As the negotiations on the proposed EU Corporate Sustainable Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) get closer to an agreement between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, Bertha Zùniga Càceres, General Coordinator of COPINH, Honduras, sent an open letter to EU decision-makers on 29th September to urge them to ensure that the future European legislation will be robust and effective enough to protect communities from corporate human rights abuse and allow victims to have access to justice in European courts, when such abuses happen.
Together with her community and her family, she is encouraged to learn that the proposed European Directive will establish legally binding duties for businesses to respect human rights and the environment.
“This is a great opportunity for the EU to show leadership in ensuring that companies act responsibly”.
However, she expresses great concerns that it does not fully include the same due diligence obligations for the financial sector as for other companies and, as such, it may fail to prevent brutal corporate human rights abuses
“My mother was murdered for defending the rights of our community, on the orders of a company that was receiving funding from European investors.”
Together with COPINH, she calls on greater accountability and stronger obligations on European companies and investors to respect human rights:
- The legislation needs to include responsibility for a company’s entire value chain, enable victims to access justice, and to include all business relationships, including investment relationships.
- The legislation should be improved to enable affected communities to access justice. The Directive needs to ensure a fair distribution of the burden of proof, ensure that the limitation periods for bringing liability claims is reasonable, that claimants have recourse to collective redress mechanisms, and that civil society organisations and trade unions are entitled to bring representative actions on behalf of victims.
We hope their voice will be heard.
In March 2016, Bertha Càceres was shot dead in her home in La Esperanza (Honduras) because of the prominent role she played in the fight of the indigenous Honduran Lenca people to protect their land from a hydroelectric dam project that would have deprived them of their territory and heritage. The investment, led by a consortium of international funders, had been opposed by the Lenca people since its inception and was violently and illegally carried out with the support of the Honduran government. The company responsible for the project, in fact, had ignored international human rights standards and failed to consult indigenous communities, while resorting to fatal violence when met with opposition.
Bertha Zùniga Càceres is the daughter of Bertha Càceres and continues the fight of her mother and the Lenca people. She is the General Coordinator of COPINH, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras. More information available here.
Photo credit: Garry Walsh, Trócaire