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Urgent Action: Demand a Search for Disappeared Garífuna Leaders in Honduras!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020 to Monday, August 17, 2020
all day

See the letter sent on July 30 by US House leaders to Secretary of State Pompeo.

https://www.irtfcleveland.org/news/articles/reps-sires-meeks-and-12-colleagues-denounce-rights-violations-against-gar%C3%ADfuna

You can email or call you Congressional reps and senators, urging them to contact the State Department and echo the call that is in that letter of July 30. A script is pasted below.  

Click here to send your message now. 

Find your congressperson and senators at https://www.house.gov/ and  https://www.senate.gov/

If you have trouble with calls to their D.C. offices because no one is there, you can try their home district offices (the information for those should be on their information page). 

In addition to your phone calls and emails, you can also send a letter directly to the government of Honduras when you click here 

Thank you for taking this urgent action!! 

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Dear Representative ___/Senator____:

As your constituent, I am asking you to call the State Department and U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras about the recent abduction and forced disappearance of four members of the Garifuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz: Snider Centeno, Aparicio Mejía García, Joel Martínez Álvarez, and Alber Sentana Thomas, along with one other man.   

I am aware that some US House members ( including the chair of House Foreign Affairs, and  chair and vice-chair of the  Western Hemisphere Subcommittee ) have already contacted Secretary of State Pompeo. We  need you to echo their urgent call to pressure the Honduran government to find these men and to end the pattern of impunity for human rights in their country. I am connected with the InterReligious Task Force in Cleveland, together with the Honduras Solidarity Network, which has already alerted Honduran officials about the need to immediately investigate this incident and return these men to their communities unharmed, but too much time has passed  without result, and I am gravely concerned about their safety.

On the morning of Saturday, July 18 at approximately 6 am, these four men were kidnapped and disappeared by a group of men wearing bullet proof vests and believed to be police. The men's vests had police investigative unit insignia (DPI by its Spanish acronym) on them, although the men arrived in unmarked cars. 

Snider Centeno is the president of the elected community council in Triunfo de la Cruz. He and his community won a case heard in the Inter-American Court on Human Rights in 2015 against the Honduran state for property rights violations and failure to consult the Afro-indigenous community about tourism developments on their land. However, the Honduran state has not respected the ruling and continues to encroach on Garifuna ancestral lands, to which the Garifuna have title, for the purpose of developing beachfront properties for tourists, including the lands belonging to Triunfo de la Cruz. The community has continued to vocally oppose the Honduran state’s illegal allocation of their lands to development corporations without consultation of the community. We are concerned that the disappearance of this Garifuna leader is in retaliation for this opposition.

Snider Centeno, Aparicio Mejía García and Joel Martínez Álvarez are members of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), the Garífuna organization working to protect Garífuna economic, social and cultural rights. OFRANEH has been involved in legal suits and non-violent protests against the Honduran state for its violation of Garifuna rights. We believe they may also have been disappeared because of their membership in OFRANEH. 

Since the kidnappings, Honduran police have harassed the communities protesting the disappearances and in Triunfo de la Cruz at least one vehicle with unidentified armed men was seen last night driving circulating in town which is an act of intimidation. 

On May 7, 2020, the State Department certified Honduras on its efforts to providing effective and accountable law enforcement and security for its citizens among other human rights-related issues. I have serious doubts about these efforts. This particular incident, one among many other attacks, kidnappings, and assassinations carried out against civilians  by Honduran security forces, highlights the continuing insecurity faced by individuals expressing opposition to the government and land defenders in Honduras.

Please communicate with utmost urgency to the State Department and Embassy that they must urge Honduran officials to find these men and return them to their community. Time is of the essence—many of those who “disappear” in Honduras are later found dead.

Sincerely, 

 Click here to send your message now.