Crimes linked to the 2009 Coup d’état should be investigated, even without the International Criminal Court

November 11, 2015

This is how the pronouncement from the human rights organizations FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), CIPRODEH and COFADEH begins; the statement was released following the announcement by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court stating that the Court would not continue its preliminary examination regarding Honduras.

According to the statement, FIDH and its member organizations in Honduras, COFADEH and CIPRODEH, deeply regret the announcement today that the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) will no longer examine allegations of crimes against humanity committed in Honduras after the military coup in 2009 and in Bajo Aguan. Victims of these crimes currently have little to no recourse at a national level, and must not be left without access to justice and redress. i



The 2009 Coup d’état in Honduras resulted in systematic and brutal repression against social movements protesting against the coup and many violations of human rights such as illegal detentions, torture and extrajudicial executions.

In response to the serious nature of human rights violations that were happening at this time, the high level of impunity as well as a lack of governability in the country post-coup, human rights organizations did everything possible to denounce what was happening. In June 2010, the principal human rights organizations pushed for the creation of the “Commission of Truth” (as an alternative to the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation (CVR), created by Porfirio Lobo’s government) with the objective of “clarifying the actions carried out during the June 28, 2009 coup d’état, to demand justice for the population of Honduras which had been affected by the coup and to insist on the adoption of necessary measures to prevent a reoccurrence of these types of events in the future.” The first recommendation in the Report of the Commission of Truth, “The most authorized voice is the voice of the victims,” is to “investigate and prosecute the intellectual and material actors responsible for the Coup and the human rights violations which were a direct result of it.” ii

Parallel to the complaints filed with the national justice system, international actions were also initiated, including before the Interamerican System for Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.

After five years of investigation, the Prosecutor for the ICC, Fatou Bensouda declared that “I have come to the conclusion that the violations perpetrated between June 28, 2009 and January 27, 2010 don’t constitute crimes against humanity under the definition of the Statute, and therefore they don’t constitute crimes that the ICC has the faculty to investigate”. However, we recognize that “human rights violations were committed on June 28, 2009 and subsequent to this date and that these violations can be directly attributed to the authorities of the regime which took power during the coup.” iii

The FIDH and its member organizations point out that “Accountability for grave crimes is not only necessary for victims and their family members, but for the wider Honduran community to restore its faith in its own government’s ability to serve and protect its citizens.” iv

For this reason, it is pertinent to ask:

More than six years after the Coup d’état, how has the Honduran judicial system acted to sanction those responsible for committing human rights violations? We can examine how some of the emblematic cases of human rights violations related to repression of protestors highlighted in the Truth Commission Report have been addressed. Has there been justice in these cases?

Isy Obed Murillo, first fatality of the repression.


On July 5, 2009, Isy Obed Murillo became the first fatality of the coup d’état. On this day thousands of Hondurans had come together in the Toncontin Airport to await the return of the Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya, which had been announced for this day. Soldiers shot fired on the crowd with live ammunition, nineteen year old Isy Obed received a bullet to the head, killing him instantly.

The Human Rights Prosecutor opened a file on the case, but to this day the case continues in the investigation stage. The Center for Constitutional Rights (based in New York), with the assistance of COFADEH, presented a case to the Federal Southern District Court of Texas in the name of David Murillo and Silvia Mencias, parents of Isy Obed, against Roberto Micheletti, President of the Honduran Congress who became President subsequent to the coup, who allegedly owned property in Texas and for that reason a case could be brought against him there. The case denounces “extrajudicial executions, assassinations, persecutions and other serious human rights violations which occurred in Honduras under the authority and direction of Micheletti.” In April 2013 the U.S. Court dismissed the case. v

Like the demonstration of July 5th, many protest marches were brutally repressed from the day of the coup until the end of 2011, including:

Repression on August 12, 2009, Tegucigalpa

On August 12, 2009 a march in Tegucigalpa against the coup d’état was brutally repressed. Twenty seven people were arrested, including people who had not participated in the march. Those arrested were victims of cruel treatment and they were later taken to an irregular detention center, the battalion of the military’s anti-riot “COBRAS unit”. Elder Madrid Guerra, who was in charge of the COBRAS unit, according to COFADEH “could have controlled the aggression against those arrested, rather, he hid information regarding this group that was illegally taken to this military unit.” These people were detained for several days. Later, they were released, under the condition that they report regularly to a police station. They were initially accused of sedition, illegal protest property damage. The case against them was dismissed in June 2010. vi

COFADEH then brought charges against the police official in charge of the operation, Elder Madrid Guerra and the Prosecutor for Human Rights began a legal process against him and five additional police officials, accusing them of torture, illegal detention, abuse of authority and harassment. At the end of February 2015 the judge found the (then) national police commissioner Elder Madrid Guerra innocent of the charges. This decision is still under appeal. For the other officials, the court applied an Amnesty Decree issued in 2010. vii This decision was rejected by the prosecution and a ruling from the Constitutional branch of the Supreme Court is pending.

It is important to note that despite of this ongoing legal process, Madrid Guerra was rewarded and promoted to a superior rank in June 2014. In May 2015 he was named head of the National Police. viii


Repression in Choloma, August 14, 2009

In the case of police repression in Choloma, just two days after the repression in Tegucigalpa, two hundred police carried out the violent eviction of a demonstration. They destroyed the cameras and other equipment of three social communicators who were covering the demonstration. Police threw tear gas into houses and carried out illegal searches. They pursued demonstrators, cornering them in different parts of Choloma where they were subject to cruel inhumane and degrading treatment. Thirty two people were arrested and eight were injured. One woman denounced that she had been raped by several police. This was one of the most brutal examples of repression that has been documented during the post coup period. ix

The Human Rights Prosecutor initiated a case against Hector Ivan Mejia and Abrahan Figueroa Tercero, both high officials in the National Preventative Police unit. They were charged with illegal detention, torture and abuse of authority. Attorney, Omar Menjivar initiated charges regarding actions against a journalist from Radio Progreso, Gustavo Cardoza, who was beaten and illegally detained while exercising his right as a journalist to cover the demonstration. The police were found innocent of all of the charges which had been brought against them. This decision remains on appeal to the Constitutional Branch of the Supreme Court.

Repression September 15, 2010 San Pedro Sula

One year after these events in Choloma, in the same department, the people of San Pedro Sula suffered the first heavy repression under the new government of President Lobo.

On September 15th, 2010 Central America Independence day is celebrated, the National Resistance Front organized a demonstration that was to conclude with a musical concert. When the concert was just beginning with music from the band Cafe Guanacasco, the police and the military bombed the concert with tear gas and a toxic liquid that was sprayed from tanks, attacking and brutally beating the demonstrators. Several people were wounded and intoxicated by the gases including street merchant Efrain Lopez, who died from the toxic gasses. Many people were injured, including five people who were hospitalized. Thirty seven people were arrested. The police destroyed most of the equipment of the musical group. At the same time, the installations of Radio Uno were attacked by the police, who broke the windows of the building where the radio is housed and launched tear gas canisters inside. x

The Prosecutor for Human Rights and private prosecutor, attorney Victor Fernandez, representing the victims, initiated a legal process against the sub commissioners of the National Police, Hector Ivan Mejia (also accused in the case of the repression in Choloma) and Daniel Omar Matamoros. They were both accused of the crimes of violation of the duties of functionaries, illegal detention, torture and injury. Nevertheless, the Appellate Court dismissed all of the charges which had been brought against them.

In addition to these cases, hundreds of other cases which occurred in the aftermath of the coup d’état have not resulted in charges being filed, or even investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office. Even in the emblematic, cases which are highlighted in this article, no victim of post-coup repression has obtained justice. With the exception of one case, no one has been convicted for human rights violations during this period. xi And several high ranking officers from the Police and Armed Forces have received promotions. For example, Hector Ivan Mejia and Elder Madrid Guerra, the two Commissioners involved in the three cases of repression presented here, far from being sanctioned, they have been promoted in rank, and today both are part of the high command of the Police.

Following the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) the three organizations (FIDH, CIPRODEH and COFADEH) reiterate the need for a “hybrid mechanism, like an International Commission against Impunity and Corruption in Honduras (CICIH), composed of national and international experts for the effective investigation and prosecution of serious crimes.”


Additionally, several cases have been taken to the Interamerican System of Human Rights. On November 10, 2015 the Interamerican Court, announced its ruling in favor of four judges, member of the “Association of Judges for Democracy”, who were removed after publishing communications denouncing the coup d’état. This ruling against the State of Honduras obligates the State to reinstate the judges or, that not being possible, provide compensation to the judges equal to what they would have received had they remained in their positions . This sentence, condemning the State represents a light of hope for the victims, not only in this case, but also for all victims of the Coup d’état who continue to demand justice.


i The ICC only holds jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and the Prosecutor concluded that, based on the information available to her, the legal criteria for those crimes had not been met.

ii For more information, see our article:

iii Declaration of the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, October 28, 2015:

vi Truth Commission report: pg. 141

ix Truth Commission report: pgs. 141-145

x Truth Commission report: pgs. 153-154

xi The only case in which there has been a verdict and sentence against a police officer is from February 2012. A woman from the Preventative Police was sentenced to 8 years in jail (with the sentence commuted) for illegal detention and torture of a female demonstrator in San Pedro Sula in August 2009. See:

The tireless struggle against forced disappearance in Honduras: from the 80s to today

September 16, 2015

On August 30, the National Day of the Detained-Disappeared was commemorated in Honduras. In a forum organized by COFADEH (Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras) coordinator Bertha Oliva, explained that the choice of the date for this national day of commemoration, emerged from a 1984 meeting of the Federation of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Latin America (FEDEFAM). The date was chosen because August was the month in which the greatest number of forced disappearances, carried out by agents of various States in Latin America in the framework of a plan supported by the United States, to target leaders, human rights defenders and social movements. Bertha Oliva added, “This is why, during that congress in 1984, we declared that we would work to achieve a National Day of the Detained and Disappeared in each country. This was a very difficult objective to propose in 1984; we were in the midst of the full implementation of the National Security Doctrine.”

bertha des 2

COFADEH, was formed in 1982 by 12 families, victims of forced disappearance, for one clear objective: to recover their family members who had been disappeared by the State – alive. Since this time, COFADEH continues to struggle tirelessly against impunity, for justice and respect for human rights. In 2002, the organization achieved the official recognition of August 30th as the National Day of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras by legislative decree.1

COFADEH has registered 184 cases of forced disappearance from the end of the 70s to the beginning of the 90’s; in addition there are dozens of disappearances that were never reported. James («Guadalupe») Carney, a US Jesuit priest, is one of the 184 registered cases; his face appears with the disappeared at COFADEH and in the vigils that are held each month. COFADEH, in coalition with other organizations, has accompanied these cases appealing to the national and international systems of justice. Several of their cases involving the murder and forced disappearance of social movement leaders, reached the Inter American Court of Human Rights.

The Inter American Court finds the State of Honduras guilty of the crime of forced disappearance

The first two decisions of the recently created Inter American Court of Human Rights, resulted in findings of guilt on the part of the State of Honduras for forced disappearance. In 1988, in its first sentence, the Inter American Court found the State of Honduras guilty of the torture and forced disappearance of a young student, Manfredo Velázquez Rodríguez. The sentence affirmed that “the existence of a practice of carrying out forced disappearances or tolerating the practice on the part of Honduran authorities between 1981 and 1984.” Later, in the case of Saul Godínez Cruz, in 1989, the State was again found guilty of forced disappearance by members of state security forces. The Courts’ declaration of State responsibility for kidnapping, torture and forced disappearance, was historic for Latin America; it provided legal recognition of what was already known in Honduras and was denied by authorities. As of 1981, forced disappearance became State policy in the framework of the Doctrine of National Security.

In these cases, the Court ordered the State to compensate the families of the victims, to investigate the acts and to punish those responsible. In 2003, the State of Honduras was found guilty again by the same Court, for the disappearance and death of Juan Humberto Sánchez, in 1992. However, despite the guilty sentences, none of these cases have been investigated nor have those alleged to be responsible for the crimes be tried in court.

desaparecidos photo cofadeh


Full impunity exists in the cases of political assassinations and forced disappearances of the “lost decade.” In the 80s, there were judicial investigations but all of those presumed to be guilty, were dismissed. Later, between 1995 and 2000, new cases of forced disappearance were opened however, of all of the cases from the 80s, there was only one guilty sentence in the case of the temporary forced disappearance of six students, in which the Ex-director of the National Investigation Directorate, Juan Blas Salazar Meza, was sentenced to two years in prison. 2

Today, the authors of human rights violations in the 80s, rather than fearing the possibility of prison, continue to be free, some of them work as advisors on security issues.

16 new cases of forced disappearance

In addition to all of the crimes of the past that remain in total impunity, recently the specter of this crime against humanity became a reality for Hondurans once again. Following the 2009 coup, COFADEH has documented 16 cases of disappearance as the country experiences a resurgence of this practice in a context of repression of social protest and imposition of terror.

One emblematic case is that of Reynaldo Cruz Palma, who was forcibly disappeared on the very day dedicated to commemorate the Detained and Disappeared, August 30, 2011.


José Reynaldo Cruz Palma was a community leader, the President of the Patronato of the Colonia Planeta, San Pedro Sula. Just two days before he was disappeared, he and his wife had taken actions on behalf of 10 people illegally detained in their neighborhood. Two months earlier, Reynaldo had denounced on television, police abuse on which occurred during an operation in his neighborhood resulting in the death of seven alleged gang members.

That day, August 30th, he was on a bus near San Pedro Sula when he was abducted by armed men. He was taken by force in two vehicles, including one belonging to the preventative police. Since that day there has been no trace of him. His family members went to the police that same day, but the police refused to take their testimony. The family requested support from COFADEH and together, they filed all of the legal complaints. However, the only response is that the case “is under investigation.” However, no arrest warrant has been issued and there is no list of suspects. Reynaldo’s family holds the police responsible for the disappearance of their loved one. Due to the persecution experienced after denouncing his disappearance, including threats and security incidents, his wife Nubia Carbajal had to abandon the country in 2013.3

Re-opening cases from the 80?

On August 28, the Coordinator for the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights of the Public Ministry, Soraya Morales, announced the re-opening of investigations into the deaths that occurred during the decade of the 80s with the objective of continuing investigations of 184 cases. She announced that “a unit has been created to respond to these cases that have been in the office of the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights and have not advanced; there are some cases that have been processed and others that have not. A team has been created for this.”

The announcement by the Special Prosecutor was received with caution on the part of COFADEH and other human rights defenders. This announcement was made on the day of a private supervision hearing on compliance with sentences of the Inter American Court of Human Rights against the state of Honduras.4 The announcement also comes, just as Honduras must present a report to the UN Committee on forced disappearance which has been delayed. In a context of extreme impunity, human rights defenders ask if the announcement to re-open cases reflects the government’s attempt to create an image of respect for human rights before international organizations rather than a real commitment to justice and to end impunity.

As long as cases of forced disappearance from the past remain in impunity and new faces, of those forcibly disappeared today, appear on the walls and vigils of COFADEH, the organization will continue its efforts for truth, justice and an end to impunity.


To learn more about forced disappearance in Honduras:

1 At the international level, in 2010 the UN General Assembly decided to declare August 30th, International Day of Victims of Forced Disappearance.

4See article on Conexihon : Honduras reports to the Inter American Court of Human Rights

URGENT ACTION : Concern for the situation of members of the San Francisco de Locomapa Tribe

July 15, 2015

PROAH expresses deep concern for the lives of 7 members of the Tribe of San Francisco de Locomapa who joined the hunger strike in Tegucigalpa, and for the situation of impunity and extreme violations of human rights in the community of Locomapa, Yoro.

foto tolupanes

On June 30, seven members of the San Francisco Locomapa tribe decided to join the hunger strike in front of the Casa Presidencial in Tegucigalpa, demanding an end to impunity in the country, in the department of Yoro, and the installation of an International Commission Against Impunity in Honduras (CICIH.)

The seven Tolupanes participating in the hunger strike were issued protective measures by the Inter American Commission for Human Rights in December of 2013. These measures were issued following the triple murder, on August 25, 2013, of three members of the community who opposed illegal logging. The IACHR requested the state of Honduras to protect 18 members of the community and their family members, a total of 38 people at high risk.

Since August 2013, seven members of the community have been murdered, including five people struggling to protect land and natural resources in opposition to the illegal mining of antimony and logging of communal lands. The most recent murder of land rights defender, Erasio Vieda Ponce, occurred on June 18, 2015 in the community of Las Brisas Locomapa.

Witnesses state that the murders of five land rights defenders were committed by men belonging to a group that works for the mine and powerful business elites in the region. Arrest warrants were issued for two of the men following the triple murder on August 25, 2013.

Despite numerous complaints presented to judicial authorities and the International Commission for Human Rights, the situation of impunity and high degree of vulnerability of the community continues. The alleged perpetrators of the murders and other members of the group enter and exit the zone freely, threatening and harassing those who oppose mining and keeping the community in a state of terror. All of those working to defend land rights and natural resources live in a situation of extreme insecurity.

At least 11 community leaders have received death threats and 13 have been murdered in the last decades. Another actor who harasses the community is Finlander Uclés, a retired general who claims rights to community lands. Recently, Mr. Finlander issued death threats against two members of the community, who are also members of MADJ and beneficiaries of IACHR protective measures The police and authorities responsible for investigating the crimes, capturing the suspected murderers and protecting the population, consistently cite material difficulties as obstacles to their work. For the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ), which provides legal support for the community land rights defenders, ongoing impunity is due to lack of will on the part of the state of Honduras.


The Tolupanes on hunger strike and their families are currently in even greater danger. Since beginning the hunger strike, different people are patrolling around their homes, family members receive harrassing telephone calls, even death threats. Hunger striker Sergio Ávila denounced that on July 8, unknown armed actors yelled at his son, «Get off that horse or we are going to kill you too. » They began to struggle and finally his son threw himself from the horse and ran away. The armed men then killed his horse.

In response to this alarming situation, the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice, which provides legal support for the Tolupanes, requests the international community to register concern with the Honduran authorities, urging them to :

– Immediately adopt the necessary measures to arrest those responsible for the murders and harassment in Locomapa; process them in the appropriate, independent and impartial court and apply sanctions according to the law.

– Conduct an immediate and exhaustive investigation to clarify the reported crimes and present a detailed report.

– Implement, in a timely and effective manner, all of the protective measures necessary to end all forms of harassment and acts of violence against the Tolupanes de Locomapa.


Attorney General

Óscar Fernando Chinchilla

and Assistant to the Attorney General Rigoberto Cuellar

Tel : 504- 2221-3099

Tel : 504 -2221-5670

Fax :504- 2221-5667

Email : Publico Honduras (seccion contactenos)

Fiscalia for Ethnic Groups and Cultural Patrimony

Yany del Cid

Tel : 504-2221-5620

Email :

National Human Rights Commissioner

Roberto Herrera Cáceres

Telefax : 504 2231-0204/0882

Email :

President of the Supreme Court of Justice

Jorge Alberto Rivera Avilés

Email :

Secretary of Security

Attorney Sagrario Prudott (Department of Human Rights)

Tel : 504-3152-8878

President of the Federation of Xicaques Tribes of Yoro, FETRIXI

Noe Rodriquez, Tel : 00504-9924-7948

For more information regarding this urgent action, please contact :

For more information on the human rights situation in Locomapa :

See PROAH’s blog:

Cultural Survival piece by Jim Phillips:


June 29, 2015


Original Spanish version on:

Tegucigalpa, June 29, 2015

madj huelga

We members of the Tribe of San Francisco de Locomapa, declare that we are on HUNGER STRIKE INDEFINITELY, assuming the struggle of the indignados who are fed up with so much corruption, made all the more evident and offensive with the sacking of the Social Security system. We are also highly distressed by extreme levels of corruption in the department of Yoro. This will only stop with the removal and prosecution of functionaries involved in the biggest and and most shameful criminal action against the public welfare and the collective property of the Tolupan people in the department of Yoro.

Corruption on the part of the current government and of those preceding it, has dispossessed and sunken the poorest of Honduras into misery. The impact on the Tolupan people has resulted, more than in any other sector of the population, in total abandonment in terms of healthcare, education, access to communication and justice, culminating in the death of our local leaders who dared to defend their natural resources.

National corruption has converted the Tolupan community into a zone of usurpation, dispossession, theft and sacking of our natural resources. It has condemned to death more than 100 indigenous whose cases have never appeared in court. We have identified our murders but the authorities are accomplices, refusing to act on arrest warrants and to capture them.

With this hunger strike, we ask the national and international community to demand the end of the killing to which the state has condemned us. The hit men are hired by businessmen but they are protected by national and department level authorities who do not uphold the law, but rather use it to terrorize, threaten and murder those who defend the common good and the right to life.

In light of this, we define our struggle in the following terms;

  1. We stand in solidarity with the indignados in favor of the installation of a CICIH and we reject the proposal for a false dialogue on the part of Juan Hernández, who is a principal actor in the grand larceny committed against state institutions.

  1. We condemn the efforts of Prosecutors Oscar Chinchilla and Rigoberto Cuellar as well as Eli Mauricio Murillo, Environmental Prosecutor for Yoro, to leave in full impunity, the murder of 5 compañeros, defenders of human and environmental rights and the right to life.

  1. We demand the capture of Selin Eliazar Fúnez Bonilla and Carlos Roberto Varela Laques, material actors responsible for the murders of María Enriqueta Matute, Ricardo Soto Fúnez and Armando Fúnez Medina as well as the murders of Luis Reyes de Masías and Eracimo Vieda. We will not abandon the hunger strike until these murderers are captured.

  1. We demand compliance with ILO Convention 169 requiring prior, informed consent regarding any extractive activity carried out in the Tolupan community.



COMMUNIQUE: Hunger Strike, indignados respond to corruption

June 26, 2015


As Human Rights organizations we have accompanied a permanent process of observation and vigilance of the universal right to protest and respect for the human dignity of the young people engaging in a hunger strike since June 22, 2015 in the zone of the Casa Presidencial; we have been with them for five days.

See the communique HERE

URGENT ALERT: The Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) informs:

June 19, 2015

URGENT ALERT: The Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) informs:

Today, June 19, 2015 at 5 am indigenous Tolupan, Erasio Vieda Ponce was murdered in Las Brisas of Locomapa in the mountains of Yoro. Vieda Ponce strongly opposed the use of forests by local business and political figures who for years have exploited natural resources, using all manner of criminal methods against the Tolupan people, in particular the indigenous leaders of this sector. There is clear evidence that the assassins are closely linked to the large land holders and business elites and were contracted to kill Ponce. The same assassins are also responsible for the murders of María Enriqueta Matute, Ricardo Soto and Armando Fúnez in 2013 for defending the forest.

We want to denounce that since 2013, we identified Selvin Matute and Carlos Matute as directly responsible for those murders and warrants have been issued for their arrest. However, the national police have not arrested them despite testimonies from members of the indigenous community assuring that they are also responsible for the murder of Erasio Vieda. The alleged suspects enter and leave the area, carrying out these crimes, threatening and terrorizing the community. They remain in strategic hiding places, with the knowledge and tolerance of members of the police of Yoro who have been assigned in an irregular manner, to provide security and to capture the suspects.

Today, with greater imperative, we hold the State of Honduras and its representatives in the office of the Attorney General of Human Rights, Yoro, Secretary of Justicia, Attorney General for Ethnic Groups, National Police.

and the other institutions responsible for the investigation and prosecution of crime, access to justice and citizen security. We have presented all of the evidence merited in these cases and taken action in international human rights platforms (IACHR) resulting in the issuance of protective measures for the indigenous leaders under threat. State functionaries have not implemented protective measures in a responsible manner, elevating the vulnerability of the indigenous to such a degree that in the month of May,

Luis de Reyes Marcía, husband of Consuelo Soto, was murdered and two weeks after burying her husband, she was the target of an attack on her home by the same assassins forcing her and her entire family to flee the zone.

While the level of conflict intensifies in the zone, evidenced by the number crimes in the last three months, there is neither response nor direct intervention on the part of the Secretary of Justice whose staff has demonstrated complete negligence in response to the requests for security and justice that the Tolupan people demand.

Once again we demand that the State of Honduras fulfill its functions and capture those responsible for these deaths.


Community of Locomapa: Impunity, violence and harassment continue against Tolupán indigenous

June 17, 2015
Photo: MADJ

Photo: MADJ

On April 11, 2015, PROAH accompanied an activity organized by the Preventative Council of the Tolupán Tribe of San Francisco de Locomapa and MADJ (Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice), which included a walk along one of the tribal boundary lines in recognition of their lands.

The activity included a homage for Luis de Reyes Marcía, Tolupán indigenous member of the community of Locomapa, Yoro, who was assassinated on April 4, 2015. Luis is the fourth land rights defender murdered in this small community, following the murder of three of his companions in the land struggle, in 2013.

Two years after the murders of three Tolupán land rights defenders in 2013, these crimes remain in impunity:

On August 25, 2013 three indigenous Tolupán were murdered by gunfire in the community of Locomapa, Yoro, in northern Honduras. The victims were María Enriqueta Matute, Armando Fúnez Medina, and Ricardo Soto Fúnez. They, along with other members of the Tribe of San Francisco de Locomapa, were organizing to protect natural resources and to oppose the illegal mining of antimony and logging on their communal lands. The murders occurred after 12 days of protest by the community, peacefully blocking the road. Witnesses testify that the murders were committed by two men belonging to a group that works for the mine and powerful business interests in the region. (see PROAH article 2013).

In response to a petition for protection for the community issued by MADJ, in December 2013 the Inter American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) issued protective measures for 18 members of the community and their families, a total of 38 people. On February 22, 2014, in a public ceremony, which PROAH team members attended as international observers, Honduran authorities committed to fulfill their obligation to protect those under threat and to capture the suspected assassins.

However, the State of Honduras has not fulfilled its obligation to implement protective measures. The situation of impunity and extreme vulnerability of the community continues. Following the three murders, several families had to flee the zone for six months; one person exiled from Locomapa, has not yet been able to return. Two years after the crime, the alleged assassins, for whom arrest warrants have been issued, remain at large in the community; they and others in their group, continue to harass and threaten those who oppose mining, creating a state of terror in the community.

Another land defender murdered

On April 4, 2015, tragedy struck the community again: another member of the community, Luis de Reyes Marcía, was killed.

His body was found, brutally murdered with several stab wounds in the thorax and neck.

Luis Marcía was the husband of Vilma Consuelo Soto, a beneficiary of protective measures by the IACHR and an active member of MADJ. Her family had returned to their land on February 22, 2014 after being forcibly displaced for six months due to death threats. On returning, Consuelo Soto and Luis Marcía continued with the land struggle. Just before his murder, Luis and Consuelo had presented a complaint to the local police regarding new death threats and damage to their crops. The principal suspect for his murder is part of the same group that constantly intimidates the community.

Consuelo Soto.

Consuelo Soto.

On May 22, just six weeks after the murder of her husband, Consuelo Soto suffered another attack. According to Consuelo, a neighbor who was bothered by a visit of the District Attorney for Ethnic Groups, investigating the murder of her husband, came to her house where she was with her two grandchildren, and fired on them three times. Consuelo Soto threw herself to the ground with the two children to protect them. She fled to the home of another neighbor and then had to leave the community (listen to her testimony here, Radio Progreso). It is supposed that the gunman is also part of the group working for powerful business interests.

The police and authorities responsible for investigating these crimes and protecting the population receive constant complaints from members of MADJ and are well informed about activity in the zone. However, they constantly cite difficulties that impede their work: lack of personnel, vehicle etc. For MADJ, this reflects a lack of will on the part of the State of Honduras. According to Víctor Fernández, attorney for the organization, “many efforts have been made to compel the State to assume its responsibility to implement protective measures but it has not done so. The situation is getting worse.”(see Radio Progreso)

Those who struggle for land rights in the community live in an extreme state of insecurity. At least eleven community leaders have received death threats. Another actor who harasses the community is Finlander Uclés, a retired general who claims rights to community lands (see PROAH article June, 2014.) Recently, Mr. Finlander issued death threats against two members of the community, who are also members of MADJ and beneficiaries of IACHR protective measures.

Photo MADJ, Protest in front of the Public Ministry, May 12, 2015

Photo MADJ, Protest in front of the Public Ministry, May 12, 2015

Due to the situation of extreme vulnerability for the Tolupanes of Locomapa, MADJ demands: that authorities duly investigate the 2013 and 2015 murders; arrest warrants issued for the capture of those responsible for these crimes be acted on; the responsibility to implement protective measures and guarantee the safety and integrity of beneficiaries be fulfilled; and finally that the companies illegally exploiting natural resources in the zone be removed as they are causing violence and conflict.

For more information:

Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia, MADJ:

VIDEO on the land rights struggle of the community of Locomapa:

Comunicado April 5, 2015: “Dan muerte violentamente a indigena Tolupán en Locomapa,Yoro.”

Red nacional de Defensoras de derechos humanos en Honduras: Alert, June 4, 2015: Todas Somos Consuelo

Radio Progreso, April 10, 2015: Ante muerte de Tolupanes, Estado no atiende ni actúa

The Garífuna community of Barra Vieja on trial for defending ancestral territory

June 3, 2015

From May 12 to 14, PROAH accompanied the Garífuna community of Barra Vieja in Tela, where 66 members of the community appeared in court for a public hearing, accused of “usurpation of lands in detriment to the State”.


The Garífuna community of Barra Vieja, located in the municipality of Tela, like many other Garífuna communities on the northern coast Honduras, faces the threat of forced eviction from their ancestral lands by private economic interests and the State of Honduras.  Ever since residents became aware of the plan to install a luxury hotel complex in their community, the struggle for recognition of their ancestral land rights and the defense of Garífuna culture intensified. The community has suffered two eviction attempts and legal complaints against them for land usurpation resulted in the entire community being summoned to court from May 12-14th, 2015.

Indura Beach & Golf Resort, a tourist project promoted by big business and the State of Honduras

The construction of the Indura Beach Resort complex began in 2006, taking several acres of community land. The hotel was inaugurated in November 2013, but further expansion of the project is planned. Today, the gated entrance to the resort is located next to the Barra Vieja community. The hotel fence, borders the access route to Barra Vieja (see photo).

The Tela Bay Toursim Development company (Desarrollo Turístico Bahía de Tela-DTBT), owner of the Project, is a prívate-public Enterprise with 49% of its financing from the Honduran Institute of Tourism (Instituto Hondureño de Turismo IHT) and 51% from the Honduran Fund for Tourism Investment (Fondo Hondureño de Inversión Turística FHIT), comprised of some of the most powerful businessmen in Honduras (1).

Photo S Bartlett

Photo S Bartlett

The legal fight for land and criminalization of land rights defenders

In 2007 the Honduran Institute of Tourism, through the National Port Authority (ENP), filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor in Tela against the residents of Barra Vieja for usurpation of State lands and declaring itself owner of this territory. According to OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras), the ENP “mysteriously became the owner of a good portion of Garífuna territory in the Bay of Tela”. Since then, the community began a legal battle for recognition of its right to live on ancestral lands, confronting powerful private and State investment interests.

The criminalization began in July 2013 when several members of the community were captured and detained by the police for several hours. Since that date, almost all of the adult members of the community have been issued alternative measures to prison, accused of usurpation, which require them to sign before a judge each week and prohibits them from leaving the country.

One year later, the community of Barra Vieja suffered two evictions: on September 6 and 30th, 2014. In both instances, the armed forces removed all of the personal belongings of 150 families from their homes. The population peacefully resisted the eviction and returned the same day to their community. The community of Barra Vieja has denounced the psychological impact of these evictions on the population, in particular on the children who are strongly impacted by the heavy police and military presence which PROAH observed during an eviction attempt on the 29th of September, 2014:

Barra Vieja 12.14

Oral and public hearing:

On April 12 – 14th 2015, 66 members of the community were summoned to appear before the court in Tela, accused of usurpation in detriment to the State. Due to lack of space in the Tela courtroom, the proceedings took place in the old installations of the Tela Railroad Company, a subsidiary of the United Fruit Company, which since the 1930s has promoted the removal of Garifuna communities for banana plantations.

juicio bv

During the three days of proceedings, nearly 400 people from different Garifuna communities accompanied the people of Barra Vieja in solidarity. Of note, only 66 people from the community were summoned; the majority of the community leaders and over 40 other people from the community were not summoned although they continue to be processed and under alternative measures to prison. The prosecution was represented by the Public Ministry, the Attorney General’s Office and the National Port Authority.

After three days of proceedings, the judge accepted a request from the prosecution to postpone the hearing so that they could have time to find their witnesses who had not appeared for the hearing so that they could testify at the next hearing which was set for June 3, 2015.


According to OFRANEH, “The case of Barra Vieja is a violation of ILO Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples” which is ratified by the State of Honduras. For OFRANEH, the pressure on Barra Vieja is part of a Honduran government strategy to remove Garífunas from their lands in order to exploit their territories; it represents a danger to their right to land, prior consultation and places their survival and culture at risk.

The pressure of indigenous lands in Honduras intensified in 2013 with the passage of the Law for Employment and Economic Development Zones (ZEDEs – model cities) which includes over 20 Garifuna communities impacted by several of these ZEDEs which are to be concessioned to foreign investors with the objective of creating zones which are independent of state institutions and in which the justice system is outsourced.(2)

The IACHR calls on the government of Honduras to respect the rights of the Garifuna people

In the preliminary report on its in situ visit to Honduras in December 2014, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights called on the government to: 1) “recognize the cultural identity of the Garífuna” people and 2) “intensify its actions to respect and guarantee their lands, adopt the necessary measures for completing the obligation of the state to guarantee prior, free and informed consultation regarding projects developed in their lands, territories and that impact their natural resources, taking into consideration the special relationship between these peoples, the land and natural resources.”

In light of the heavy pressure and economic interests at play in the case of Barra Vieja and depending on the decision of the court in June, the community may have to appeal to the Inter American Court of Human Rights which has developed a body of jurisprudence reaffirming the right of indigenous peoples to ancestral territories.

Update – June 10, 2015:

On June 4, 2015 the Court in Tela aquitted 66 Garifuna members from the community of Barra Vieja who were charged with land usurpation. However, a trial against eight leaders of the Barra Veija community continues. They face a new hearing on June 30th. For more information, see this article by OFRANEH (in Spanish) and the Interview of Miriam Miranda, OFRANEH coordinator:

1. In February 2015, the First Encounter of the Alliance for Prosperity for the Northern Triangle was held at this resort, with the presence of the Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and CEAL. The official purpose of the event: secure private sector backing for the Alliance for Prosperity Plan for the Northern Triangle. A group of civil society organizations from Central America and the United States expressed grave concerns regarding the Alliance in a public letter directed to the heads of State of these countries. In particular, their concern “is based on the fact that the Plan reinforces the same economic policies that have resulted in inequality, detonated generalized violations of labor rights, an increase in violence targeting labor leaders and the forced displacement of the population throughout Meso America.”

Swiss delegation expresses concern over the human rights situation in Honduras

May 13, 2015


The Honduras Switzerland Forum, a Swiss NGO which advocates for democratic processes and respect for human rights in Honduras, organized a delegation to Honduras from May 4 to 11, with the objective of monitoring the general human rights situation in the country. The delegation met with representatives of civil society, national and international organizations, CONADEH and communities impacted by the mining industry.

PROAH acompanied the delegation in its various meetings and visits.

Click here to see the communication of the delegation (in English) and HERE to read the entire report (in Spanish).


March 6, 2015

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


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