The Court of Appeals ruling confirms Honduras as the most dangerous country for environmental defenders in the world. On August 15, members of the Committee for the Defense of the Public and Common Goods of Tocoa, in Honduras, reported in a press conference that the Court of Appeals, in the department of Francisco Morazán, overturned the ruling that dismissed charges against environmental defenders Juan Antonio López, Carlos Leonel George, Reynaldo Domínguez, José Adalí Cedillo Mendoza, and Marco Tulio Ramos.
The court also ordered the formal prosecution of the accused along with 8 other defenders who have been in preventive prison for 11 months, for the alleged crimes of aggravated arson to the detriment of the Los Pinares mining company and deprivation of liberty against Santos Corea, the head of a security company hired by the mining company.
Lawyer, Edy Tabora, a member of the legal defense team, declared in a press release that “The court's decision reaffirms the clear alliance between the Public Ministry, the Judiciary and the private sector to punish anyone who dares to defend the public and common goods of Honduras."
Indeed, this decision of the Honduran judicial system confirms a regional pattern of political persecution, where the governments of Central America´s CA4 region (Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador) are utilizing confinement measures, in the context of the COVID19 pandemic, to impose social control through the selective suspension of civil rights, criminalization of social protest and political harassment against human rights defenders. At the same time, they are implementing policies to consolidate an extractivist economic model, forged for more than a decade to facilitate the dispossession of the natural resources of our region.
In Tocoa, the government's subservient attitude to the interests of the Los Pinares / Ecotek mining company has been evidenced as it deploys all the repressive and judicial machinery of the state against the communities that have strongly denounced the illegal and harmful activities of the company and the irregularities in the issuence of mining licenses within the limits of the Carlos Escaleras National Reserve Park.
The preliminary findings of a report carried out by ACAFREMIN in 2019, with the academic support of three universities in Canada, England, and the United States, found that in the case of the defenders of the Guapinol and San Pedro Rivers
- There were serious irregularities in the issuance of mining licenses within the limits of the Carlos Escaleras National Park.
- There was a lack of prior consultation with the affected communities before issuing licenses, resulting in violations of both municipal regulations and international standards.
- The state employed its legal and repressive institutions, such as the Public Ministry, the Police, and the Army, with the purpose of protecting the interests of the Inversiones los Pinares company.
- Internationally recognized rights, such as the right to peaceful protest, the right to organize, and the right to defend rights, have been denied to the defenders of the Guapinol River. Instead, they have been criminalized by the state for the benefit of corporate rights.
With the recent ruling of the Court of Appeals, the Honduran state confirms its sad status as the most dangerous country for environmental defenders in the world. Together with Guatemala and Nicaragua, these countries engross the list of the 5 most violent countries for environmental defenders; according to the report "Defending Tomorrow," recently published by Global Witness, an organization that documents the persecution of water and land defenders around the world.
This is the new normal for our region, a normality where the neoliberal economic model is consolidated with the predominance of multinational extractive companies; that, together with local capitals, operate within regulatory frameworks favorable to their interests to the detriment of the common good, to the detriment of the sustainable development of peoples, to the detriment of biodiversity and to the detriment of the cultural diversity of indigenous nations who are the guardians of nature since time immemorial.
As member organizations of the Central American Alliance Against Mining, ACAFREMIN, we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from the Committee for Defense of the Public and Common Goods of Tocoa and declare our unconditional support to their struggle. We demand that the Honduran state complies with its international obligations to protect rights defenders, and we name the illegitimate government of Juan Orlando Hernández as solely responsible for any violation of the physical, psychological, and moral integrity of the members of the Committee.
Moreover, we echo the demands of the human rights defenders of Tocoa and Bajo Aguan and demand:
- The immediate release of the eight defenders of the Guapinol River and San Pedro who are under unjust preventive measures of detention: Daniel Márquez, Arnold Javier Alemán, Ever Alexander Cedillo, Kelvin Alejandro Romero, Orbin Nahún Hernández, Porfirio Sorto Cedillo and José Abelino Cedillo.
- To immediately stop the political persecution and criminalization of: Juan Antonio López, Carlos Leonel George, Reynaldo Domínguez, José Adalí Cedillo Mendoza and Marco Tulio Ramos and others judicially persecuted for their defense of the Guapinol River.
- Based on the decision of the Community Meeting that declared Tocoa as a Municipality Free of Mining, in November 2019; and based on the illegality of the mining concessions ASP and ASP2, we demand the immediate cancellation of the mining concessions awarded to the company Inversiones Los Pinares / Ecotek.
- We call on the international community, mainly the multilateral institutions that defend human rights, to demand an end to the criminalization of human rights defenders in Honduras.
As an alliance of environmental organizations and social movements, we reiterate the urgency of building models of sustainable development, where our peoples exercise the right to choose freely development projects that make sustainable use the natural assets of our countries. To that end, we call on communities in resistance, social organizations, and progressive movements in Central America to generate dialogues and unify criteria of resistance against the emerging “normality”.
#Guapinolresiste #libertadparaGuapinol #AmasrepresionMaslucha
Translated by: Giada Ferrucci