The thirty-first session of the United Nations Human Rights Council took place in March 2016 in Geneva. The CETIM acted as the voice of the peoples and of social movements in the fight for their rights. In fact, one of the CETIM’s missions is to denounce human rights violations committed by multinationals and their interference in the free exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.
On 3 March 2016, Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader of the Lenca people, was murdered in cold blood in her house by paid killers. Leader of the Civic Council of the Peoples’ and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Berta had for years been involved in the fight against mining and hydroelectric projects such as the “Agua Zarca” project, particularly dangerous for the survival of the indigenous Lenca population. This project was developed in cooperation with German multinationals (Siemens and Voith) as well as European and United States financial institutions such as the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO), the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd. (Finnfund) and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). Berta constantly sounded the alarm about the dangers of free-trade treaties, the multinationals’ Trojan horse and the pillar of their impunity.
At the presentation of the joint report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, the CETIM delivered a statement during a plenary session of the Human Rights Council. It denounced Berta’s murder, requesting that the Special Rapporteurs act to guarantee justice. Among other things, the CETIM demanded the halt to all the “development” projects involving human rights violations and which are carried on without prior consultation with the local populations. The CETIM also demanded a moratorium on the investments of transnational corporations and international financial institutions in these projects, an end of impunity for crimes committed against human rights defenders, and independent inquiries into the murder of Berta Cáceres.
In 2015, Berta had received death threats from persons involved with the Canadian hydroelectric company Blue Energy, for she opposed the construction of a dam on the Rio Blanco. She had publicly revealed in an interview given to the Spanish press agency EFE: “I have received threats of death, kidnapping, disappearance and lynching. There has been mention of placing a bomb in my car, and my daughter was threatened with kidnapping. They are trying to intimidate me by persecuting me, by subjecting me to surveillance and sexual harassment. There have also been campaigns against me in the national media.”
Moreover, Berta was subject to protection measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Whoever gave the order and committed this murder, the Honduran authorities failures are surely implicated.