7 suspects of the murder of the Honduran Berta Cáceres were found guilty
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.
Suspects affiliated with FMO’s client
This lawsuit was seen as an important signal for the status of the Honduran constitutional state. The ruling is also relevant for the trial against the Dutch development bank FMO, which is likely to begin next year in August. That process was filed by members of COPINH because FMO was co-financier of the controversial Agua Zarcadam. According to COPINH, FMO is partly responsible for the gross human rights violations and the violence surrounding the project. Of the seven suspects who were now convicted, two were affiliated to DESA, the company that executes the Agua Zarcaproject and to which FMO provided funding. Sergio Rodriguez was the social/environmental manager of DESA and Douglas Boustillo was head of security until 2015, as ex-lieutenant of the Honduran army. In the coming years, the trial against DESA’s director, David Castillo, will also take place.
Recognition by the judge
''For the victims and for COPINH, the most important thing is that today, after more than two years in which COPINH and Berta Cáceres family have said it time and again, it’s finally recognised that DESA, with the help of managerial staff and through the deployment of their workers, is responsible for devising, deciding on, and ensuring the murder of Cáceres. Today it has finally been said by the judge," says Victor Fernandez of Movimiento Amplio, one of the lawyers of the victims.
During the investigation prior to the trial and during the lawsuit against these suspects, there were major irregularities, among other things that the evidence gathered by the public prosecutor's office was to a large extent not analysed and therefore not included in the procedure. Evidence that demonstrates the relationship between the murder of Cáceres and her work as a defender of the rights of the Lenca communities in the Agua Zarca project, was not admitted. The victims and their lawyers were given very limited access to the evidence used by the prosecutor in the case. The request from Cáceres’ family to make the case public through a live video link was rejected.
As the victims had no confidence in the impartiality of the judges, they filed a challenge request. At the opening of the lawsuit (on October 19th) the challenge was still pending and according to the lawyers of the victims the process was therefore not allowed to start at all. They therefore informed the court in advance that they would not be present, after which the judges immediately stated that the victims would be represented by the Public Prosecution Service in the subsequent trial. The judges made this statement without the consent of the victims.
Human rights violations and violence fuelled by foreign activities
COPINH and the children of Berta Cáceres continue to take all the steps, both nationally and internationally, that may be necessary to find justice for the murder. They do this not only for themselves, but above all to create a precedent, to show how national and international forces have responsibility in the violence, and to ensure that such a thing will not happen again in the future.
Statement by COPINH and the family of Berta Cáceres (Spanish and English)
Read more about this subject
Development banks should comply with strict environmental and human rights rules to ensure that their projects benefit and do not harm the poorest groups. Both ENDS monitors the banks to make sure they do.
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 / 2 March 2021
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.
Press release / 10 February 2021
The Dutch development bank FMO is not sufficiently transparent about the projects it finances and is therefore acting contrary to its mandate. This is evident from a new report published by the International Accountability Project (IAP) and the Foundation for the Development of Sustainable Policies (FUNDEPS), endorsed by 28 organizations including Both ENDS, SOMO, and Oxfam Novib. The research assesses FMO's disclosure and access to information practices for investments proposed between January 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020. Only in 25% of the cases was it disclosed what potential negative consequences an investment by FMO would have for people and the environment.
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.
The Barro Blanco dam project in Panama, which has Dutch financial support, is causing indigenous lands to disappear under water. Both ENDS is working to protect the rights of indigenous communities living near the dam.
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.
External link / 10 December 2018
An Open Letter to States and Development Financiers on the need to ensure that development interventions support the realization of human rights, safeguard human rights defenders and guarantee meaningful public participation
News / 4 October 2017
On September 20th FMO published its new position statements on human rights, land governance and gender. We appreciate that FMO takes human rights serious and applaud the efforts that have been made to come to an improved position on human rights, land and gender. However, to truly have a positive impact on people and the environment, some important follow up steps are necessary.
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 / 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 / 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.
News / 10 November 2020
The Dutch development bank FMO has published a statement about fossil fuels to take steps in climate action. Both ENDS and partners are pleased that FMO is finally taking a stand regarding fossil fuels, but in our opinion it could be more ambitious. In order to really contribute to sustainability and equality, it is essential that development banks stop investing in harmful fossil projects.
News / 11 May 2017
A year ago, the Senegalese NGO Takkom Jerry filed a complaint with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Dutch Development Bank FMO, with support from Both ENDS. These banks finance the Sendou coal power station, right next to the fishing village of Bargny. The AfDB has now recognized the complaint. FMO is already processing the complaint and will publish an official response shortly.
News / 5 November 2019
After a complaint filed by women's groups from Ixquisis, Guatemala, the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) has started an investigation on several policy violations, amongst which the Gender Equality policy. This is a unique chance to create a precedent, because complaints on the IDB's gender policy are very rare. The women from Ixquisis are fighting for their rights with support of the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA).
Blog / 12 July 2019
and Stijn Deklerck of Amnesty International Nederland
On 12 and 13 July, the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) will be holding its annual meeting in Luxembourg. This is the fourth annual meeting of the AIIB which was set up on the initiative of China. As a shareholder, the Netherlands will be attending the meeting.
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.
Publication / 30 June 2017
Together with civil society organisations from all over the world, the Fair Green and Global (FGG) Alliance aims for socially just, inclusive and environmentally sustainable societies in the Netherlands and the Global South.