Archive for the ‘Alert’ Category

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

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

La Nueva Esperanza: Villagers Flee Homes in Fear

July 24, 2013

Below is a translation of an urgent alert issued by the National Coalition of Environmental Networks on 20 June (Coalición Nacional de Redes Ambientales) about the increased intimidation of villagers by armed men employed by Lenir Pérez, who is carrying out mining exploration in the area against the community’s wishes (see article Mining project in La Nueva Esperanza: Alarming escalation in intimidation of the community and Mining in Atlántida: The Diocese of La Ceiba issues a public statement). He is trying to intimidate villagers into selling land for the mining operations, forcing some to flee their homes in fear.

Meanwhile, the mining exploration continues, with the rivers now so contaminated by mud from the excavations that they can no longer be used by the villagers, who are living under a curfew imposed the armed men (see photo below). The school has been closed since early June, because of the security situation which led in the end to the teacher being forced to leave the area with his family due to death threats, leaving 35 children without classes.

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URGENT ALERT IN LA NUEVA ESPERANZA, TELA

Reliable sources have reported that at about 5.30 pm on Saturday 20 July, two armed men with Mr. Wilfredo Fúnez, an employee of the mining company owner Lenir Perez, visited the communities of El Zapote and La Nueva Esperanza to threaten families who are refusing to sell their land to the mining company. We have also been informed that families have had to abandon their homes and take refuge in the countryside or in the homes of neighbours, for fear of the constant phone calls being made by the outsiders who have come to the community, and of the dozen armed men, who have kept the community in a virtual state of siege for over a month.

We call on social movements and organizations to report these abuses and to demand urgently that the security is provided to the families at risk and under threat in El Zapote and La Nueva Esperanza, Tela municipality.

We also demand the presence of the Office of the Human Rights Public Prosecutor (Fiscalía de Derechos Humanos) in order to safeguard the life and physical integrity of the people at risk.

 We urge the national police to provide the security currently required by the families of these communities and to evict the people who are spreading terror and fear in these communities.

We demand that Aldo Santos, the Director of INHGEOMIN (Honduran Geology and Mines Institute), settles once and for all the lawsuits filed to cancel the concession granted to Lenir Perez, so that the natural resources that form the basis of the rural economy of these villagers can be safeguarded.

We request that this alert is publicized and that the authorities are called upon to halt the harassment, persecution and threats targeted at those defending their right to live in peace and with dignity on the land which is theirs as of right.

NATIONAL COALITION OF ENVIRONMENTAL NETWORKS

(COALICION NACIONAL DE REDES AMBIENTALES)

ORIGINAL SPANISH TEXT

¡ ALERTA URGENTE!  EN NUEVA ESPERANZA, TELA.

Fuentes de entera confianza nos han informado que a eso de las 5.30 Pm de este sábado 20 de Julio,  2 hombres armados junto al señor Wilfredo Fúnez, empleado del empresario minero Lenir Pérez,   han llegado a las comunidades de El zapote y Nueva Esperanza, para amenazar a las familias que se resisten a vender sus tierras al empresario minero. Se nos informa igualmente que las familias han tenido que abandonar sus casas y refugiarse en el monte o en casas de vecinos, por temor a las continuas llamadas telefónicas que están realizando los extraños que han llegado a la comunidad y se teme que estén llamando a la docena de hombres armados que desde hace más de un mes mantienen prácticamente un Estado de sito en la comunidad.

Hacemos un llamado a las organizaciones y movimientos sociales a denunciar estos atropellos y exigir de manera urgente que se brinde seguridad a las familias en riesgo y bajo amenaza de las comunidades de El Zapote y Nueva Esperanza, en el municipio de Tela.

 

De igual forma exigimos la presencia de la Fiscalía de Derechos Humanos para que garantice la vida y la integridad física de las personas en riesgo.

 

Hacemos un llamado urgente a la policía nacional para que brinde la seguridad que en estos momentos requieren las familias de las comunidades antes mencionadas y que desalojen a las personas que están sembrando el terror y la zozobra en estas comunidades

 

Al abogado Aldo Santos, Ministro Director de Inhgeomin le exigimos que resuelva de una vez por todas las acciones judiciales interpuestas para que se cancele la concesión otorgad al empresario Lenir Pérez y se salvaguarden los Bienes Naturales que constituyen la base de la economía campesina de esos pobladores.

Se solicita Difundir esta alerta y llamar a las autoridades para el Cese del Hostigamiento, la persecución y las amenazas a quienes defienden su derecho a vivir en paz y con dignidad en las tierras que les pertenecen por Derecho Propio.

COALICION NACIONAL DE REDES AMBIENTALES