPINH – whose leader Berta Cáceres was murdered in 2016 – sent a letter to the FMO management. The letter, signed by forty organisations including Both ENDS, calls on FMO not to do business with this bank.
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News / 6 July 2017
Both ENDS and SOMO welcome the announcement done today by the Dutch and Finnish development banks, FMO and FinnFund, to exit the controversial Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in Honduras. Conflict about the project has led to violence in the region, including the murder of three leaders who opposed the project. In March 2016, renowned human rights defender Berta Caceres was murdered for opposing this project in indigenous Lenca territory.
News / 2 March 2017
Today, it is exactly one year ago that Berta Cáceres was brutally murdered in her home in Honduras. Cáceres was a globally known human rights defender and coordinator of the indigenous Lenca organisation COPINH. The murder of Berta is closely related to her protest against the Agua Zarca dam, a hydroelectric project financed partially by the Dutch development bank FMO.
External link / 31 May 2018
Sometimes things must go terribly wrong before big players start to move. In March 2016, Honduran activist Berta Cáceres was murdered because of her leading role in the protests against the Agua Zarca hydro dam, co-financed by the Dutch FMO. One and a half year later, FMO changed their policies to prevent such events in the future.
News / 20 October 2016
This week, Laura Zuniga Cáceres, daughter of Berta Cáceres*, visits the Netherlands. She will talk with the directors of the involved departments of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in a colloquium about indigenous right of Leiden University and meet with several Dutch NGO's. Both ENDS asked this brave young woman about the situation in Honduras and her motivation to continue her mother's work.
News / 17 May 2018
Today, three representatives of the Honduran indigenous people's organisation COPINH, together with the family of environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in March 2016, announced that they are preparing to press charges against the Dutch development bank FMO. COPINH accuses the FMO of complicity in human rights violations in connection with the controversial Agua Zarca hydroelectric project.
News / 1 December 2018
On Thursday, November 29, seven suspects of the murder of Berta Cáceres (in March 2016) were found guilty. Members of the indigenous human rights organisation COPINH, of which Cáceres was the leader, and close relatives of Cáceres herself see the ruling as the first step towards justice for her murder and the recognition that the company DESA is co-responsible for this. They also point out, however, that the process was permeated with corruption, intimidation and other abuses from the very beginning, and that the masterminds behind the murder are still walking around freely.
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