British Government and Human Rights: Carbon offset plans linked to murders in Honduras

Bajo Aguan, Honduras

The Honduran plantation company Grupo Dinant is looking for funds from the carbon markets even though they have been implicated in 16-25 assassinations of peasants in 2010 alone. During the first three months of this year, they have been linked again to violent attacks and kidnapping. Unless the British Government stops the sale of those carbon credits, which they can do, the company will further increase their profits and thus be able to pay even more armed paramilitaries and to continue oppressing the peasant communities that are reclaiming lands which are legally theirs. Please ask the British government to stop this deal.

Grupo Dinant invests heavily in palm oil, amongst other business activities. In Honduras, a country ruled by a violent and illegitimate regime, the company is notorious for its violence against peasants in the Bajo Aguán valley, committed with the regime's complicity and with the help of privately hired death squats, the military and the police.

The carbon credits would be paid through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a controversial carbon offset scheme set up by the United Nations under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol. Under this scheme, polluting companies in the North – in this case the French energy company EDF Trading- can avoid having to reduce their own carbon emissions by buying certificates from projects in the South which are supposed to reduce carbon emissions there.

Grupo Dinant is one of the companies seeking to be paid through CDM carbon credits by EDF Trading, a leading purchaser of carbon offsets, with large investments in coal and nuclear power. The projects in question involve biogas capture at two palm oil mills owned by Grupo Dinant.

Under CDM rules, human rights are being ignored entirely, which is scandalous. Yet the British government can stop both projects by withdrawing their authorisation. The UK has ratigied the European Convention on Human Rights the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

On 4th February, 76 organisations sent and Open Letter to the UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change. Two months on, the Government has still not acted and has not withdrawn their authorisation for the projects. Every day that they delay such an action makes it more likely or Grupo Dinant to be paid through the CDM. Please write to the UK Government today and ask them to immediately cancel their authorisation for both projects. An automatic copy of you letter will be sent to EDF Trading, too.

Farmers fighting for the redistribution of land

Jul 4, 2012

Honduras: Farmers win back their land

After a long and costly conflict, two regional courts in Trujillo and Tocoa have now decided that the plantations of the notorious Dinant company have been wrongly built on pieces of land owned by the local farmers of Bajo Aguán.
The judges have ordered to vacate the plantations, so the land can be returned to the farmers.

Until now, it has never been a good sign for the small-scale farmers of Bajo Aguán, a valley located in northern Honduras, when forces of the police showed up. But on Friday, June 29th, 2012, the security forces did not move in to harass the civilians: They came to protect them against the paramilitaries hired by major landowners Miguel Facussé and René Morales. After a long and costly conflict, two regional courts in Trujillo and Tocoa have now decided that the plantations of the notorious Dinant company have been wrongly built on pieces of land owned by the local farmers of Bajo Aguán. Police forces have been called in to oversee the vacating of the plantations, so the land can be returned to its rightful owners.

Occupation of farmland by major landowners illegal

Since 1994, the major landowners keep three farms under their permanent occupation: San Isidro, La Trinidad and El Despertar. In these areas, palm oil plantations have been established to produce and export agrofuels and edible oils. The small-scale farmers in the valley reclaim the land for themselves, and they accuse the company’s security guards of expelling them from their property by force. About 700 families affected by this have banded together to found the organization Movimiento Auténtico Reivindicador Campesino del Aguán (MARCA). For 18 years now, they are fighting for their rights to regain their property – and for just as long, the agroindustrialist Facussé is doing everything in his power to silence the farmers by employing extreme violence. Since January 2010, 64 people have been killed in this region, and many farmers are among the victims. According to several reports in the Honduran media, Facussé’s company Dinant is blamed for at least 19 of these cases of murder. Miguel Facussé comes from one of the most influential families of entrepreneurs in Honduras. He is said to stand in close contact with the military and – according to WikiLeaks reports – with the drug mafia as well.

Bajo Aguan – groundbreaking judgment with an impact on the entire country

The recent decision of the regional courts strengthens the rights of the farmers and confirms their claim to the ownership of land in Bajo Aguán. As yet, it remains to be seen how the powerful opponent’s highly-paid lawyers will react and which political strings Facussé will pull. But apart from the possible consequences, it must be viewed as a success that the judges of Trujillo and Tocoa were not intimidated by Facussé’s power and assigned the land rights to the farmers.

Since April 2010, Rainforest Rescue supports the small-scale farmers in Bajo Aguán and their demands for justice and an agrarian reform by starting petitions and by doing public relations work. A protest campaign against the international financing of Facussé’s plantations has already prompted DEG, the German Investment and Development Company, to withdraw from a proposed loan to Dinant.

Please follow this link for a statement of FIAN Honduras on the recent court ruling.

Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Alan Wyper, UK DNA team

John Rittenhouse
Chief Executive EDF Trading

Dear Mr Huhne,

I am deeply concerned about the UK Government's authorisation for two proposed Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects under which EDF Trading would earn carbon offsets from biogas production at two palm oil mills in Honduras, owned by Grupo Dinant's subsidiary Exportadora de Atlantico. The projects in question are called "Aguan biogas recovery from Palm Oil Mill Effluent ponds and biogas utilisation" and Lean Biogas recovery from Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) ponds and biogas / biomass utilisation”.

In 2010 alone, between 16 and 25 peasants were assassinated in land conflicts involving Grupo Dinant, in the Bajo Aguan region. Human rights abuses have continued in the first quarter of this year, with violent attacks and the kidnapping of a peasant activist and journalist. Paramilitaries hired and armed by Grupo Dinant's owner, Miguel Facusse, as well as police and military have been involved in the attacks and assassinations and have been acting with complete impunity since the military coup in 2009. The site of one of the proposed CDM projects is a palm oil mill used last April as a site where paramilitaries, military and police forces were stationed and from which they reportedly intimidated local communities and even fired bullets at a ten year old girl. Those human rights abuses have been documented by several national and international organisations.

The CDM Board states that, under CDM rules, they cannot take human rights impacts of projects into account, which seems scandalous.

Yet, as the authorising authority, the UK Government can stop both projects by withdrawing their authorisation, in accordance with their international human rights obligations. 76 organisations worldwide called on the Government to do so in an Open Letter submitted on 4th February: Yet the Government has not acted on this request and every day that the authorisations are not withdrawn makes CDM funding for Grupo Dinant more likely. Such CDM funding would further increase the profits of a company known to use their funds to hire and arm paramilitaries, almost certainly including death squads previously involved in murders in Colombia.

I would therefore ask you to ensure that authorisation for those projects is withdrawn. We also call on EDF Trading to withdraw from the project immediately. Many thanks in advance.

Yours sincerely,

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