SAN FRANCISCO DE LOCOMAPA: DISPLACED TOLUPANES RETURN TO THEIR LANDS WITH IACHR PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES

March 19, 2014

 

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On February 23, in response to an invitation from the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ), PROAH observed a publicly organized event for the return of indigenous Tolupan members to their community in San Francisco de Locomapa, Yoro.

Last year, members of the community were forced to flee Locomapa following the assassination of three members of the community, Maria Enriqueta Matute, Armando Funez Medina, and Ricardo Soto Funez, on August 25, 2013. The triple murder occurred after twelve days of peaceful demonstrations by the community to protest mining and illegal logging on their tribal lands.

In response to a request by MADJ for protection of the community, on December 19, 2013, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights awarded precautionary measures to eighteen community members and their families, thirty-eight people in total.

This gathering, organized for the return of community members who had been forced to flee last year, was attended by a Commission representing the state of Honduras including the vice minister of the the Ministry of Human Rights, Justice, Governance, and Decentralization, members of the Ministry of Security, the Attorney General’s Office, the Public Ministry’s Office of Ethnic and Cultural Heritage; and the regional delegate of the National Commissioner for Human Rights.

This Commission arrived by helicopter and emphasized that it was the first time such a ceremony has been carried out, and that the government is commitment to fulfill its obligation to defend human rights. The deputy superintendent of Yoro, Ventura Rodriguez, also spoke and pledged to capture the alleged murderers and give protection to those threatened.

Coordinator of MADJ and lawyer Victor Fernandez also spoke, emphasizing the responsibility that the Honduran State has to give protection to the thirty-eight people in the zone with protective measures from the IACHR.

After the event, MADJ authorities and representatives signed an agreement, in which these commitments were documented and where the precautionary measures and their content were explained.

 

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Other civil society actors also accompanied the event, including ERIC-Radio Progreso; COPA (Coordination of Popular Organizations of Aguán); the Human Rights Observatory in the Aguán; the Forum of Women for Life; OFRANEH; the coalition against impunity; and a representative of the Honduras Solidary Network in the United States (HSN).

The event ended with the planting of three trees in memory of those murdered last year while peacefully opposing mining efforts.

 

To date, the alleged murderers have not been arrested, despite arrest warrants in their names. One community member, the MADJ coordinator in Locomapa, who fled following the murders, has not yet returned to the community as he still fears for his life after gunmen hung a note with death threats on the door of his home last September.

 

More Information:

Our blog : Murder of three Tolupan community members in Locomapa. August 27, 2013.

 artículo de Radio Progreso:

Tolupanes retornan a sus tierras con promesa de seguridad del Estado hondureño

Artículo del MADJ sobre el otorgamiento de medidas cautelares por la CIDH

 Pronunciamiento del MADJ

2013 PROAH ANNUAL REPORT

March 14, 2014

Please find here our 2013 annual report.

SUMMARY OF HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES AND EVENTS IN HONDURAS (January and February, 2014)

March 12, 2014

Please find here our latest Summary of Human Rights issues and events in Honduras, for January and February, 2014.

AZUNOSA: Conciliation Process stalls while Criminalization continues

February 5, 2014

On 29 January 2014, PROAH observers attended the latest conciliation hearing between representatives of AZUNOSA and of the campesinos – the CNTC (National Farmworkers Federation) and the ADCP (El Progreso Association for Campesino Development). The two parties are locked in a dispute over land in Agua Blanca Sur, occupied by AZUNOSA, the sugar company owned by the British multinational SAB Miller which operates in the Sula Valley.1

 The conciliation process, which began in November, in theory should allow the lifting of the charges against the campesinos (who had been occupying the land under dispute until their eviction in June 2013) and their supporters. However, very little progress was made at the conciliation meeting on 29 January, the fourth in the process, as AZUNOSA failed to make any concrete offers. Magdalena Morales, CNTC’s Regional Secretary for Yoro department, based in El Progreso, faces another court hearing on 11 February.2

Magdalena Morales                                            Magdalena Morales

According to the latest figures from the CNTC, there are currently a total of 108 people subject to judicial proceedings in connection with this case. Magdalena Morales was arrested on 26 July 2013 in her office and, in a case with close parallels with that of the COPINH leadership, charged with usurping land. As a result of the alternative measures to imprisonment, she is unable to visit the area under dispute, seriously affecting her work in support of the campesinos. Another of the people affected, Félix Torres Meraz, aged 65, has been under house arrest since June3 and has to sign regularly at the court-house, which he has been unable to do recently because he has pneumonia. The court has threatened to imprison his daughter if she fails to sign in his place. As well as this judicial persecution, Magdalena and others have also suffered death threats and surveillance. According to Magdalena, at the second ‘conciliation’ meeting on 2 December, Víctor Ramos, the chairman of AZUNOSA himself, told her to “cuídese el pellejo” (“watch her back”).

 At the meeting on 29 January, AZUNOSA’s lawyers focused on the Supreme Court verdict which found in AZUNOSA’s favour.4 Although it was issued on 9 December 2013, it was apparently not made public until 20 December, leaving little time for the campesinos’ legal team to react. In the end, they lodged an appeal against the judgment on the grounds of unconstitutionality (recurso de amparo). The Supreme Court judgment endorses the National Agrarian Council’s ruling, in November 2012, which overturned the decision made by INA (National Agrarian Institute) in March 2012 in favour of the campesinos.

INA had ruled against AZUNOSA because its land holdings in Agua Blanca Sur exceed the ‘sobretecho‘ – the ceiling imposed under Article 25 of the Agricultural Reform Act and continued under the LMDSA (1992 Agricultural Sector Modernization and Development Act), restricting land ownership to 250 hectares in the Sula Valley. AZUNOSA has argued that the purpose of the LMDSA was to discourage the accumulation of idle land for speculative purposes and was not intended to be used against farms in full production, claiming that this is made explicit in the preamble of the LMDSA. (The preamble actually stresses the importance of food production and food security – AZUNOSA has a contract with Coca Cola and SABMiller, its owner, is a beer company). AZUNOSA argues that it was on that basis that SAG (Ministry of Agriculture and Cattle-Rearing) had formally granted it a waiver from the sobretecho.

 At the conciliation meeting, the lawyers also focused on the bilateral investment treaty between the UK and Honduras signed in 1993 (Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Honduras for the Promotion and Protection of Investments). Under its Article 5, there should be no expropriation of either party’s investments except if this is considered to be in the national interest and, if so, it should be subject to ‘prompt, adequate and effective compensation’. INA had offered AZUNOSA 10 million US dollars, although AZUNOSA’s lawyers had claimed that the actual losses suffered by AZUNOSA would be nearer 83 million5 – a further incentive for the state to find in AZUNOSA’s favour. It was clear that there had been significant diplomatic pressure from the UK to overturn INA’s decision – it was the British ambassador herself who announced the National Agrarian Council’s ruling in November 2012 against the campesinos.6

The European Union has introduced a trade pillar into its Association Agreement with Central American countries, applied in Honduras since August 2013, which means that the bilateral investment treaty between the UK and Honduras will ultimately be replaced by an EU one, if that has not happened already. However, in the final article of the existing treaty there is a ‘sunset clause’ under which investments made while it is in force will continue to be subject to the treaty’s provisions for 20 years after it has been terminated.

In the meantime, Magdalena and the campesinos she supports remain in a legal limbo and continue to receive threats.

1SOAWatch article The Struggle for Land in Agua Blanca Sur provides extensive background on the case.

2See interview with Magdalena Morales by La Voz de los de Abajo

6 El Heraldo Consejo Nacional Agrario falla a favor de Azunosa.

See also Giorgio Trucchi’s interview with Marco Ramiro Lobo of INA SABMiller lands expropriated – Strong pressures to withdraw resolution

SUMMARY OF HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES AND EVENTS IN HONDURAS (OCTOBER, NOVEMBER & DECEMBER 2013)

February 3, 2014

Please find here our latest Tri-month Summary of Human Rights issues and events in Honduras, for October, November and December 2013. It includes a four-page annex on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearings in October 2013.

Public Clarification of the Circumstances Surrounding the Abduction of Two Observers from PROAH in La Nueva Esperanza

November 15, 2013

We wish to express our deep concern about statements made by representatives of the state and others on the Honduran television programme Frente a Frente (Face to Face), on two occasions, 5 and 12 November 2013, about the kidnapping of two observers of the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH) on 25 July 2013.

PROAH (the Project’s initials in Spanish) was established in Honduras in September 2010, in response to the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders following the 2009 coup. Its mandate is to provide international accompaniment to human rights defenders, including human rights and social movement organizations and individuals, who find themselves under threat or harassment due to their individual and collective human rights work. It is a project of the US NGO, Friendship Office of the Americas.

On 25 July 2013, Orlane Vidal and Daniel Langmeier, French and Swiss respectively, were visiting the community of La Nueva Esperanza in the municipality of Tela, which has suffered a campaign of intimidation for over a year for its peaceful opposition to a mining exploration concession granted by the State without its consent. Its persecutors include the police and men hired by the Minerales Victoria mining company. That day, the observers were held captive for two and a half hours by heavily armed men from the mining project. The incident was reported to the authorities and denounced publicly1 by the victims, and Amnesty International issued an urgent action providing details of the case.2

On 5 November, the kidnapping was the subject of public debate when the host of the programme Frente a Frente referred to the meeting that Bertha Oliva of COFADEH3 and Victor Fernandez of MADJ attended with members of the US Congress, where she mentioned the abduction of international observers. The show’s presenter and his guests insisted that they had not heard anything about the kidnapping, and on the basis of this and other points, accused Bertha Oliva of making unsubstantiated allegations. The programme provoked a strongly-worded complaint by Human Rights Watch4, which urged the government of Honduras to “publicly repudiate the … criticisms” and denounced the “smears” which put the country’s civil society leaders at risk.

The programme on 12 November gave the MADJ (Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice), an organization that supports the community of Nueva Esperanza, an opportunity for its three representatives, including Victor Fernandez, to respond to the accusations made on Frente a Frente the previous week, and to explain the community’s situation and the circumstances of the abduction. Two representatives of the state were also invited onto the programme – the Deputy Minister of Security and the Deputy Minister for Justice and Human Rights.

Although it was confirmed that the abduction had indeed occurred, instead of apologizing to Bertha Oliva for accusations made against her, the presenter sought to justify his apparent ignorance of the case by stating that he thought she was referring to election – rather than humans rights – observers.

We are extremely concerned about the statements made by Marcela Castañeda, Deputy Minister of Security, apparently based on police reports, which give an inaccurate account of the incident. The Minister publicly alleged that the international observers from PROAH were trespassing on private property (presumably the mining company’s) to take photos when they were abducted. She also alleged that they were taken in a car to the police station in Nueva Florida, and the police organized their secure return to Tegucigalpa, implying that the abduction was possibly justified, and underplaying the seriousness of the offence. These statements are totally incorrect. Moreover, both the Deputy Minister of Security, as well as Martha Sabillón, Deputy Minister for Justice and Human Rights, stated that the case still needed to be investigated. In fact:

- The investigations into the case are now so far advanced that the Public Prosecutor’s Office in La Ceiba has issued an arrest warrant for one of the kidnappers – who are also responsible for the persecution of the community. Unfortunately, to date, the warrant has not been implemented by the police.

- It was the kidnappers who trespassed on private property, not the observers. On 25 July 2013, the observers were accompanying the family of Concepción Gutiérrez, due to the threats it had received from workers from Minerales Victoria for refusing to sell its land to the mining company. Seven security guards, heavily armed, arrived at the family’s property, without its permission, threatening the two international observers with their guns. They were reinforced by between 25 and 30 men with machetes, workers at the mining exploration site. Such was the seriousness of the threats that the family fled the community the same day, after the abduction of the observers.

- The observers were forced by the armed men to get into their pick-up, and taken to the community of Nueva Florida.

- During the abduction, one of the kidnappers threatened to “disappear them in the woods” if the observers returned, and another warned that the community “would suffer reprisals” if they reported what had happened.

- After being held captive for two and a half hours, the observers were left in La Nueva Florida at 11.30am. They waited there for an hour until a police patrol took them to Tela, as a result of the urgent efforts made ​​by COFADEH and other national human rights defenders.

- During the forced and unauthorized entry onto private property by the armed men, and throughout the abduction, the local police failed to respond to the emergency calls made by members of the community, despite the fact that the day before, at the police station, both observers had informed its staff of their presence and their work in the community.

We welcome Martha Sabillón’s words of support for human rights defenders on the programme. However, we note with great concern the above statements about the kidnapping, which have the effect of discrediting the legitimate work of human rights defenders, both Honduran and international.

It should be stressed that, to date, there has been no action by the state to stop the harassment and persecution of the community of La Nueva Esperanza. The gunmen continue to terrorize the defenceless population daily.

For more information, please see the articles on La Nueva Esperanza in our blog from June to August 2013.

Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras.

Human Rights Watch Press Release (8.11.13) Honduras: Smears put activists at risk

Swiss delegation expresses concern at the human rights situation in Honduras

October 21, 2013

On 7 October 2013, a delegation of 10 Swiss people from the Honduras Forum Switzerland (Foro Honduras Suiza) called a press conference at COFADEH’s offices to share the findings of their visit to Honduras, the aim of which was to learn about the human rights situation and democracy in the country. Their mission lasted eight days and included trips to Zacate Grande in the south and La Esperanza in the west, as well as meetings with representatives of civil society and international and national organizations. The delegation had the opportunity to hear the testimonies of victims of human rights violations and their families, and the degree of almost total impunity regarding these violations.

The organizations they met emphasized the importance of an international presence, including visits by delegations and PROAH’s accompaniment, for the respect of human rights.

The Forum delegation’s demands to the Honduran authorities include an immediate halt to the criminalization and persecution of human rights defenders, and respect for international human rights conventions, with specific reference to indigenous rights when granting concessions. It also calls for the Honduran authorities to make every effort to ensure free and fair elections, with international observers given unrestricted access to observe the process, and for their work to be supported.

The delegation requests that the international community work towards establishing guarantees that foreign investors respect human rights and particularly the rights of indigenous peoples. It also asks for the situation before and after the elections to be subject to rigorous scrutiny and that any possible human rights violations be documented and publicised.

For the first time, from January to June 2014, Switzerland will have the presidency of the G-16, the group of countries and intergovernmental institutions established in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch, whose objectives include the promotion of human development in Honduras and an increase in democratic participation. The Forum requests that the Swiss Government take this opportunity to put democratization and the human rights situation at the top of its agenda.

Honduras Forum Switzerland was founded in 2012 to raise awareness among the Swiss population about the situation in Honduras, and to advocate for the respect of human rights and an equitable relationship between the two countries. Today the Forum has about 25 members involved in various projects. It works with other groups, organizations and networks with similar aims in Switzerland, Honduras and other countries.

See the Forum’s press statement:

Press Statement Honduras Forum Switzerland

Mining: Three members of Tolupan indigenous group murdered in Yoro

August 27, 2013

Three indigenous Honduran Tolupan were shot and killed on Sunday, August 25, 2013, at a private residence in Locomapa, Yoro, in northern Honduras. The victims were Maria Enriqueta Matute, 71, from the Community of San Francisco Campo, Armando Funez Medina, 46, of Las Brisas, and Ricardo Soto Funez, 40, of Cabeza de Vaca.

Witnesses say the killings were committed by two local men under contract by wealthy miners illegally extracting the mineral antimony from the lands of the indigenous Tolupan people of Yoro.

This occurs in a context of increasing intimidation and violence against communities which peacefully oppose mining on their territory, a situation which is met with impunity (see latest article on La Nueva Esperanza).

In the case of Locomapa, the community had organized to protect their resources and to oppose mining on their land. They had spoken on the radio, denouncing the illegal exploitation by powerful mining interests and by loggers. Members of the community decided to set up a road block, allowing local traffic, but stopping mining vehicles and illegal loggers. It was on the 12th day of this roadblock that the killings occurred.

According to residents, the shootings allegedly were carried out by hitmen of the mining company. Locals say the two accused live in a nearby community and are corrupt members of the indigenous council who had directly threatened to kill the activists before the shooting, telling the wife of one of the murdered men to prepare the casket.

Families mourn for three community members killed while opposing illegal mining (PROAH)

Families mourn for three community members killed while opposing illegal mining

Eyewitnesses say the two perpetrators arrived at the roadblack on motorcycle at 5:30 Sunday afternoon, drunk, and opened fire on the dozen or so activists there. Two men died in the entryway to Maria Enriqueta Matute’s house. Then she was shot as she came out to see what was happening.

The two suspects remained free Monday, and reportedly returned to the same house three times, to threaten and intimidate the grieving families who were awaiting the bodies from the morgue.

Caskets carrying the remains were transported by pickup to the community Monday night, where the three were waked at the house where they died. They were buried Tuesday morning, August 27.

The local community and human rights organizations are asking for justice in the case. Several other community members have been directly threatened by the same men.

La Nueva Esperanza: So far, a situation of flagrant impunity

August 25, 2013

Despite the concern generated nationally and internationally by the kidnapping of two members of the PROAH team on July 25, 2013 by armed men working for Minerales Victoria mining company1, the gunmen continue to terrorize the community of La Nueva Esperanza, in the full knowledge of the state authorities, including the Ministry of Security.

Although police were mobilized to search for the international observers, and the Public Prosecution Service (Fiscalía) is actively investigating the case, no effort has so far been made to capture the armed men who, since early June, have been threatening community members who refuse to sell their land to the company.

The family, at whose home the PROAH members were seized, were forced to flee La Nueva Esperanza for their own security, followed by another member of the community on August 3, after he received threatening visits by the armed men from the company that wants his land for its operations. Members of the community have informed PROAH that the men regularly fire guns during the night to intimidate villagers and that two more armed men arrived in La Nueva Esperanza on August 10, 2013.

The community school continues to be closed due to the security situation, and because the teacher was forced to leave the area after receiving death threats.

All of these incidents have been reported to the authorities and have occurred despite the existence of a “police station” very close to La Nueva Esperanza, in the community of Bella Vista, which was imposed on the communities in January 2013 by the Mayor of Tela, David Zaccaro, without any consultation. In reality, the “station”, manned by ten police officers, is the private home of a member of the community who collaborates with Minerales Victoria. The officers are fully aware of the presence of the dozen armed men linked to the company, having escorted them into the community on June 5, 2013. Local representatives of the Public Prosecution Service and the National Human Rights Commissioner (CONADEH) have confirmed that these police do not have a logbook to record incidents or their activities, indicating that they are carrying out their functions without any controls in place.2

Prior to the arrival of the armed men in the community on June 5, 2013, acts of intimidation on the part of the police installed in the zone included death threats issued to journalist Leonardo Amaya Guevara on February 18, 2013 as he reported on the activities of the community of Nueva Esperanza in defense of their environment .3 However, the most serious incident involving officers from the police station occurred on June 3, 2013, when members of the community were victims of acts of aggression and intimidation, including death threats, with two of the policemen firing at the feet of villagers including a 79-year-old man. In response to the community’s protests, all of the police officers involved were changed on June 5, 2013. However, that same evening, the community witnessed the new police officers escorting the armed men with the mining company into the zone.4

Since then, these police have turned a blind eye to the armed men’s activities, the kidnapping of members of the PROAH team being a prime example. The day before the incident, they had informed the police station of their arrival, identifying themselves as international human rights observers. However, during the kidnapping, not one of the 10 police officers was at the station.5

Demonstration outside the Public Prosecution Service building in La Ceiba on August 9, 2013

Demonstration outside the Public Prosecution Service building in La Ceiba on August 9, 2013

Despite the abuses they have suffered, the villagers of La Nueva Esperanza continue to be steadfast in their opposition to the mining operations, with the support of the national and international community. On July 27, just two days after the kidnapping, 250 national and international activists formed a convoy to visit La Nueva Esperanza and to show their support. On August 9, there were peaceful demonstrations in Tela and La Ceiba in solidarity with the people of La Nueva Esperanza and to protest against mining in the region. Outside Honduras, actions have included a letter sent to the US State Department in which 24 US church denominations and organizations have registered their concerns about the situation in La Nueva Esperanza.

See Urgent Action of June 27, 2013.

2   Joint statement by MADJ and MAA (7.6.2013)

Oficio No. SJDH-DM-N. 0083-2013; Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKL-kHgXqKs&list=HL1361293849&feature=mh_lolz

4    Joint statement by MADJ and MAA (7.6.2013)

5  See Urgent Action of June 27, 2013.

Urgent Action: Two members of PROAH held captive by armed men from the mining company in La Nueva Esperanza

July 28, 2013

On 25 July 2013, two international accompaniers from the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH), from Switzerland and France, were held captive for two and a half hours in the community of La Nueva Esperanza by armed men who guard the mining operations of Lenir Pérez, the owner of Minerales Victoria.

The armed men have been in this rural community in the department of Atlántida for almost two months, terrorizing the villagers and threatening those who refuse to sell their land to the mining company.  The threats are so serious that some villagers have been forced to flee their homes.  So far, the authorities have totally failed to respond to the situation there, and to date, the armed men continue in the village.

The URGENT ACTION (which is below and can also be downloaded in pdf HERE) includes requests for the immediate removal of the armed men from the region and for measures to be taken to halt the harassment and threats suffered by the members of the community of La Nueva Esperanza.

 For more information, see the article on the situation in La Nueva Esperanza Mining project in La Nueva Esperanza: Alarming escalation in intimidation of the community

and on the statement by the Diocese of La Ceiba on the situation there Mining in Atlántida: The Diocese of La Ceiba issues a public statement

URGENT ACTION:  INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS HELD CAPTIVE BY ARMED MEN FROM A MINING COMPANY IN HONDURAS

On 25 July 2013, two international accompaniers from the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH from its initials in Spanish)1, from Switzerland and France, were held captive for two and a half hours in the community of La Nueva Esperanza by armed men who guard the mining operations of Lenir Perez, the owner of Minerales Victoria. The armed men have been in this rural community in the department of Atlántida for almost two months, terrorizing the villagers and threatening those who refuse to sell their land to the mining company.

The incident involving the international human rights accompaniers is yet another example of the seriousness of the situation in La Nueva Esperanza. The community is totally vulnerable, its members suffering intimidation because of their peaceful opposition to the mining exploration imposed upon them without any consultation and against their will.2 The threats are so serious that some villagers have been forced to flee their homes.

In the face of this situation, and in response to requests by members of the community, PROAH has been accompanying it through the dissemination of information and international alerts, and has visited the community several times.

On 24 July, the two members of PROAH spent the night at the home of a family in El Zapote, a community near La Nueva Esperanza, to accompany them in view of the threats they had received for refusing to sell their land to Lenir Pérez.3 At 9.00 am the next day, 25 July, seven heavily armed men arrived at the house, pointing their shotguns at the two accompaniers, reinforced by between 25 and 30 men with machetes, workers from the mining exploration site, who were led by a man identified as Wilfredo Funes by members of the community. He told the accompaniers that they had to leave because they were impeding the exploration work. The members of PROAH explained their work accompanying human rights defenders. At one point, Wilfredo Funes’ phone rang and he said that ‘the boss’ wanted to talk to the accompaniers. One of them asked if it was Lenir Pérez. Funes appeared surprised and said ‘You know?’ but when he passed the phone, the person hung up. Other armed men (according to members of the community, there are 12 in total there) chased after the owner of the house who was out at the time, shooting at him until he arrived at his home.

After an hour, the leader of the armed men forced the members of PROAH to leave the house, threatening to use force if necessary. He also said that if they returned, they ‘would be disappeared in the woods.’4 He forced them to walk for half an hour to La Nueva Esperanza, surrounded by the men armed with guns and machetes, who sexually intimidated the French accompanier, who is female. They were forced to delete the photos they had taken of the machinery used for the mining exploration. Then, Wilfredo Funes and an engineer from the mining company made them get into a pickup, with three armed men in the back. Before releasing them, Wilfredo Funes said if the members of PROAH reported the incident, the community would suffer reprisals. They left the accompaniers in the community of Nueva Florida at 11.30 am, after holding them captive for two and a half hours. The PROAH members waited there for an hour for a police patrol which took them to Tela.

There is no doubt that the pressure exerted by COFADEH5, PROAH, and other human rights defenders, including members of the community, in reporting the incident and requesting the immediate intervention by the national security authorities and members of the diplomatic corps, was a decisive factor in enabling them to be released.

Significantly, the day before, the human rights defenders had informed the police post in Buena Vista, on the way to the community, of their arrival, identifying themselves as human rights observers. However, the police were absent from the post during the incident.

A member of the community informed PROAH that the same night, armed men from the mining company drove through La Nueva Esperanza on motorbikes firing into the air. The family where the accompaniers were staying when they were first held captive had to flee the community for its own safety.

This incident is yet another example of the persecution of the villagers of La Nueva Esperanza and the entities accompanying them in defence of their human rights. Two community leaders, César Alvarenga and Roberto García, both members of MADJ (Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice), are already beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, having received death threats texted by Lenir Pérez in August 2012.6 The Guatemalan, Father César Espinoza, the parish priest for Arizona, which covers the community and who has been active in its defence, has also been the target of similar attacks, receiving threats from ‘supposed mining workers’ on his mobile phone in January this year7. It was in large part due to concern about his case, combined with the authorities’ failure to respond to the situation in La Nueva Esperanza, that the Diocese of La Ceiba issued a statement on mining in the region in June.8

In the light of these events, PROAH requests that the national and international community urges the Honduran authorities to:

- Ensure that the armed men guarding Lenir Pérez’s mining operations are removed from the area immediately.

- Immediately conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the incidents reported, requesting that the results are made public and that those directly and indirectly responsible for these threats and the intimidation of members of the community opposing the mining activity and of other human rights defenders, and for holding the members of PROAH captive, are brought to justice.

- Take the necessary measures to ensure that the harassment and threats against all members of the community cease.

-  Take urgent and concrete measures to implement the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1998.

- Ensure the implementation of the provisions of this Declaration, in particular with regards to the protection of the right of everyone “…individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”.

27 July 2013

Please contact the following authorities:

President of the Supreme Court of Justice

Jorge Alberto Rivera Avilés

Tel (504) 269-3000 269-3069

Mail: cedij@poderjudicial.gob.hn

 Supervisory Board of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Junta Interventora del Ministerio Público)

Fax (504) 221-5667

Tel (504) 221-5670 221-3099

Minister of Justice and Human Rights

Ana Pineda

apineda@sjdh.gob.hn

Director of INHGEOMINA (Honduran Institute of Geology and Mines)

Aldo Francisco Santos Sosa

aldofss@yahoo.es

Minister of Natural Resources (SERNA)

Rigoberto Cuellar

rigobertocuellar@hotmail.com

 Regional Human Rights Commissioner

Juan José Arita

jujoa7@hotmail.com

 Mayor of the Municipality of Tela

David Zaccaro

alcaldiadetela@yahoo.com y muni_tela@yahoo.com

 Please send copies of this urgent action to your congressional or parliamentary representatives (and, where appropriate, Members of the European Parliament), as well as to your country’s diplomatic mission in Honduras, with letters expressing your concern at the worsening human rights crisis there. Please send copies of your letters to the Honduran authorities to the diplomatic representatives of Honduras accredited to your country.

 The Honduras Accompaniment Project was established in the country on 1 September 2010, in response to the deterioration in the human rights situation following the 2009 coup d’état. The aim of PROAH’s work is to prevent or alleviate situations of pressure or risk threatening the work of individuals and organizations who, for their defence of human rights, face imminent danger.

See article https://hondurasaccompanimentproject.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/mining-project-in-la-nueva-esperanza-alarming-escalation-in-intimidation-of-the-community/

See public statement by National Coalition of Environmental Networks https://hondurasaccompanimentproject.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/la-nueva-esperanza-villagers-flee-homes-in-fear/

“Les perderían en el bosque”

5 Committee for the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras.

Joint statement by MADJ and MAA (7.6.2013) http://madj.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=273:comunicado-madj&catid=56:rrnn&Itemid=117

Ibid.

See https://hondurasaccompanimentproject.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/mining-in-atlantida-the-diocese-of-la-ceiba-issues-a-public-statement/


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