SUMMARY OF HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES AND EVENTS IN HONDURAS, JANUARY 2015

March 6, 2015

You will find HERE our latest Summary, for January 2015.

SUMMARY OF HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES AND EVENTS IN HONDURAS. OCTOBER TO DECEMBER 2014

March 5, 2015

You will find HERE our latest Summary, from October to December 2014.

Here is an introduction to the report:

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) featured prominently in the last quarter of 2014, with its on-site visit in early December (see below), as well as its 53rd session of

hearings from October 23 to November 7, which included three on Honduras (see Annexe on P.34 for more details). Its primary concerns included the alarming rates of violence in the country as well as the murder and harassment of human rights defenders, journalists and justice operators.

Unfortunately, there was no let-up from October to December. Four lawyers were killed in the space of a month, including two public prosecutors and a public defender (P.4), adding to the climate of fear for the legal profession which is making a number of judges consider resigning. Another journalist was killed in December (P.7), bringing the total for 2014 to 9, making it one of the worst years for such murders since the coup, and securing Honduras’ place in the top 10 of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world over the past 5 years.

Three land rights activists were also murdered, including a member of COPINH opposed to the dam project in Rio Blanco (P.21), and a campesino leader in the Bajo Aguán (P.23). The number of murders of children and young people continued to increase, with disturbing allegations of social cleansing in Yoro (P.16). There were also numerous instances of attempted criminalization, for example, of journalists through the abuse of defamation laws (P.11) and of land rights activists on charges of sedition (potentially) (P.22) and usurpation (P.24). These groups also continued to suffer other forms of persecution, including death threats and illegal detention.

Meanwhile, there were a number of crimes committed by the security forces, including the TIGRES and PMOP (Public Order Military Police), set up as alternatives to the corrupt National Police force. 50 TIGRES were suspended for the theft of $1.3 million (P.29); in two separate incidents, PMOP were involved in a rape, and in the shooting of bus, wounding four people (P.30), and 10 policemen and two soldiers, including an army colonel, are alleged to have regularly used child prostitutes (P.29).

SUMMARY OF HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES AND EVENTS IN HONDURAS, AUGUST & SEPTEMBER 2014

October 20, 2014

Please find HERE our latest Summary of Human Rights Issues and events in Honduras, for August and September, 2014.

About this report:

August and September brought two anniversaries which highlight worrying aspects of the public
security system. On August 25 last year three members of the Tolupan indigenous people from
Locomapa were murdered by hitmen in the pay of illegal mining and logging interests. Despite being subject to arrest warrants, their killers still remain at large and are continuing to intimidate the population (P.17).

September 15 marked the anniversary of the first presentation of the Public Order Military Police (PMOP) to the public and since then one of their primary functions appears to have been to intimidate critics of the government – including the raid on the home of a doctor who has been vocal in condemning conditions at the hospital where he works (P.25). The incident occurs against the background of a host of disturbing revelations about the conduct of the security forces – further allegations of high-ranking police officers being involved in death squads (P.24), as well as cases where soldiers have been charged with death squad-style killings (P.26). A study has found that 6 out of every 10 people detained are tortured by the police (P.23). There have also been reports of a case where the police have been complicit in the kidnapping and torture of two fishermen (P.21), and another where soldiers were directly responsible for the torture of two miners (P.26). The Miskito people have formally complained to the President about the increasing number of human rights abuses committed by the police and army since La Moskitia became militarized in the war on drugs (P. 16). Meanwhile, the military are taking increasing control of the prison system, contrary to recommendations by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) (P.22).

The extent of the consultation process on the Draft Law to Protect Human Rights Defenders,
Journalists, Media Workers, and Justice Operators was welcomed by human rights groups (P.2). The need for its quick and effective implementation was underlined by the number of murders of members of these groups in August and September – veteran land rights campaigner Margarita Murillo (P.3), two journalists (P.5) and two lawyers (P.8) – as well as the numerous examples of threats and intimidation.

Teachers have been identified as another vulnerable group, with one murdered every month (P.8). The murders of women were also the focus of attention, both at the hearing of the IACHR in August (below and P. 9), and with the visit of Alda Facio, member of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women (P.10). The violation of Garífuna land rights was also a prominent issue, with the hearing on Punta Piedra at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights coinciding with a series of land evictions (P.12)

First anniversary of the killings in Locomapa

September 1, 2014

*This reflection was written by Lucy Edwards (PROAH, Hope in Action, Congregational United Church of Christ, Ashland, Oregon)

One year ago, on the afternoon of Sunday, August 25, 2013, three Honduran indigenous Tolupan leaders were gunned down by armed men. The tribe of San Francisco Locomapa had initiated a roadblock in their community to prevent illegal mining and logging of their communal lands.

Two men working for the mine came down on motorcycle and opened fire on the group, catching Ricardo Soto Funes and Armando Funes Medina as they took cover in elder Maria Enriqueta Matute’s yard. Maria was in her kitchen when she was shot. The next morning (Monday, 8/26/13) I accompanied Radio Progreso staff to claim the bodies and return them to be waked and buried in Locomapa.

This year on the first anniversary of the murders, the community, working with Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia (MADJ), held a commemorative march which three members of the PROAH team accompanied. (From France, USA and Switzerland).

mov locomapa

Tolupan adults and children held and lit twigs cut from their pine trees, their source of energy and light. They re-lit them along the route at selected locations. The sweet smelling smoke provided a comforting visible presence. Someone mentioned during the ceremony that they would typically do this commemorative walk at night, but it is not safe to do so.

When the march reached Maria Enriqueta Matute’s house, where all three died last year, the twig torches were all gathered into a small bonfire.

The two men who opened fire that day at Maria Enriqueta’s house are still free and operate in the community. There is an order for their capture, but the police have not been able to act on it, perhaps for a few reasons. For one, they explain that they have no vehicle.  There are concerns that they are complicit, and/or worried for their own security.

Two police officers accompanied the procession. I asked one officer about the murders, and he said that the perpetrators had left the area.  I mentioned that the community reports seeing them regularly, at which point he mentioned the police transportation issues, no vehicle.

Near the end the procession, I walked with an elder woman named Maria Petrona. Several little children, came up to her and said “tia” (Aunt) and she would put her hand on their forehead, in a blessing form. Maybe five little girls did this. She turned to me and said they were all family.

Later we found each other again, in our search for shade. We were at the place where the two men had died, next to Maria Enriqueta’s little house.  It was here that Maria Patrona explained that she is the older sister of Maria Enriqueta. Tears streamed down both our faces as she described how the bullet holes are still there, in the wall of her kitchen. She took my hand, took me there and showed me. She stood just where her sister had been, where she fell dead on the floor in the doorway of her kitchen. I could see a bullet hole just above her shoulder. Another was hidden by her body.

Locomapa.bulletholes

A soft yellow color of the kitchen walls is on most of the houses in the community. It is the color of the clay of their tribal lands, of the earth to which they are so deeply connected.

COFADEH Project to Remember the Victims of Forced Disappearance: The Route of Historical Memory

August 30, 2014

Today, August 30 is the International Day of the Disappeared.

To commemorate the lives of the 184 victims of forced disappearances during the 1980s and 90s in Honduras, the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) initiated the “Route of Historical Memory” project, a pathway to landmarks of the practice of State terror during this time that arose from a clearly structured strategy using calculated and ruthless violence.

ruta_memoria

Those who dreamed of a better future were illegally detained for being insurgents or opponents of the State by COBRA (Anti-subversion Police), the TESON (Special Forces for Jungle and Night Operations), or the Group of the 14 (death squads of Intelligence Battalion 3-16).

The Route of Historical Memory, “la Ruta”, takes one to the locations where these people were arrested, tortured, and secretly buried.

The starting point is the COFADEH office, where the principal documentation is found and where the walls are filled with photographs of those who are missing: fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, sisters, and brothers who disappeared. Few returned. There is not sufficient space or words to express the pain and desperation of the families who will never know what happened to their loved ones or where they are buried.

Next, is a visit to the Merced Plaza, where COFADEH has protested against forced disappearances every first Friday of the month for 33 years. The “Ruta” continues on to horrific places like the “house of terror’, located on the estate of Amilcar Zelaya in Amarateca, where detainees endured unimaginably brutal torture before suffering a cruel death.

The gate of the Diamond House, at that time a base of the Nicaraguan Contra forces, has a structure identical to that of the gate of the estate in Amarateca. It is another location where detainees were tortured. There is a suspected clandestine cemetery at this house, near the slope to the River Frio.

It is clear that this violence is structural and continues to this today, applied differently but always in accordance with the strategy of a State that does not respect human rights.

The last stop on the “Ruta” is the “Casa Contra el Olvido”, the Home against Forgetting, an unforgettable site that emits a serene aura full of light and peace. Here, the memory of all those disappeared remains alive, intangible, waiting and hoping for truth.

More information on:

Acompañantes internaciones recorren la “Ruta de la Memoria” que muestra la impunidad

¿Qué es la Ruta de la Memoria Histórica?

Summary of Human Rights Issues and Events in Honduras, July 2014

August 29, 2014

Please find HERE our latest Summary of Human Rights Issues and events in Honduras, for July 2014.

About this report:

In July, the issue of child migrants continued to dominate the headlines (P.5), with concern expressed about the fate of those deported from the US. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, following her visit to Honduras talked of the environment these children are fleeing, where ‘the climate of fear… and the lack of accountability for violations of human rights of women, is the norm’ (P.4).

There were more incidents involving the beneficiaries of precautionary measures – the abduction of Garífuna land rights defenders by men linked to drug trafficking (see below), as well as of two Catholic priests supporting communities opposing mining, plus their PROAH accompaniers (P.12). This month, there were also disturbing revelations about the US Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s attempts to intimidate a survivor of the Ahuas tragedy into changing her testimony in its favor (P.3).

Another journalist was murdered (P.8) and more suffered intimidation, including by the president. Another lawyer was murdered (P.10), with the motive likely to be his support for land rights, also thought to be the motive behind a massacre of four people, including a community leader (P.14). A LIBRE activist is the victim of a failed murder attempt and long-term police persecution (P.10). In the Bajo Aguán, there was a violent eviction of the Paso Aguán farm, with persecution of the campesinos’ supporters – surveillance of members of OPDHA and smears targeted at Annie Bird of Rights Action (P.15). On a slightly happier note, Chabelo, the campesino wrongfully imprisoned since 2008, has been granted an appeal (P.16) and an army colonel has been convicted of closing down a TV station during the coup, the first such conviction (P.10).

On July 22, the Honduran Congress approved the Bill for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Justice Operators, on its second reading. The Bill, which consists of 71 articles, is now the subject of consultation with the affected groups before it is definitively passed by Congress.

Summary of Human Rights Issues and Events in Honduras, June 2014

July 20, 2014

Please find HERE our latest Summary of Human Rights Issues and events in Honduras, for June 2014.

About this report:

June 28 marked the fifth anniversary of the coup. This month children and young people once again dominated the headlines with the surge in young migrants arriving in the US (see P.2), their sheer number for many a stark illustration of the dramatic deterioration in the security and general human rights situation in Honduras over the past five years. This follows the spate of horrific murders of youngsters in May and the persecution of Guadalupe Ruelas, the Casa Alianza director, a prominent advocate for minors, who has been vocal in his criticism of the government in the light of the general increase in the violent deaths of children and young people (see our May summary).

In the reflections on the anniversary of the coup, militarization has been repeatedly mentioned as one of the defining characteristics of the post-coup era, along with impunity. June in this respect has unfortunately been typical. It saw the murder of a Lenca indigenous leader by soldiers in an unprovoked attack (P.3), as well as fresh concerns expressed about the Guardians of the Fatherland program (P.15). There have also been new cases of criminalization of legitimate social protest, while the perpetrators of crimes against the protesters remain at large (see the cases of San Francisco de Opalaca (P.3) and El Tránsito (P.6). Although the murders of campesinos in the Bajo Aguán are finally being investigated, there are concerns about the transparency of the process (P.7), while the killings of the three Locomapa indigenous people remain in impunity and the persecution of those defending the community’s natural resources continues (P.5). Two more journalists were murdered, and in at least one case, the killing could be politically motivated, and there were further cases where journalists have been intimidated or dismissed because of their editorial line (P.9 and 10). Further intimidation of human rights defenders has included surveillance of the offices of COFADEH, and (possibly) the temporary abduction and beating of one of its staff (P.3).

The government’s reaction has also been consistent – in blaming the messenger. Following the letter sent in May to the US Secretary of State, signed by 108 US Congress members, outlining the deteriorating human rights situation in Honduras, President Juan Orlando Hernández announced that he would use his visit to the States in June to speak to officials and contradict the reports that ‘bad Hondurans’ were spreading abroad and which were damaging the country’s reputation.

ALERT: ARMED ASSAULT OF PRIESTS WITH PROTECTIVE MEASURES AND INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS ACCOMPANIERS (PROAH)

July 9, 2014

The Honduras Accompaniment Project/Proyecto de Acompañamiento internacional en Honduras (PROAH) expresses its grave concern regarding the armed assault and abduction carried out against Father César Augusto Espinoza Muñoz and Father Abel Carbajal, priests of the parish of Arizona, Atlántida and three international human rights accompaniers with PROAH (Two Swiss and one French citizens).

The armed assault occurred on July 3rd at approximately 7 pm near Siguatepeque when the parish vehicle they were traveling in was intercepted by a white medium-size car (similar to typical Honduran cab). Three armed men jumped out of the white vehicle, pointing their guns and forcing the priests and PROAH team members to get into the back seat of their vehicle while a fourth assailant drove away in the parish vehicle. The assailants forcibly abducted the priests and PROAH team members, driving them around for approximately 45 minutes, issuing death threats and then left them in Siguatepeque.

Fathers César and Abel, as well as 16 members of the Nueva Esperanza community in the parish of Arizona and human rights defenders supporting them, are beneficiaries of protective measures issued by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).Protective measures were issued because of death threats and violence from representatives of the Minerales Victoria mining company, other mining interests and the National Police in response to the community’s peaceful and legitimate opposition to the mine.

While accompanying this community,on July 25 2013, two international human rights accompaniers with PROAH (one French citizen, and one Swiss citizen) were abducted and held captive for 2.5 hours by several armed men guarding the mining operations of Minerales Victoria.

The July 3rd armed assault and abduction of beneficiaries of protective measures and international human accompaniers underscores the extreme state of insecurity in Honduras which people throughout the country face on a daily basis. The assault also underscores the striking lack of protection for recipients of IACHR precautionary measures and high level of risk for national and international human rights defenders in Honduras.

Several cases of organizations accompanied by PROAH highlight the lack of protection for beneficiaries of precautionary measures:

In Locomapa, 38 people were issued protective measures by the IACHR following the murder of three indigenous Tolupanes on August 24, 2013 for participating in a peaceful protest by the community against mining activity and illegal logging on their tribal lands. However, the alleged perpetrators of the August 2013 massacre, who have warrants for their arrest, remain free in the community, intimidating those opposing mining. One exiled community member still has not returned to Locomapa. On June 9, 2014 a beneficiary of protective measures not only suffered new threats from an ex-general but also his crops and property were damaged. Four months after the State of Honduras pledged to implement IACHR precautionary measures, the threats and vulnerability of the community still continue.

In June 2014, The Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras,COFADEH, also a beneficiary of protective measures, issued an Urgent Action stating that the State of Honduras has not adopted effective measures to combat the lack of security and implement protective measures. The Urgent Action was issued in response to “series of events that have occurred systematically in recent weeks; immediately after COFADEH registered formal complaints.” These events include surveillance of the office, as well as the temporary abduction and severe beating suffered by a COFADEH member.

PROAH expresses grave concern regarding extreme levels of insecurity, impunity and the lack of effective and appropriate protection for beneficiaries of protective measures and human rights defenders.

The Honduras Accompaniment Project/Proyecto de Acompañamiento internacional en Honduras (PROAH) provides 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.

July 8, 2014

Summary of Human Rights Issues and Events in Honduras May 2014

June 26, 2014

Please find here our latest Summary of Human Rights Issues and events in Honduras, for May 2014.

Highlights of this summary:

  • On May 28, a letter signed by 108 US Congress members was sent to Secretary of State, John Kerry, calling on the State Department to evaluate US support and training for the Honduran police and military and raised concern about policies ‘that threaten to make the human rights situation even worse’ by promoting the militarization of public security.

  • There is deep concern about increase in killings of children and young people in Honduras.

  • Casa Alianza director José Guadalupe Ruelas was the victim of an attack, due to his outspoken criticism of the state for its complicity in some of the killings of children and young people.

  • The case of Triunfo de la Cruz was heard at the Inter-American Court on May 21. The judgment will probably be issued in October or November.

  • Threats against members of the Tolupan indigenous community of Locomapa, Yoro continue in response to their peaceful opposition to illegal logging and antimony mining.

  • There are two more mining projects planned for the Siria Valley area, and a total of 200 fully operation (as opposed to exploration) concessions already granted in the country. These concessions have resulted in an increase in protests.

  • The IACHR issued a statement condemning the May 4 murder of Orlando Orellana, the president of the patronato (community council) of Cerrito Lindo in San Pedro Sula. The IACHR has issued precautionary measures for Orellana.

  • On May 8, the IACHR granted precautionary measures to 123 leaders of campesino movements in the Bajo Aguán.

  • On May 21, 315 soldiers and policemen and approximately 40 private security officers took part in the forced eviction of a total of 300 families in two MARCA campesino communities in the Bajo Aguán.

  • The Voice of Zacate Grande has been assigned a radio frequency under the new Telecommunications law that will considerably expand its coverage. However, threats continue: since the Voice of Zacate Grande was established, ADEPZA estimates that 90 of its members have been charged with offenses and 45 have received death threats. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in April 2011.

  • In mid-May, representatives of the LGBTI community met the new National Human Rights Commissioner (CONADEH) to demand the promotion of respect for their human rights, particularly the right to life, and a halt to hate crimes.

  • On May 27, the family of Ebed Yanes, one of the most notable victims of the militarization of police functions, held a demonstration outside the Supreme Court, demanding justice on the second anniversary of his death.

  • While the U.S and Honduran governments emphasize militarization, the UN Development program hailed Nicaragua’s system for citizen security – which authorities describe as ‘preventive, community-based and proactive’ – an ‘exportable model.’

San Francisco de Locomapa: Impunity and new threats.

June 24, 2014

 

Government failure to implement IACHR precautionary measures strengthens impunity and creates greater insecurity.

On February 22, the people of Locomapa celebrated the return of six of seven community members forced to flee after the murders of Enrique Maria Matuta, Armando Medina, and Ricardo Soto Funez on August 24, 2013. The murders of the indigenous Tolupanes occurred after 21 days of peaceful protest by the community in rejection of mining activity and illegal logging on their tribal lands.

The Honduran government, represented by an official commission (including the vice minister of 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 of Human Rights) solemnly pledged before the community, members of MADJ (Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice, which supports the community), and other national and international organizations – among those, PROAH – to ensure the safety of the thirty-eight beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR and to arrest and sentence those responsible for the three murders.1

However, four months after the pledge to implement IACHR precautionary measures, the threats and vulnerability of the community continue. The police responsible for the investigation into the murders and protection of the threatened community members showed confusion between ‘protective measures’ and ‘alternative measures’ (to prison), and not until May, did police express the idea of creating a list of the beneficiaries of precautionary measures for the first time. At the same time, the police are evasive when asked questions regarding the progress of the investigation. They cite various difficulties impeding their work: lack of staff, lack of equipment, and lack of accessibility to the community. However, some of these difficulties were addressed when they received a motorcycle in order to reach the community. They seemed to have no difficulties in visiting PROAH accompaniers in May.

Although the police investigation is required as part of the implementation of precautionary measures and the commitment of the state to protect the Tolupan community, the two alleged perpetrators of the August 2013 massacre, who have warrants for their arrest, remain free in the community, intimidating those in opposition of the mining project. They regularly approach them, close enough to threaten them and so that community members are able to identify them. Therefore, anyone in the community can provide a precise physical description of the perpetrators, which could help a serious police investigation. But, the case does not advance.

More acts of intimidation:

On March 27, Selvin Funez Matute, one of the alleged murderers, approached a member of MADJ threatening to take him and three other community members from their homes and cut their tongues out if they continued to talk to Radio Progreso.

Various community members also confirmed that the Matutes fired shots into the air near the homes of the families in opposition of the mining company, threatening to kill them if they called the police. Even though various families reported these acts of intimidation, the police stated that they had not received any calls and expressed doubt regarding the veracity of the community’s claims.

During PROAH’s latest visit, the community confirmed that the Matutes continue to pass through San Francisco de Locomapa, stopping at night to visit their various girlfriends. During one of these visits, one of the alleged perpetrators stopped twice near the land of one of the community members, showing him the firearms he had, presumably to intimidate him.

The concerns expressed by human rights organizations regarding the community’s safety were unfortunately confirmed on June 9 when ex-general Finlander Uclès, armed and accompanied by bodyguards, entered into the home of one of the families. They circled the house, destroyed their crops and family belongings, and took their work equipment. The ex- general also psychologically tortured the three children of the family who were found alone in the house at that moment, telling them that they would return the following day to destroy everything because the land belonged to the general. The children left running, frightened, in order to alert the community to what had occurred. According to MADJ’s report, the ex-general claims property of the land that legally belongs to the family, and has been threatening the community since 1980. The fatherof the victimized family is a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by IACHR, as are all community members who have received threats. Following this incident, the family has been displaced from the community.2

The impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of the triple murder and the lack of application of protective measures mandated by IACHR have once again increased tension and insecurity in the community. Four months after the government’s commitment to ensure the security of the community, the last exiled community member still has not returned to Locomapa. He expressed to PROAH his fear and sadness at not being able to return to his home. Faced with the police’s inaction, the people begin to question their relationship with the perpetrators of the murders and the business interests. MADJ condemns “the Honduran government for continually failing to respond to the complaints filed by the Tolupán people as well as its failure to address the threats targeted at them”.

For more information, in Spanish:

Impunidad reina en asesinatos de indígenas (June, 2014)

“Defensores Tolupanes reciben nuevas amenazas”, Sandra Cuffie, April 2014


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