Posts Tagged ‘Honduras’

Two more defenders killed in Honduras

October 16, 2020

Arnold Joaquín Morazan was shot dead in his home in Guapinol, a small low-income community on Honduras’s north coast, earlier this week in what is being reported as a murder by local media.

Morazán Erazo belonged to the Guapinol environmental group, whose imprisoned activists were recently shortlisted for the EU’s Sakharov Prizefor freedom of thought. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/guapinol-activists/]

On 27 September 2020, in the central Honduran city of Comayagua, two unidentified individuals on a motorcycle shot Almendares, a local freelance journalist, three times and then fled the scene; bystanders brought the journalist to a local hospital, and he was then transferred to the Escuela Universitario hospital in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, where he died yesterday morning, according to news reports and a report by Honduran free expression organization C-Libre.

“Honduran authorities must do everything in their power to conduct a credible investigation into the killing of journalist Luis Alonzo Almendares, determine whether it was related to his work, and prosecute those responsible,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Violence against journalists is happening with terrifying frequency in Honduras, and impunity prevails in almost all cases. The government must act urgently to show that the killers of journalists will be held to account.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/22/honduran-defender-iris-argentina-alvarez-killed-by-private-security-guards/

https://euobserver.com/foreign/149771

Three nominees for European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize announced

September 21, 2020

Last year’s winner Jewher Ilham receives the Prize on behalf of her father, Ilham Tohti. © European Parliament

The European Parliamenthas announced its long-list of nominees for the annual Sakharov Prize. The nominees for this year’s prize, announced at last week’s plenary session of the Parliament, are:

  • Two nominations for the democratic opposition in Belarus, represented on the one hand by the Coordination Council, an initiative of political and civil society figures, and on the other by Sviatlana Tsikhanouska, an activist and politician whose defeat in this year’s presidential election led to accusations of fraud against the winner, Alexander Lukashenko. Tsikhanouska is also a member of the Coordination Council.
  • Monsignor Najeeb Moussa Michaeel, Archbishop of Mosul in Iraq who ensured the evacuation of Christians, Syriacs and Chaldeans to Iraqi Kurdistan when Islamic State arrived in the city in 2014, and who safeguarded more than 800 historic manuscripts dating from the 13th to the 19th century.
  • Guapinol activists and Berta Caceres in Honduras. The Guapinol activists have been imprisoned after taking part in a peaceful protest against a polluting mining company in Tocoa, Honduras. Berta Caceras was assassinated in 2016, and was a land-rights activist and protestor against illegal logging and land-grabbing from indigenous peoples in Honduras.
  • Finally, Polish LGBTI activists Jakub Gawron, Paulina Pajak, Paweł Preneta and Kamil Maczuga who founded the website Atlas of Hate, monitoring the implementation by local municipalities to the anti-LGBTI legislation introduced by the national government. This year five of the municipalities sued Gawron, Pajak and Preneta, demanding financial compensation for loss of reputation.

For more on this and similar awards, see:https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/BDE3E41A-8706-42F1-A6C5-ECBBC4CDB449

At the end of the month, the foreign affairs and development committees and the human rights subcommittee of the Parliament will announce their shortlist of three finalists. On 22 October the Conference of Presidents – consisting of the President of the European Parliament and the leaders of the political groups – will announce the winner.

The Prize itself will be awarded at a ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 16 December.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/26/universal-human-rights-apply-to-ilham-tohti-china-and-eu-disagree/

Nominees for European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize announced

Nina Lakhani’s “Who Killed Berta Cáceres?” reviewed

June 10, 2020

COHA

COHA of 9 June 2020 published a Book Review by John Perry of “Who Killed Berta Cáceres?: Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender’s Battle for the Planet,” by Nina Lakhani.

They build dams and kill people.” These words, spoken by a witness when the murderers of environmental defender Berta Cáceres were brought to trial in Honduras, describe Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA), the company whose dam project Berta opposed. DESA was created in May 2009 solely to build the Agua Zarca hydroelectric scheme, using the waters of the Gualcarque River, regarded as sacred by the Lenca communities who live on its banks. As Nina Lakhani makes clear in her book Who Killed Berta Cáceres?, DESA was one of many companies to benefit from the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras, when the left-leaning President Manuel Zelaya was deposed and replaced by a sequence of corrupt administrations. The president of DESA and its head of security were both US-trained former Honduran military officers, schooled in counterinsurgency. By 2010, despite having no track record of building dams, DESA had already obtained the permits it needed to produce and sell electricity, and by 2011, with no local consultation, it had received its environmental licence.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/03/anniversary-sparks-arrest-in-investigation-of-berta-caceres-murder/].

..Lakhani quotes a high-ranking judge she spoke to, sacked for denouncing the 2009 coup, as saying that Zelaya was deposed precisely because he stood in the way of this economic model and the roll-out of extractive industries that it required. The coup “unleashed a tsunami of environmentally destructive ‘development’ projects as the new regime set about seizing resource-rich territories.” After the post-coup elections, the then president Porfirio Lobo declared Honduras open for business, …….

Lakhani’s book gives us an insight into the personal history that brought Berta Cáceres to this point. She came from a family of political activists. As a teenager she read books on Marxism and the Cuban revolution. But Honduras is unlike its three neighbouring countries where there were strong revolutionary movements in the 1970s and 1980s. The US had already been granted free rein in Honduras in exchange for “dollars, training in torture-based interrogation methods, and silence.” At the age of only 18, looking for political inspiration and action, Berta left Honduras and went with her future husband Salvador Zúñiga to neighbouring El Salvador. She joined the FMLN guerrilla movement and spent months fighting against the US-supported right-wing government. Zúñiga describes her as having been “strong and fearless” even when the unit they were in came under attack. But in an important sense, her strong political convictions were tempered by the fighting: she resolved that “whatever we did in Honduras, it would be without guns.”

Inspired also by the Zapatista struggle in Mexico and by Guatemala’s feminist leader Rigoberta Menchú, Berta and Salvador created COPINH in 1993 to demand indigenous rights for the Lenca people, organising their first march on the capital Tegucigalpa in 1994. From this point Berta began to learn of the experiences of Honduras’s other indigenous groups, especially the Garífuna on its northern coast, and saw how they fitted within a pattern repeated across Latin America….

In Río Blanco, where the Lenca community voted 401 to 7 against the dam, COPINH’s struggle continued. By 2013, the community seemed close to winning, at the cost of activists being killed or injured by soldiers guarding the construction. They had blocked the access road to the site for a whole year and the Chinese engineering firm had given up its contract. The World Bank allegedly pulled its funding, although Lakhani shows that its money later went back into the project via a bank owned by the Atala Faraj family. In April 2015 Berta was awarded the Goldman Prize for her “grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.”

…….

The horrific events on the night of Wednesday March 2 are retold by Nina Lakhani. Armed men burst through the back door of Berta’s house and shot her. They also injured Gustavo Castro, who was visiting Berta; he waited until the men had left, found her, and she died in his arms. ,,,By the first anniversary of Berta’s death the stuttering investigation had led to eight arrests, but the people who ordered the murder were still enjoying impunity. Some of the accused were connected to the military, which was not surprising since Lakhani later revealed in a report for The Guardian that she had uncovered a military hit list with Berta’s name on it. In the book she reports that the ex-soldier who told her about it is still in hiding: he had seen not only the list but also one of the secret torture centers maintained by the military.

Nina Lakhani is a brave reporter. She had to be. Since the coup in Honduras, 83 journalists have been killed; 21 were thrown in prison during the period when Lakhani was writing her book. She poses the question “would we ever know who killed Berta Cáceres?” and sets out to answer it. Despite her diligent and often risky investigation, she can only give a partial answer. Those arrested and since convicted almost certainly include the hitmen who carried out the murder, but it is far from the clear that the intellectual authors of the crime have been caught. In 2017 Lakhani interviewed or attempted to interview all eight of those imprisoned and awaiting trial, casting a sometimes-sympathetic light on their likely involvement and why they took part.

….

In September 2018, the murder case finally went to trial, and Lakhani is at court to hear it, but the hearing is suspended. On the same day she starts to receive threats, reported in London’s Press Gazette and duly receiving international attention. Not surprisingly she sees this as an attempt to intimidate her into not covering the trial. Nevertheless, when it reopens on October 25, she is there. The trial reveals a weird mix of diligent police work and careful forensic evidence, together with the investigation’s obvious gaps. Not the least of these was the absence of Gustavo Castro, the only witness, whose return to Honduras was obstructed by the attorney general’s office. Castillo, though by then charged with masterminding the murder, was not part of the trial. Most of the evidence was not made public or even revealed to the accused. The Cáceres family’s lawyers were denied a part in the trial.

The who did what, why and how was missing,” says Lakhani, “until we got the phone evidence which was the game changer.” The phone evidence benefitted from an expert witness who explained in detail how it implicated the accused. She revealed that an earlier plan to carry out the murder in February was postponed. She showed the positions of the accused on the night in the following month when Berta was killed. She also made clear that members of the Atala family were involved.

When the verdict was delivered on November 29 2018, seven of the eight accused were found guilty, but it wasn’t until December 2019 that they were given long sentences. That’s where Nina Lakhani’s story ends. By then Honduras had endured a fraudulent election, its president’s brother had been found guilty of drug running in the US, and tens of thousands of Hondurans were heading north in migrant caravans. David Castillo hasn’t yet been brought to trial, and last year was accused by the School of Americas Watch of involvement in a wider range of crimes. … Daniel Atala Midence, accused by COPINH of being a key intellectual author of the crime as DESA’s chief financial officer, has never been indicted.

...And a full answer to the question “Who Killed Berta Cáceres?” is still awaited.

http://www.coha.org/nina-lakhanis-who-killed-berta-caceres-on-the-life-death-and-legacy-of-a-courageous-honduran-indigenous-and-environmental-leader/

Mural of human rights defenders Vitaly Safarov, Greta Thunberg and Berta Cáceres unveiled at Hague university

May 19, 2020

A portrait of late human rights defender and multiculturalism activist Vitali Safarov was created as part of the mural by artists Karski & Beyond. Photo via Hague University of Applied Sciences.
On 15 May 2020 Agenda.ge reported that a mural portrait of Vitali Safarov, the Jewish-Georgian human rights defender and activist killed in Tbilisi in 2018, now adorns a facade of the Hague University of Applied Sciences alongside faces of student climate movement figure Greta Thunberg and assassinated Honduran indigenous activist Berta Cáceres. Re Safarov see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/22/vitos-trial-in-georgia-opens-crucial-to-challenge-raising-hate-crimes/. The 25-year-old can be seen on the large work by artist duo Karski & Beyond, painted on an outside wall of the university after the project originated at one of their sessions involving students. Thunberg, a teenage climate activist who has become widely acknowledged for inspiring school student strikes on climate change [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/17/greta-thunberg-receives-amnestys-ambassador-of-conscience-award/], and Cáceres, an indigenous leader on environmental concerns who was killed in 2016 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/berta-caceres/], are the other two personalities seen in the artwork.

Started in an initiative by Justice & Peace Netherlands to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the declaration of universal human rights, the creative project pays tribute to the activists for their commitment to “climate, freedom and equality”, the university said.

The mural] is a tribute to three people who show that it is really possible to make a difference”Hague University of Applied Sciences

https://agenda.ge/en/news/2020/1530

Honduran defender Iris Argentina Álvarez killed by private security guards

April 22, 2020

With all eyes on the pandemic it is easy to forget that “violence as usual” continues against human rights defenders. Here one case:

Human Rights Defender, Iris Argentina Álvarez, was killed on 2 April 2020, by private security agents from the company CRAE´S, employed by the La Grecia Sugar Mill. Her murder took place during a violent, illegal eviction in the Los Chanchos section of Marcovia, Choluteca in the South of HondurasCommunity witnesses report that National Police officers were in the area when the aggressors opened fire against several families with many children. They affirm that the police did absolutely nothing to stop the violence that ended the life of the defender and left two other people wounded, including an underage child.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre attempted to contact La Grecia sugar mill but was not succesful and CRAE´S private security company did not respond.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/25/four-honduran-woman-human-rights-defenders-say-why-funders-need-to-prioritize-social-movmements/

#WHRDAlert HONDURAS / Defender killed by security agents in violent, illegal eviction

 

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/honduras-defender-iris-argentina-álvarez-killed-by-private-security-guards-from-the-company-crae´s-employed-by-the-la-grecia-sugar-mill-the-companies-did-not-respond?mc_cid=4f7a17b150&mc_eid=81043e761b

Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards 2019 to climate group Zero Hour and Honduran NGO

October 9, 2019

 Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson in a blog post of 7 October 2019 describes the NGO Zero Hour as the winner of the 2019 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards. The ceremony too place on 3 October at ther Carnegie Institute of Washington. For more on this and other awards for human rights and the environment, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/letelier-moffitt-human-rights-awards

Four Honduran woman human rights defenders say why funders need to prioritize social movmements

July 25, 2019

This video is part of an editorial partnership with the Fund for Global Human Rights.

In this video, Miriam Miranda, executive director of OFRANEH – the Honduran Black Fraternal Organisation – talks about the importance of funding social movements, not just structured NGOs (which inherently seek to sustain themselves). She also discusses the need for more funders to support work happening at the community level. She shares her thoughts on how flexible funding allows activists to respond to the changing needs of their communities and the difficult context in which they work. She stresses the critical importance of donors trusting their partners on the ground and building trust-based relationships.

Denia Castillo, coordinator of Red De Abogadas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (Network of Human Rights Defenders), shares why grassroots activism is often the most effective to way to spur on social change. This is because activists on the ground best understand their communities and the challenges they face, and they don’t have the costs of much larger organisations – allowing for resources to be distributed closer to the ground. She also talks about the need for international funders to provide flexible funding, which allows grassroots groups to adapt their plans and support their communities in the emergencies they often face on Honduras.

Indyra Mendoza, executive director of CATTRACHAS – a feminist lesbian network – provides insight into the importance of funding and working with non-registered entities. In countries where governments are cracking down on the work of activists and NGOs, restrictive legislation is making it harder to register as an NGO or operate freely as a registered NGO. For this reason, many activists and groups doing critical work for their communities choose not to register as NGOs, which creates difficulties for them in receiving foreign funding and support.

Bertita Caceres is the general secretary of COPINH – Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras. She is also the daughter of COPINH’s founder Berta Caceras, who was murdered in 2016 because of her campaigning work to stop a hydro-electric dam from destroying indigenous lands and livelihoods. Bertita shares her thoughts on the importance of international allies helping build the capacity and strength of organisations like COPINH, specifically around security and protection. She also shares how important it is for groups like hers to have international partners and funders use their positions of power to speak out on behalf of grassroots groups and apply pressure internationally in a way that supports their strategies and advocacy on the ground.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/frontline-insights/we-need-relationships-based-on-trust-how-supporters-can-help-honduran-activists/

World Environment Day: seven stories of human rights defenders

June 9, 2019

Amnesty International marked 5 June – World Environment Day – by focusing on environmental human rights defenders, who often face the gravest risks to protect their homes and communities. Being an environmental human rights defender has deadly consequences, making it among the deadliest types of activism. According to the NGO Global Witness, in 2017 almost four environmental defenders were killed each week for protecting their land, wildlife and natural resources. In 2017, 207 environmental activists were killed. The vast majority of them hailed from South America, making it the most dangerous region in the world. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/global-witness-report-2018-on-environmental-defenders-bad-but-2017-was-worse/]

Amnesty highlights the stories of seven environmental activists from the Americas who remind us of why we need to stand up for Earth’s defenders.

BERTA CÁCERES, COPINH (HONDURAS)

Berta Cáceres cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, COPINH) in 1993 to address the growing threats posed to the territorial rights of the Lenca communities and improve their livelihoods. For more on her case see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/berta-caceres/

JULIÁN CARRILLO AND THE COLORADAS DE LA VIRGEN COMMUNITY (MÉXICO)

Julián Carrillo was a leader of the Coloradas de la Virgen community. His job was to take care of the territory, the water, the forest and the wildlife. He had publicly denounced logging and mining by landlords in their ancestral land, as well as violence by criminal armed groups against his community. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/07/reprehensible-says-un-about-mexican-killing-of-human-rights-defender/%5D

PARAGUAY: AMADA MARTÍNEZ, INDIGENOUS DEFENDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND TERRITORY

Amada is an Avá Guaraní Indigenous environment defender from the Tekoha Sauce community.

In the 1970s, the construction of the Itaipú Binational hydroelectric plant, in the border between Paraguay and Brazil, forcibly displaced her community from its ancestral territory, putting their survival at risk. Since then, she has defended the right of her community to have a territory in which they can thrive in harmony with nature and has denounced the serious impacts of hydroelectric projects on nature and Indigenous Peoples’ lives. On 8 August 2018, a group of armed men threatened to kill her. Amada was leaving the community in a taxi along with his seven-year-old son, his sister and two young nephews, when the vehicle in which they were traveling was intercepted by a pickup truck with the logo of the hydroelectric plant. Amada Martínez believes that the threat against her was due to her work defending Indigenous Peoples rights and the environment.

PATRICIA GUALINGA, INDIGENOUS DEFENDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND TERRITORY

“We are united and we will continue our struggle to defend Mother Earth.”

Patricia is an Indigenous leader of the Kichwa people of Sarayaku community. She defends her people’s rights to their territory and to live in a healthy environment in the face of damaging oil activities there. Patricia is also protecting the Amazonian environment and promoting sustainable development. In 2012, the Indigenous Sarayaku community achieved a historic victory for Indigenous Peoples against the Ecuador government after reporting an oil concession that had installed explosives on their territory without consulting them. In the early hours of 5 January 2018, an unknown man made death threats to Patricia and attacked her at her home in Puyo, in the east of Ecuador., The man shouted, “Next time we’ll kill you, bitch!” before fleeing. Patricia and her family had to leave their home after the attack because the property owner “was terrified that something would happen to her.”

NEMA GREFA, INDIGENOUS DEFENDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND TERRITORY

 

Nema is defending the Amazon environment and her people’s right to protect their territory from the possible negative effects of oil activity. After being legally recognized as President of the Sápara nationality of Ecuador in January 2018, her appointment was challenged by a group of people who Nema says are supportive of oil activities on the Sápara territory. Nema’s appointment was revoked in April 2018 as a result. Later that month a video was shared on social media featuring a man armed with a spear, identified by Nema as belonging to the group who had challenged her appointment, issuing her with a death threat: “Those present here are united in rejecting her and are thus going to kill Nema Grefa; she has no territory.” One year on, the Attorney’s Office has yet to open in investigation into the death threat. On 19 October 2018 Nema was finally recognized as president but still faces serious threats to her life. In April this year, despite the Ecuadorian authorities’ promises to protect her and her family, unknown individuals forcibly broke into her home to steal two computers containing sensitive information on her human rights work.

SALOMÉ ARANDA, INDIGENOUS ENVIRONMENTAL AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS DEFENDER

Salomé is an Indigenous leader from the Kichwa people who is defending the Amazonian environment and the right of women in her community to live in a healthy environment, free from sexual violence. Salomé is the Women and Family Leader in Moretecocha commune, Pastaza province. Salomé has publicly denounced the possible environmental impacts of oil operations in the Villano River basin, Pastaza province, and the sexual abuse of Indigenous women that have occurred in this context. In the early hours of 13 May 2018, a number of unidentified individuals attacked and threatened her and her family at home. Despite making a formal complaint, the Pastaza Provincial Attorney’s Office has yet to make any significant progress in this investigation. The authorities have not even offered her protection measures to address the risk facing her and her family.

MARGOTH ESCOBAR, ENVIRONMENTAL AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ RIGHTS DEFENDER

Margoth has devoted her life to defending the environment and Indigenous Peoples’ rights. In August 2015, Margoth was physically attacked by police officers at a protest and national strike called by the social and Indigenous movements in Puyo, Pastaza province. She was held on pre-trial detention for more than a week despite poor health caused by her injuries. She was charged with “attack and resistance”, which she was eventually acquitted of. In September last year Margoth’s house was set on fire, destroying all her belongings. On 1 October 2018, the Puyo Fire Brigade Commander stated that the fire at Margoth’s house had been intentional. Margoth lodged a criminal complaint with the Pastaza Provincial Attorney’s Office to investigate the attack, yet no progress has been made in her case. Margoth refused to join the country’s witness protection program because of her previous experience at the hands of the police: “I didn’t want to join the victim and witness protection system because I have no faith in the current government, I have no faith in the independence of the legal system in Ecuador, nor in the military or police forces.”

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2019/06/why-we-need-to-stand-up-for-earth-defenders-this-world-environment-day/

 

 

The UN Environmental Rights Initiative interviews Donald Hernández Palma

February 26, 2019

On 26 February 2019 the UN Environmental Rights Initiative (launched in Geneva last year during the UN Human Rights Council). The aim is to ensure that human rights defenders can carry out their activism safely, defend their local environments and the planet. 

However, alarming statistics on killings have been reported over the past few years—especially regarding the targeting of indigenous groups. Latin America has seen the highest number of murders in recent years, accounting for almost 60 per cent of the global total in 2016. In Honduras, 128 defenders are estimated to have been murdered since 2010—the world’s worst rate. UN Environment reached out to Donald Hernández Palma, a Honduran lawyer and human rights defender, for his take on the situation facing environmental and human rights defenders. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/11/28/peace-brigades-international-officially-launches-its-country-chapter-in-ireland/ ]

Donald specializes in criminal and environmental law, with a particular focus on mining. He is a member of the Latin American Lawyers’ Network, which works against the negative impacts of transnational extractive companies in Latin America. Since 2010, Donald has worked for the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development as coordinator of its legal department. He is also the coordinator of the Human Rights and Environmental Department.

Could you tell us a little about yourself, where you come from and how you became part of the environmental advocacy movement?

I am the son of peasant parents who cultivated coffee. I grew up in a remote village in Honduras. I studied in a school that only went up to sixth grade and had to walk almost 20 kilometres a day to go to class. Later, I studied agronomy, a profession I practiced for more than 10 years, in direct contact with peasant families across Honduras. I have directly witnessed the serious subsistence difficulties faced by my countrymen far from government aid.

Since graduating in criminal law in 2007, have been working on environmental protection issues in rural communities. In 2010, I began my work at the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development, allowing me to work in the defence of human rights for the same populations I had known for many years before.

What situations help explain the kinds of challenges environmental human rights defenders face in Honduras?

Different forms of political and economic corruption in Honduras have compromised – and in some cases denied – local communities’ access to natural resources. Many people have resisted mining, hydro and logging projects, and because of this resistance, have found themselves criminalized and harassed—even killed. Honduras is today considered one of the most dangerous countries for those who defend their land and territories.

What kind of resources are being exploited in your country and how is it affecting land, water, air and biodiversity?

Currently, 302 mining concessions have been approved by the Honduran Government for open-pit mining. Projects are awarded to national and international businesses on thousands of hectares of land, affecting populations that are rarely consulted. Meanwhile, rivers are being appropriated in many regions of the country to generate electricity. Projects are also often granted without consultation to business families, as a payback for favors made for political campaigns.

Also, thousands of hectares of land are being used to plant African palm, transgenic corn and sugar cane for biofuels. This is displacing traditional agriculture, and also causing displacement of populations from their territories to urban centres within and outside the country. Laws have also been passed in Congress to privatize criollo seeds, removing the right of indigenous peoples and peasant peoples to trade their seeds as they have been doing for thousands of years.

What has been done to address these problems?

Organizations like ours do permanent research on the concessions of common goods. This information is very difficult to obtain because it is hidden from the people. There is a law on access to public information that is not respected. We give this information to the affected peoples, whom we also organize and train on human rights and indigenous law, among other issues. We also carry out public protests, present unconstitutionality appeals before the Supreme Court of Justice and carry out legal defence actions when the leaders are criminalized for defending their territory.

What kind of national laws have been enacted? Do international laws help you in any way?

We have a mining law that is highly harmful to the population, a plant breeders’ law that harms people’s rights over seeds, and energy laws that facilitate the implementation of electrical projects that avoid environmental impact prevention processes. In addition, the modification of the criminal code criminalizes public protest. It is precisely international law that allows us to exercise defensive actions in favor of indigenous peoples and peasants, since Honduras has been found not to comply with the international treaties that bind the Honduran state to respect human rights defenders.

Are you working with any NGO groups? 

I am the facilitator at The National Coalition of Environmental Networks and Organizations Honduras (CONROA), a joint space that brings together more than 30 organizations.

Has the newly-signed treaty by 24 Latin American and Caribbean countries, formally called the Regional Agreement on Principle 10, provided any protection on people’s rights in Honduras

Unfortunately, the Honduran state was one of the countries in the region that did not sign this important treaty.

Have you encountered any successes, and is attention increasing on this issue on the ground? 

Unfortunately, an advocate such as Bertha Cáceres, our comrade in this struggle, had to die so that the eyes of the world could return to the terrible situation due to the contempt of the state against those who defend common goods. The visits of the rapporteurs (Michel Fort) and the rapporteur of indigenous peoples have been very important in forcing the Honduran State to respect human rights defenders.

Anniversary sparks high-level arrest in investigation of Berta Caceres murder

March 3, 2018

[On 2 March 2016, Berta Cáceres, a courageous defender of the environment and Indigenous rights, was shot dead by gunmen in her home in Intibucá, Honduras.  She campaigned against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project and the impact it would have on the territory of the Indigenous Lenca People. see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/07/exceptional-response-from-ngo-world-on-killing-of-berta-caceres/]

A recent report from an independent team of international lawyers hired by the family of Berta Cáceres had exposed serious flaws in the official investigation. The report includes evidence that would implicate high-level business executives and state agents in the crime.  The Honduran Attorney General’s office has arrested eight people in connection to Berta’s murder, including some individuals linked to Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA), the company building the Agua Zarca dam, and others with ties to the military, but COPINH (the NGO Berta worked for) is concerned that no high-ranking officials in the government or the company have been investigated for having allegedly ordered her murder. Ahead of the trial which is scheduled to begin in June, the lawyers of Berta’s family and COPINH have called on the prosecutor office and the judicial authorities to ensure that those responsible for ordering the killing of Berta are also investigated and brought to justice.

Then on the same day as the anniversary of her killing the Honduran authorities (AP reports) arrested Roberto David Castillo Mejia, who at the time of the slaying was executive president of DESA, calling him an intellectual author of the crime. It became the ninth arrest in the killing of Caceres. Two others have been arrested for allegedly impeding the investigation.

The Public Ministry alleges Castillo was “the person in charge of providing logistics and other resources to one of the material authors already being prosecuted for the crime.” In a statement, DESA defended Castillo and its employees as innocent, saying they were “totally unconnected” to the crime and calling the “unjust detention” the result of “international pressure and campaigns by diverse NGOs to discredit the company.”

DESA questioned the coincidence that the arrest came on the second anniversary of Caceres’ killing as her supporters held a protest in Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. Caceres’ relatives said they were certain of Castillo’s guilt.

https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/honduras-failure-to-identify-those-behind-berta-caceres-murder-puts-other-activists-at-risk/

https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/crime/article/Honduras-New-arrest-in-2015-killing-of-activist-12724134.php

http://www.peoplesworld.org/article/continuing-the-battle-berta-caceres-daughter-to-return-to-honduras/