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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.


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.

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


March 19, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

More Information:

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

 artículo de Radio Progreso:

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

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

 Pronunciamiento del MADJ

AZUNOSA: Conciliation Process stalls while Criminalization continues

February 5, 2014

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

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

Magdalena Morales                                            Magdalena Morales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honduran Civil Society on the Move

March 24, 2013

On March 6 the “March for Dignity and Sovereignty, Step by Step” reached the Honduran capital after a journey of 130 miles.  PROAH accompanied social movement organizations on the way to Tegucigalpa where approximately 300 exhausted but highly determined participants occupied the plaza in front of the Honduran National Congress. Their arrival represented the end of a ten day march that began on February 28, 2013 in different regions of the country. The great “guancasco”[1] between groups from the north and center of the country took place on March 2 in Siguatepeque, about 70 miles from the capital.


The collective demands: Dignity and Sovereignty

Day after day, step by step, Honduran citizens walked under the banner of their demands in an effort to make their voices heard by Honduran members of Congress.  Among their demands are three major priorities[2]: the abolishment of the New Mining Act[3] as well as the “Charter Cities” Act[4], both approved by Congress on January 23.  Additionally they demand freedom for political prisoner José Isabel “Chavelo” Morales.[5] These three demands reflect the growing unease on the part of civil society regarding the exploitation of natural resources, the violation of national sovereignty and the repression against peasant movements. The reason for organizing a march as a means of protest is explained as reflective of the great desire on the part of civil society to promote their visibility while emphasizing important values including effort and humility.

The participants

Social movement organizations taking part in this national effort include the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ), the Unified Peasant Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), the Honduran Women’s Collective (CODEMUH), the National Center of Fieldworkers (CNTC), the Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras. (COFADEH), the Reflection, Investigation and Communication team of the Jesuits in Honduras (ERIC) and the Inter-Municipal Association of Development and Social Vigilance of Honduras (AIDEVISH).  Emblematic leaders of the resistance also participated including Padre Fausto Milla, who didn’t let his advanced age deter him. Padre Melo (ERIC’s director), who is also a daily host on Radio Progreso (part of ERIC as well), took part in the march and opened a space for free expression to the participants in a live broadcast. Numerous other Medias covered the march as well.


 Under the banner of sharing and conviviality

International observers were present during the journey and witnesses to this human and social experience that provided lessons in conviviality for all.  Participants from different organizations with  indigenous Lenca,  Afro-Caribbean Garífuna or mestizo background, women, men and children, from the countryside and the city, shared food and shelter day after day, night after night. While the march was mostly contemplative and silent[6], evenings were often filled with cultural activities. Fatique, tensions, muscular pains and heat-induced migraines resulting from the miles-long daily march, was displaced by a game of soccer, a dance session or a concert by Garífuna participants. The evenings offered participants opportunities to discuss local problems and reflect on their lives. As a result members of the different organizations learned from the variety of social movements inside Honduras. When fatigue seemed to take over body and mind on various occasions, the leaders of the organizations found comforting words or emphasized the importance of their struggle.  Emotions culminated on the eve before arriving in Tegucigalpa, when news of President Hugo Chavez’ death was made public.  As elsewhere in Latin America, an improvised wake was organized for the participants to unite in a moment of grief and recognition.

A political significance

At the end of the march participants held a vigil in the plaza front of the national congress for 24 hours, waiting to be received by members of Congress.  An objective of the march was to open a space for discussion with the members of Congress who approved the new laws. The next day, after a chilly but animated night in a makeshift camp on the same plaza, a delegation of the participating organizations was received by the members of Congress. [7] The demands for dignity and sovereignty for the Honduran people were expressed but delegates left the Congress disillusioned lamenting the absence of political will.

At the same time, just miles away, a four person delegation including representatives of the international community, met with the President of the Criminal Court of the Honduran Supreme Court. During this occasion Chavelo’s supporters and his brother were able to bring forward their concern regarding the backlog of his case. As a result the President advanced considerably the date of the appeal regarding Chavelo’s sentence and announced that it would take place in the first week of April 2013 – instead of January 2014.[8]

A march for more social justice

Heading back home to their respective communities, participants had a hard time saying goodbye after having passed so much time together but concluded this social endeavor with optimism and commitments to strengthen coordination between movements.  There was some success regarding the case of José Isabel “Chavelo” Morales.  Nevertheless, the need to continue this collective effort was emphasized as the New Mining Act and the “Charter Cities” Act are still in place and represent a daunting future for the indigenous communities as well as for the environment. This march was a further step towards social justice and the leaders of the social movements announced forthcoming actions to assure that the struggle for justice lives on.

For more information please consult the following Spanish articles:






[1]  “Los Guancascos” are meetings between different villages.

[2] There are seven demands in total:

[3] The new mining act is rejected by many civil society organizations. In addition to environment impact, there are also problems regarding national sovereignty and low tax regimes. Additionally there are no measures put forward in case of environmental violation by the companies.
For more information in Spanish:
Please also see our own articles regarding this topic.

[4] “Charter Cities“ or  “Special Development Zones” are enclaves inside the Honduran nation state with their own judicial system, tax regime and in general almost complete independence. Their implementation would displace a great number of people, mostly Afro/indigenous communities.
For more information in Spanish:

[5] “Chavelo” is a peasant farmer and member of the “Movimiento de Campesinos de Aguán” (MCA). He has been innocently incarcerated for nearly 5 years for homicide on the base of unsubstantiated proof and testimonies. He has appealed his 20 year prison sentence however it is still unknown if there will be a retrial.

A summary in English can be found here:

[6] On many occasion during the march total silence was requested by the leaders, most importantly for the arrival in Tegucigalpa. There are several reasons for this. On the one hand silence stands in opposition to “political noise”, i.e. the silence stressed the politically independent aspect of the march and desire not to be exploited by any political party for the coming election in November. On the other hand organizers stressed the need for the personal introspection that the silence enabled all participants to have a deeper connection with the root motivations of all people involved in the social movement.
See the following article in Spanish:


[8] The appeal took place on April 9 and the judges now have 5-20 days to decided on the matter

Strong response of the international community to death threats received by PROAH

May 23, 2012

The response of the international community to death threats received by the PROAH team was immediate, strong and is ongoing.  

We are grateful to U.S. and Canadian networks that issued urgent actions and Letters of Concern (see attached). European Union Ambassadors to Honduras spokeout publicly regarding the escalation of violence and threats against human rights defenders and international accompaniers. Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action on behalf of the PROAH team. It also issued a public letter to the government of Honduras, demanding that there be: “No more killings, attacks or threats against journalists and human rights defenders.” 

This week in Washington D.C, members of the Honduras Working Group, a subgroup of the Latin America Working Group (LAWG), including a representative of PROAH, had a series of Congressional visits to discuss the human rights crisis in Honduras and concerns about the role of U.S. policy in fueling the violence.

Congressman Farr made a statement in the House of Representatives expressing his alarm regarding the steady deterioration of human rights in Honduras. He mentioned the recent attacks on human rights defenders, including the threats received by the PROAH team.

5.2012 CCR Final Statement of Concern Hon HRD_ENG

5.2012 APG Letter threats PROAH


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