Mr. Juan Orlando Hernandez Alvarado
President of the Republic of Honduras
Mr. Mauricio Oliva Herrera
President of the National Congress of Honduras
Mr. Rolando Argueta Pérez
President of the Supreme Court of Justice of Honduras
Emilio Alvarez Izcaya
Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
21 March 2016
Re: Human rights organizations condemn the murders of Berta Cáceres and Nelson Noé García Laínez and request concrete actions to guarantee the safety of human rights defenders in Honduras.
President Hernandez Alvarado,
Presidents Oliva and Argueta,
The 16 signatory organizations address you, representatives of the three state powers in Honduras, to express our condemnation and grief over the murder on 15 March of Nelson Noé García Laínez, environmental activist and comrade in arms of the eminent human rights defender Berta Cáceres , murdered on 3 March, both of whom belonged to the indigenous organization COPINH. We deeply regret that these despicable murders have taken place in a context of assassinations, attacks, persecution, criminalization and threats against human rights defenders in Honduras. We request that concrete actions be taken to guarantee the safety of human rights defenders in Honduras.
It is disturbing that acts of aggression take place in response to the defense of human rights and land rights. Nelson’s murder occurred moments after he met with 150 families from the community of Río Chiquito (Río Lindo-Cortes) who were forcibly evicted. Apparently, 100 policemen, 20 military police officers and 10 army officers were involved in destroying homes and crops with tractors and heavy machinery.
Similarly, according to information received, military police officers forced entry on 15 March without a court order into the home of the President of the Unified Peasant Movement of Aguán (MUCA), José Ángel Flores, and arbitrarily arrested his relatives, even though he was covered by IACHR cautionary measures.
Furthermore, it has been reported that on 16 March the accountant of the Vía Campesina organization, Cristián Alegría, who happens to be the nephew of the member of Congress Rafael Alegría, was the target of gunfire.
The organizations also express their grave concern over the situation of Gustavo Castro Soto , founder and current director of the Otros Mundos organization, A. C. Chiapas, who is a key witness in the murder of Berta Cáceres. The physical and psychological integrity of Gustavo Castro Soto is in danger, and we therefore urge the Honduran authorities to put an immediate end to the restrictions on his freedom of movement and to take all appropriate measures to immediately guarantee his safety.
It is important to point out that, although COPINH members have been covered by cautionary measures since 2009, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expanded these measures on 5 March 2016 for the urgent and immediate protection of COPINH members and of Gustavo Castro Soto. Nevertheless, Nelson García’s murder occurred 8 days later.
The organizations regret that attacks, persecutions, criminalization, threats and murders directed at COPINH members and the Lenca indigenous community have increased since the implementation of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam belonging to the DESA (Desarrollos Energéticos S.A.) firm, with the support of national and international investors, in the territory of the Lenca community of Río Blanco. Furthermore, the great majority of these attacks have not yet been punished.
The signatory organizations remind that, in accordance with the international commitments adopted by the State of Honduras for the protection of human rights, it is the State’s basic duty to ensure the protection of defenders, whose work of reporting and social monitoring is vital for the correct functioning of a state of law, as recognized by the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998.
The organizations also adhere to the demands made by COPINH and the family of Berta Cáceres in the same terms:
“1. In the framework of compliance with protective measures, we ask for an immediate agreement on technical assistance to be signed by the State of Honduras and the IACHR for the purpose of appointing a committee of independent experts trusted by COPINH and the family to supervise, support and participate in the investigations currently being carried out by the Public Ministry."
“2. Immediate, definitive cancellation of the concession granted to the DESA company for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, because it has been the main source of the threats, persecution and acts of aggression against the Río Blanco Lenca community and the members of COPINH."
“3. Immediate suspension of all concessions granted within the Lenca people’s territory without respecting the right to prior free and informed consultation with the indigenous peoples, because they are the main source of threats and acts of aggression; this should be the start of a process of review for the purpose of cancelling these concessions."
“4. Demilitarization of the areas and territories of the Lenca people and respect for territorial autonomy and forms of self-government of the Lenca communities, naming COPINH as the organization responsible for their community’s autonomy."
“5. Immediate implementation of the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Act, providing it with all resources needed for its effective enforcement in accordance with the organization´s needs.”
Similarly, the organizations request the adoption of legislative measures and any other types of measures to ensure that companies located in Honduras shall be compelled to carry out studies on the impact of their investment projects on human rights; monitor and regularly enforce their due diligence with regard to human rights with significant participation of the population and communities affected; and in addition, ensure that their offenses are duly penalized.
In this framework, the organizations request the three powers of the State of Honduras to extend their full collaboration and coordination so that these demands will be effectively heeded and implemented quickly.
Karim Lahidhji, FIDH President
Pierre Esperance, FIDH Secretary General and Executive Director of the Reseau National de Défense de Droits de l’Homme (RNDDH) – Haïti.
Katherine Gallagher, FIDH Vice President
Paulina Vega, FIDH Vice President
Juan Carlos Capurro, FIDH Vice President and President of Comité de Acción Jurídica (CAJ) Argentina
Elsie Monge, FIDH Vice President and Executive Director of the CEDHU, Ecuador
Luis Guillermo Pérez Casas, FIDH Representative before the OAS and of CAJAR, Colombia
José Schulman, Liga Argentina por los Derechos del Hombre (LADH), Argentina
Gastón Chillier, Executive Director, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), Argentina
Nicole Filion, Coordinator, Ligue des droits et libertés, Canada
Beatriz Villareal, President, Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH), Ecuador
Sylvie Bajeaux, Executive Director/President, Centro Ecuménico de derechos humanos (CEDH), Haïti
Bertha Oliva, General Coordinator,COFADEH, Honduras
Celia Sanjur, President, CCS – Panama.
Francisco Soberón, Founding Director, Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH), Peru
Manuel María Mercedes, President, Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, Dominican Republic.
Miguel Rogel Montenegro, Director, Comisión de Derechos Humanos, El Salvador,
Wilfredo Méndez, Director, Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH), Honduras
Vince Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights - CCR- United States.