Posts Tagged ‘PROAH’

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

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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

Urgent Action: Two members of PROAH held captive by armed men from the mining company in La Nueva Esperanza

July 28, 2013

On 25 July 2013, two international accompaniers from the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH), from Switzerland and France, were held captive for two and a half hours in the community of La Nueva Esperanza by armed men who guard the mining operations of Lenir Pérez, the owner of Minerales Victoria.

The armed men have been in this rural community in the department of Atlántida for almost two months, terrorizing the villagers and threatening those who refuse to sell their land to the mining company.  The threats are so serious that some villagers have been forced to flee their homes.  So far, the authorities have totally failed to respond to the situation there, and to date, the armed men continue in the village.

The URGENT ACTION (which is below and can also be downloaded in pdf HERE) includes requests for the immediate removal of the armed men from the region and for measures to be taken to halt the harassment and threats suffered by the members of the community of La Nueva Esperanza.

 For more information, see the article on the situation in La Nueva Esperanza Mining project in La Nueva Esperanza: Alarming escalation in intimidation of the community

and on the statement by the Diocese of La Ceiba on the situation there Mining in Atlántida: The Diocese of La Ceiba issues a public statement

URGENT ACTION:  INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS HELD CAPTIVE BY ARMED MEN FROM A MINING COMPANY IN HONDURAS

On 25 July 2013, two international accompaniers from the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH from its initials in Spanish)1, from Switzerland and France, were held captive for two and a half hours in the community of La Nueva Esperanza by armed men who guard the mining operations of Lenir Perez, the owner of Minerales Victoria. The armed men have been in this rural community in the department of Atlántida for almost two months, terrorizing the villagers and threatening those who refuse to sell their land to the mining company.

The incident involving the international human rights accompaniers is yet another example of the seriousness of the situation in La Nueva Esperanza. The community is totally vulnerable, its members suffering intimidation because of their peaceful opposition to the mining exploration imposed upon them without any consultation and against their will.2 The threats are so serious that some villagers have been forced to flee their homes.

In the face of this situation, and in response to requests by members of the community, PROAH has been accompanying it through the dissemination of information and international alerts, and has visited the community several times.

On 24 July, the two members of PROAH spent the night at the home of a family in El Zapote, a community near La Nueva Esperanza, to accompany them in view of the threats they had received for refusing to sell their land to Lenir Pérez.3 At 9.00 am the next day, 25 July, seven heavily armed men arrived at the house, pointing their shotguns at the two accompaniers, reinforced by between 25 and 30 men with machetes, workers from the mining exploration site, who were led by a man identified as Wilfredo Funes by members of the community. He told the accompaniers that they had to leave because they were impeding the exploration work. The members of PROAH explained their work accompanying human rights defenders. At one point, Wilfredo Funes’ phone rang and he said that ‘the boss’ wanted to talk to the accompaniers. One of them asked if it was Lenir Pérez. Funes appeared surprised and said ‘You know?’ but when he passed the phone, the person hung up. Other armed men (according to members of the community, there are 12 in total there) chased after the owner of the house who was out at the time, shooting at him until he arrived at his home.

After an hour, the leader of the armed men forced the members of PROAH to leave the house, threatening to use force if necessary. He also said that if they returned, they ‘would be disappeared in the woods.’4 He forced them to walk for half an hour to La Nueva Esperanza, surrounded by the men armed with guns and machetes, who sexually intimidated the French accompanier, who is female. They were forced to delete the photos they had taken of the machinery used for the mining exploration. Then, Wilfredo Funes and an engineer from the mining company made them get into a pickup, with three armed men in the back. Before releasing them, Wilfredo Funes said if the members of PROAH reported the incident, the community would suffer reprisals. They left the accompaniers in the community of Nueva Florida at 11.30 am, after holding them captive for two and a half hours. The PROAH members waited there for an hour for a police patrol which took them to Tela.

There is no doubt that the pressure exerted by COFADEH5, PROAH, and other human rights defenders, including members of the community, in reporting the incident and requesting the immediate intervention by the national security authorities and members of the diplomatic corps, was a decisive factor in enabling them to be released.

Significantly, the day before, the human rights defenders had informed the police post in Buena Vista, on the way to the community, of their arrival, identifying themselves as human rights observers. However, the police were absent from the post during the incident.

A member of the community informed PROAH that the same night, armed men from the mining company drove through La Nueva Esperanza on motorbikes firing into the air. The family where the accompaniers were staying when they were first held captive had to flee the community for its own safety.

This incident is yet another example of the persecution of the villagers of La Nueva Esperanza and the entities accompanying them in defence of their human rights. Two community leaders, César Alvarenga and Roberto García, both members of MADJ (Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice), are already beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, having received death threats texted by Lenir Pérez in August 2012.6 The Guatemalan, Father César Espinoza, the parish priest for Arizona, which covers the community and who has been active in its defence, has also been the target of similar attacks, receiving threats from ‘supposed mining workers’ on his mobile phone in January this year7. It was in large part due to concern about his case, combined with the authorities’ failure to respond to the situation in La Nueva Esperanza, that the Diocese of La Ceiba issued a statement on mining in the region in June.8

In the light of these events, PROAH requests that the national and international community urges the Honduran authorities to:

– Ensure that the armed men guarding Lenir Pérez’s mining operations are removed from the area immediately.

– Immediately conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the incidents reported, requesting that the results are made public and that those directly and indirectly responsible for these threats and the intimidation of members of the community opposing the mining activity and of other human rights defenders, and for holding the members of PROAH captive, are brought to justice.

– Take the necessary measures to ensure that the harassment and threats against all members of the community cease.

–  Take urgent and concrete measures to implement the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1998.

– Ensure the implementation of the provisions of this Declaration, in particular with regards to the protection of the right of everyone “…individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”.

27 July 2013

Please contact the following authorities:

President of the Supreme Court of Justice

Jorge Alberto Rivera Avilés

Tel (504) 269-3000 269-3069

Mail: cedij@poderjudicial.gob.hn

 Supervisory Board of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Junta Interventora del Ministerio Público)

Fax (504) 221-5667

Tel (504) 221-5670 221-3099

Minister of Justice and Human Rights

Ana Pineda

apineda@sjdh.gob.hn

Director of INHGEOMINA (Honduran Institute of Geology and Mines)

Aldo Francisco Santos Sosa

aldofss@yahoo.es

Minister of Natural Resources (SERNA)

Rigoberto Cuellar

rigobertocuellar@hotmail.com

 Regional Human Rights Commissioner

Juan José Arita

jujoa7@hotmail.com

 Mayor of the Municipality of Tela

David Zaccaro

alcaldiadetela@yahoo.com y muni_tela@yahoo.com

 Please send copies of this urgent action to your congressional or parliamentary representatives (and, where appropriate, Members of the European Parliament), as well as to your country’s diplomatic mission in Honduras, with letters expressing your concern at the worsening human rights crisis there. Please send copies of your letters to the Honduran authorities to the diplomatic representatives of Honduras accredited to your country.

 The Honduras Accompaniment Project was established in the country on 1 September 2010, in response to the deterioration in the human rights situation following the 2009 coup d’état. The aim of PROAH’s work is to prevent or alleviate situations of pressure or risk threatening the work of individuals and organizations who, for their defence of human rights, face imminent danger.

See article https://hondurasaccompanimentproject.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/mining-project-in-la-nueva-esperanza-alarming-escalation-in-intimidation-of-the-community/

See public statement by National Coalition of Environmental Networks https://hondurasaccompanimentproject.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/la-nueva-esperanza-villagers-flee-homes-in-fear/

“Les perderían en el bosque”

5 Committee for the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras.

Joint statement by MADJ and MAA (7.6.2013) http://madj.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=273:comunicado-madj&catid=56:rrnn&Itemid=117

Ibid.

See https://hondurasaccompanimentproject.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/mining-in-atlantida-the-diocese-of-la-ceiba-issues-a-public-statement/