More than 100 NGOs urge the EU to take action following murder of Berta Cáceres

Open Letter
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Open Letter to Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Trade, regarding the Murder of Honduran Environmental and Human Rights Defender Berta Cáceres.

Dear Ms Mogherini,
Dear Ms Malmström,

We write in shock and deep sorrow regarding the murder of Honduran environmental and human rights defender Berta Cáceres. She was a Lenca indigenous leader and the coordinator and co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). In 2015, she was awarded the Goldman Foundation Environmental Prize for defending her land and natural resources, notably for her campaign against Agua Zarca dam project. This project receives both national and international funds from multiple sources including the Dutch development bank FMO and Finnfund from Finland. Voith Hydro, a joint venture between Voith and Siemens (both based in Germany), is also involved in the project as equipment supplier.

Ms. Cáceres had precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) since 2009 [1], but did not receive the full protection she needed. She is one of the 15 human rights defenders who have been killed in Honduras despite being beneficiaries of the IACHR precautionary measures, as reported by the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). On 5 March 2016, the IACHR granted precautionary measures for the COPINH members, Berta Cáceres’ family and Gustavo Castro Soto, due to the risk to their safety [2].

Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican environmentalist, journalist and member of Otros Mundos Chiapas/Friends of the Earth-Mexico and the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model was also wounded in the attack against Cáceres. On 6 March, when he attempted to leave Honduras, with protection from the Mexican Embassy in Honduras, he was prevented from doing so by Honduran authorities before passing through customs in the Tegucigalpa International Airport, under the argument that he had to give further testimony. According to the latest information, as of 8 March, he was requested to stay in the country for 30 more days [3].

Berta Cáceres’ death confirms what a 2015 report has shown: Honduras is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for environmental activists. At least 109 environmental activists were murdered between 2010 and 2015. Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has become one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a human rights defender of any kind. The murder of Berta Cáceres sends a devastating message to all Hondurans trying to exercise their rights – including their right to defend their human rights.

We welcome the statement the EU Delegation in Honduras together with member states have issued just after Ms Caceres assassination [4] as well as the Statement of the Spokesperson [5] highlighting the need of a “transparent yet expedite investigation” and asking for the full protection of Mr Castro Soto and be allowed to leave the country as soon as possible.

We urge that, through political dialogue, you request the State of Honduras to:

Support an independent international investigation of Ms Cáceres murder, led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and urge the Honduran government to invite and fully cooperate with such an investigation. An independent investigation is essential given the lack of confidence in the judicial system; reigning impunity [6] , including for cases involving human rights defenders; and the emblematic nature of this case.

Ensure that Honduran judicial authorities carry out their duties to effectively and promptly investigate Cáceres’ murder, in cooperation with the international investigation, and following lines of inquiry that take into account the context of Cáceres’ work and situation of risk, while pursuing the intellectual and material authors, guaranteeing due process and access to justice.

Comply with the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR on 5 March and provide immediate, effective, and carefully consulted protection to members of the COPINH, members of Ms Cáceres’ family, Mr Castro and all witnesses in the case. The Honduran State must inform the IACHR about the measures adopted in this regard until 18 March 2016.

Proceed immediately to cancel the concession granted to DESA for the Agua Zarca project, which represents a violation of article 15 of ILO Convention 169 (C169), as there is no evidence to suggest that the indigenous Lenca people ever gave their consent prior to Honduran National Congress approving the concession in September 2010. All other concessions in Lenca territories approved without free, prior and informed consent must be suspended. The State of Honduras has ratified ILO Convention 169 and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Thus, it has the international obligation to seek consent.

Advance on the regulations and implementation of the mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders, journalists, media workers and justice operators, which must be fully operational and adequately funded, with protection measures consulted with beneficiaries.

Additionally, according to EU an international mechanisms, we recommend you to:

Ensure that the EU Delegation as well as Embassies and Consulates of EU member states in Honduras actively accompany and monitor the processes around the investigation of the murder of Berta Cáceres and the situation of Gustavo Castro Soto, in line with the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

Regulate European investments in natural resources exploitation projects in indigenous territories in order to comply with States human rights obligations, including those enshrined in C169 and outlined in the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the UN Guiding Principles. As stated above, the concession granted to DESA for the Agua Zarca project represents a violation of article 15 of C169.

In the framework of the implementation of the trade pillar of the Association Agreement between the EU and Central America, verify that all clauses related to the implementation of labour, environmental and social rights are respected by the State of Honduras, but also by European member states whose companies are supporting related projects in Honduras. Mobilise all mechanisms at disposal to ensure the full respect an implementation of these clauses as well as Art. 1 of the agreement.

The EU must stand with those who are putting their lives on the line for the protection of human rights and the environment in Honduras. And as outlined by the EU, human rights defenders around the world deserve to see that impunity (of any kind) will not prevail.

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  • Co-signatories

    Signed by:

    1. ACT Alliance EU
    2. Ambiente, Desarrollo y Capacitación, Honduras
    3. Agropecuaria Van Der Zee S.A.Nicaragua
    4. Asociacion de mujeres feministas puntos subersivos.
    5. Asociación Latinoamericana de Organizaciones de Promoción al Desarrollo, ALOP, Mexico
    6. Asociación Mujeres en la Diversidad - Spain
    7. Asociación para la Promoción y el Desarrollo de la Comunidad (CEIBA), Guatemala
    8. Asociación Paz con Dignidad, Spain
    9. Asociacion Pro Derechos Humanos de España (APDHE), Spain
    10. Asociación Servicio Doméstico Activo (SEDOAC), Spain
    11. Associació PERIFÈRIES, Spain
    12. Axela Romero Cárdenas, México
    13. Ayuntamiento de Madrid- Spain
    14. Bischöfliche Aktion Adveniat e.V. para los pueblos en América Latina y el Caribe, Germany
    15. Bread for all, Switzerland
    16. Broederlijk Delen, Belgium
    17. C-CONDEM
    18. Calala Fondo de Mujeres, Spain
    19. Capitulo Boliviano de Derechos Humanos, democracia y desarrollo.
    20. Center for International Environmental Law - United States
    21. Centre National de Coopération au Développement CNCD-11.11.11 - Belgium
    22. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos "Segundo Montes Mozo S.J." (CSMM), Ecuador
    23. Centro de Estudios e Investigación sobre Mujeres
    24. Centro de Estudios y Apoyo al Desarrollo Local
    25. Centro de la Mujer Peruana Flor Tristán, Peru.
    26. Centro Internazionale Crocevia, Italy
    27. Christliche Initiative Romero e.V., Germany
    28. Colectivo Rebeldía - Bolivia
    29. Colegio de Profesionales Forestales de Honduras, COLPROFORH. Honduras
    30. Collectif Alerte Honduras, France
    31. Collectif Paris-Ayotzinapa , France
    32. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos - RD
    33. Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH), Honduras
    34. ComuniCA e.V. Comunidad Centroamericana en Alemania , Germany
    35. Cooperacio, Spain
    36. Coordinadora Indígena de Mesoamérica y el Caribe (CIMCA) Honduras
    37. Copenhagen Initiative for Central America and Mexico (CIFCA), Belgium.
    38. DanChurchAid, Danemarc
    39. Defenred - Spain
    40. Due Process of Law Foundation, United States
    41. The Norwegian Solidarity Committee for Latin America , Norway
    42. Entrepueblos/Entrepobles/Entrpobos/Herriarte, Spain
    43. Espacio ACI, Honduras
    44. Federación Comercializadora de Café Especial de Guatemala, "FECCEG", Guatemala
    45. Federación de Planificación Familiar Estatal - Spain
    46. Federacion de Mujeres jovenes, Spain
    47. FIAN International (international organization)
    48. Focus on the Global South, Thailand
    49. Forschungs- und Dokumentationszentrum Chile-Lateinamerika e.V., Berlin, Germany
    50. France Amérique Latine, France
    51. Forum de Politica Feminista de Málaga
    52. Front Line Defenders, Ireland
    53. Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu - Sütsüin Jiyeyuu Wayuu -Colombia
    54. Fundación Acceso - Costa Rica
    55. Fundación Madrid Paz y Solidaridad, Spain
    56. Fundación Mundubat, Spain
    57. Grito de los excluidos Bolivia
    58. Grupo Sur - European Advocacy Network - EU Latin America and Caribbean
    59. Guatemala Solidarität Österreich, Austria
    60. Habitat International Coalition, Latin American Office, Mexico
    61. Haurralde Fundazioa, Spain
    62. Hausfeld & CO LLP
    63. HEKS/EPER
    64. HELVETAS, Honduras
    65. Honduran Conservation Coalition
    66. Honduras Forum Switzerland, Switzerland
    67. Hondurasdelegation, Germany
    68. Honduraswerkgroep Belgium
    69. Humanos con Recursos, España
    70. IBIS, Denmark
    71. ICID, Iniciativa de Cooperacion Internacional para el desarrollo, Spain.
    72. Index on Censorship, UK
    73. Informationsgruppe Lateinamerika (IGLA), Austria
    74. Iniciativa Cuba Socialista (Belgium)
    75. Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos
    76. Instituto de Investigacion y capacitacion pedagógica social
    77. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    78. Jobs AUstralia, AUstralia
    79. Kindernothilfe e.V. - Germany
    80. La Via Campesina
    81. Le Réseau des GASAP asbl (Belgium)
    82. medico international Germany
    83. Misereor, GERMANY
    84. Mugarik Gabe, Bask Country, Spain
    85. Muejres de negro de Madrid, Spain
    86. Nación Tawahka
    87. Nicaragua-Verein Düsseldorf e.V., Germany
    88. NOAH - Friends of the Earth Denmark
    89. Observatorio DESC, Spain
    90. Ökumenisches Büro für Frieden und Gerechtigkeit e.V., Germany
    91. Ökumenische Initiative Mittelamerika e.V.
    92. ONG Realidades - Bolivia
    93. ONGD Asociación de Investigación y Especialización Sobre Temas Iberoamericanos, Spain
    94. Oxfam
    95. Peace Brigades International (PBI)
    96. Plataforma de lucha contra la Violencia hacia la Mujer, Santa Cruz de la Sierra-Bolivia
    97. Plataforma de Solidaridad con Chiapas y Guatemala de Madrid, Spain
    98. Plataforma de Solidaritat amb el Poble de Guatemala, Spain.
    99. Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD Regional) Quito, Ecuador
    100. Platform against gender violence- Catalonia -Spain
    101. Protection International, Belgium
    102. Provea – Venezuea
    103. Red Derechos Sexuales y Derechos Reproductivos de Euskadi, Bask Country, Spain
    104. Rede de mujeres de América Latina y el Caribe en Espana, Spain.
    105. Redlad, Colombia
    106. Red Nosotras en el Mundo (España-Argentina-Mesoamérica)
    107. Secours Catholique Caritas, France
    108. SEDOAC.
    109. Servicios Juridicos y Sociales SERJUS, Guatemala
    110. Society for International Development (SID) - Global Organization with HQ in Italy
    111. Solidarity Sweden-Latin America / SAL, Sweden
    112. Sri Lanka Nature Group - Sri Lanka
    113. TROCAIRE, Ireland
    114. Unión Argentina de Pescadores Artesanales (UAPA)
    115. Urgenci International Community Supported Network
    116. VSF Justicia Alimentaria Global
    117. We Effect, Sweden
    118. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
    119. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Switzerland
    120. World Solidarity, Belgium
    121. World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (WFF)
    122. World Forum of Fisher Peoples - Global Fisher Movement

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