Jun 14, 2013
Berta Caceres was accused of illegal possession of a firearm. After an eight hour trial, testimonies by military and police officers, who had conducted a search of her vehicle, were ultimately considered insufficient evidence. Berta, who had been closely monitored and forbidden from leaving the country, has been cleared of all charges and has had her rights to free travel restored.
It became evident that members of the army contradicted themselves. The police had done no investigation and had merely parroted the army's version of events.
“The military officers were the ones who planted the weapon so that they could arrest us, they always look for a way to mess with our friends”, said Tomas Gomez, who was arrested at the same time as Berta, but quickly released. “If Berta hadn’t been released, there would have been huge mobilizations in several municipalities”, he added.
Berta is the latest target of the Honduran government's attempts to criminalize legitimate dissent. She has been helping communities to peacefully mobilize against government and business interests to defend their lands.
Delegates from more than 40 organizations across Honduras arrived in the city of Santa Barbara, where the trial took place, to show their solidarity with the indigenous rights campaigner.
“What bothers the regime the most is that communities are mobilizing, and are far from being afraid, because they are aware of the value of the natural resources of their territories”, said Tomas.
The humanitarian situation in Honduras worsens by the day and many organizations believe that most communities are threatened, militarized and under a permanent state of siege. This trend is expected to worsen with the coming presidential elections in November.
Image and reporting by Real World Radio
Jun 12, 2013
Friends of the Earth Europe: Concerns about possible negative effects of an EU and US trade agreement are the subject of a letter sent to European Trade ministers today.
Friends of the Earth Europe, the European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) and Eurogroup for Animals today wrote to the 27 ministers to raise concerns about the threat a deal could pose to environmental, consumer, and social regulatory standards.
The EU's Foreign Affairs Council is expected to meet in Brussels on Friday June 14 to approve a mandate for the European Commission to negotiate a trade agreement, also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Paul de Clerck, economic justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said:
"The trade negotiations between the EU and the US will have significant impacts on regulatory standards which touch upon all aspects of life for people and the environment on both sides of the Atlantic. Considering the current economic and financial challenges, as well as the climate emergency, it is absolutely essential that any agreement builds on regulatory pillars such as the precautionary and polluter-pays principles and allows countries to introduce safeguards that go beyond those in the partnership. Specific rights for investors should absolutely be excluded from the agreement."
In the letter, the three organisations make the following points:
- Negotiations should be fully open to public scrutiny, including through the publication of the negotiating texts. There should be full transparency about the exact scope of the agreement and consultation with civil society about the mandate.
- Negotiations should aim at the highest common standard. Regulatory convergence should not be used to lower existing environmental, social, or consumer protection standards.
- National governments should retain the rights to maintain or introduce higher standards which go beyond what is agreed in the TTIP. These should be applied in a non-discriminatory way to domestic and foreign producers and suppliers.
- Investor States Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions should be excluded from the mandate. This mechanism allows foreign investors to legally challenge national governments, thereby elevating them to the same status as sovereign states. As both the EU and the US have well-functioning court systems, there is absolutely no need to include such provisions in the agreement.
Visit the Friends of the Earth Europe website
Jun 11, 2013
Friends of the Earth International demands the annulment of legal proceedings against Berta Caceres and the Honduras Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH)
Berta Caceres, a community organiser from Honduras, has been summoned to court to face fradulent charges for posession of an illegal weapon. She is the latest target of the Honduran government's attempts to criminalize legitimate dissent. She has been helping communities to peacefully mobilize to defend their lands. The letter below, from the executive committee of Friends of the Earth International, calls for the immediate annulment of all proceedings against Berta Cáceres and insists that the Honduran government fulfill its responsibilities under national and international law to protect the rights and security of activists.
To the legal authorities in Santa Barbara municipality, Honduras
To the judges in the Supreme Court of Honduras
To the companies responsible for the Agua Zarca hydropower project (DESA-SINOHIDRO and FICOSAH bank)
To the Honduran and international public
On behalf of the environmental federation Friends of the Earth International, I would like to express our concern over the repeated episodes of violence against social leaders in Honduras caused by state forces and by mercenaries hired by companies, landowners and several consortia, as a variety of national testimonies and international reports confirm.
I would also like to table a petition of concern to your institutions, in light of the trial indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres faces in your country, which I consider to be illegitimate, illegal and represents a high risk for her personal integrity and the security of her organization, the Honduras Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH).
We have been notified over the past few weeks about the persecution and criminalization of this social activist who works for the rights of Honduran indigenous peoples, their territories and culture, against whom the authorities have initiated unjustified legal proceedings accusing her of the illegal possession of a firearm without any formal evidence.
Berta Cáceres has been summoned to court in the city of Santa Bárbara, Honduras on June 13, at 9am, to defend herself against these false accusations.
Legal proceedings were initiated on May 24, 2013, following the illegal detention of Berta Cáceres and indigenous journalist Tomás Gómez, both members of the Honduras Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH), while they were traveling to the area where the Lenca indigenous people are mobilizing against the installation of the Agua Zarca hydro power dam. If this dam is built, hundreds of indigenous families of the Honduran North-West region will be displaced.
In the operation that resulted in their arrest, over 15 members of the Honduran Army and the Police participated. They were arrested without a warrant and despite the fact that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has extended a precautionary measure in favor of this Honduran leader, following multiple threats against her life.
Berta and Tomás stated that the officers stopped the COPINH vehicle in which they were traveling and detained them with vehicles identified with the logos of the consortium responsible for the construction of the dam (DESA-SINOHIDRO and FICOSAH bank).
Berta was detained for almost 24 hours and is now prevented from leaving the country and has to make herself present at the police headquarters every week until the case is solved (See article).
The COPINH members’ detention testifies to the strong trend towards the militarization of the Honduran police. The actions by the Honduran armed and security forces violate the human rights of social, environmental and indigenous activists who are systematically harassed as if they were “enemies” and not citizens who are entitled to their rights.
Berta Cáceres’ life and freedom are at risk and depend on the outcome of the hearing that will take place on June 13.
Therefore, on behalf of Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroots environmental federation with national member groups in 74 countries on every continent, I am addressing you, together with organizations and individuals who fight for social and environmental justice, calling for the immediate annulment of the proceedings against Berta Cáceres’ and demanding the Honduran authorities and international human rights organizations to guarantee the necessary conditions for her to continue working as a defender of the human and environmental rights of indigenous and peasant communities and women in Honduras.
In solidarity with the Honduran people, sincerely,
Sign this petition calling for justice for Berta and read more about her arbitrary arrest and the harassment she has faced.