Honduras is notoriously the most deadly country for land rights activists, including the farmers fighting to retain their land from the palm oil industry. Now, some of those farmers have sued a branch of the World Bank over hundreds of human rights violations.
EarthRights International (ERI) filed the federal lawsuit yesterday on behalf of the farmers, who say the World Bank’s private lending arm – the International Financial Corporation (IFC) – knowingly financed and helped palm oil company Dinant carry out violence and abuse against farmers resisting their projects in the Aguan Valley region.
The lawsuit also claims Dinant used paramilitary death squads to carry out these crimes, which included the disappearing of local land defenders.
This is the first time a community has sued the IFC in federal court for aiding and abetting crimes related to a project funded by the World Bank Group.
“The horrendous spate of violence that followed the IFC’s loan to Dinant is probably one of the most severe instances of corporate-related human rights abuse and financier negligence in the past decade,” ERI’s lawyers said in a statement.
ERI said that more than 100 farmers have been killed since the IFC’s first loan to Dinant in November 2009. Over the years, the IFC has invested tens of millions in the company, despite Dinant’s ongoing attempts to seize large swaths of land owned by local farmers for decades.
Even after the IFC’s internal watchdog scolded IFC for the 2009 loan, ERI says that the World Bank Group continued supporting Dinant via an opaque system of financial intermediaries.
The abuses have been devastating for farmers in the region.