Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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:

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.”


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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