You are here

Environmental Human Rights: News & Updates

News Article

Indigenous environmental activists globally, especially in countries like Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and the Philippines, face alarming rates of violence and assassination. A report by Global Witness revealed that 1,733 environmental and land-defense activists were killed between 2012 and 2021, with one murder occurring approximately every two days. These defenders, often from Indigenous communities, resist exploitation by industries like mining and logging. The violence, fueled by factors like corporate interests and governmental negligence, poses a severe threat to these activists. The situation underscores the urgent need to protect Indigenous communities, whose harmonious coexistence with nature is essential for the planet's future amidst the onslaught of capitalist-driven environmental destruction.

News Article

For more than 30 years, SOA Watch has united artists, musicians, and movement makers to breathe life into the international mobilizations at Fort Benning—recently renamed Fort Moore—and, as of 2016, at the U.S.-Mexico border. Artists have not only been a source of remembrance, joy and inspiration but also the resounding voices and colors of resistance in the face of adversity. As Honduran social activists and land defenders face increasing military repression and surveillance, these artists are using their craft to amplify the voices and uplift the struggles of Hondurans striving to protect and defend their ancestral lands, natural resources, and autonomy.

For the past 20 years, Red Comal has been an extraordinary hub for solidarity economies and sustainable regenerative agriculture. The SOAW Artists Collective is partnering with youth of the Red Comal to paint public murals during the fall of 2023—to send ripples of hope, resistance, and solidarity that transcend language, borders, and walls. This artwork will celebrate the communities’ histories, cultures, and unwavering struggle to safeguard their lands from aggressive and expansive agribusiness and monoculture interests, including the U.S.-based company Monsanto.

SOA Watch is accepting donations to fund the mural project. Click here to empower creative community projects in Honduras, foster exchanges between US and Honduran organizers, propel the ongoing mission of denouncing militarization and violence in the Americas.

News Article

Today, a group of 17 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing serious concern over the prolonged detainment of five prominent anti-mining activists in El Salvador. The arrests, which occurred on January 11, 2023 targeted leaders from the rural community of Santa Marta in northern El Salvador who were instrumental in passing a 2017 ban on metallic mining; El Salvador remains the only country in the world with such a ban.

News Article

In May 2023 members of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) traveled to the Ixil territory in the highlands of Guatemala. The territory is home to a number of indigenous communities of the Ixil Mayan ethnicity. The Ixil territory, five hours from the capital Guatemala City, once was lush and filled with life. But all this changed in 2009 when an Italian company sensed  profits and invaded the Indigenous land. That year the energy company Enel Group constructed a hydraulic dam changing the course of the Putal River, which sustained the surrounding communities for centuries, provided clean water and fertile land. Since the construction of the dam and the river's diversion, the once mighty river shriveled to a small creek, drying out farmland, killing fish and ending the supply of clean drinking water. As a compensation, Enel promised the villages in the affected  municipality (land district) electricity but did not connect the communities to a power grid. Instead of providing a reliable grid, the corporation donated solar panels which the communities can't sustain due to broken batteries and a lack of support. 

In their 14-year struggle to reclaim their rights and land, the communities of the Ixil territories experienced many setbacks. For four years the Indigenous Council and mayors of impacted  villages tried to conduct negotiations with Enel and the Guatemalan government as an effort to stop the project, but all negotiations were rejected and any engagement between Enel and the communities were only sporadic. In this ongoing fight for survival of the Indigenous communities, the Guatemalan government generally took the side of Enel. In 2011 community activists set up roadblocks and barriers as an effort to enforce negotiations. This peaceful protest erupted the most violent reaction by the state to date when the government sent 1,200 troops into the territory to occupy the protesting communities and enforce nine arrest warrants against community organizers. For many victims of the 36-year civil war. this attack brought back decades old traumas. 

In 2011 the communities filed for a protective status which later was ordered by the Supreme Court but not acknowledged by the Guatemalan central government. The court also decided that Enel had to talk directly to community leaders, an order that was ignored as well. After years of pressure by activists Enel finally agreed to talks, with little success. In their proposal, the Indigenous communities asked for a 20% cut of all profits made on their land as well as reparations for the damage caused by the dam's construction. Enel denied this proposal, only committing to provide materials to rebuild and a yearly payment of 2 million quetzales, around $255,000, to the municipal government--money that does not benefit the suffering communities. Enel has yet to act on its promise for building materials. 

Most recently, Enel and the Guatemalan government have stopped responding to the community leaders' contact requests. The communities filed for a protective status again, but for now the legal proceedings' impact and damages will go unchecked. Until today the dam has caused massive environmental damage, illness and violence by Enel workers. The communities will not stop pushing for reparations and their rights while constantly fearing another army deployment. 

We as IRTF stand in solidarity with the suffering communities and urge the court and Guatemalan government to set an end to this crime.           

News Article

On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in southern Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

News Article

June 28, 2023 marks 14 years since the 2009 coup in Honduras. The Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN) honors the years of resistance in Honduras to that coup and the 13 years of dictatorship it installed. We recognize that today the Honduran people continue to fight to dismantle all the structures of the post-coup dictatorship and are up against the same powerful forces they faced in 2009. These forces include the U.S. government and other governments such as Canada that supported the coup and were complicit with the narco-dictatorship. Read our statement for the anniversary here.

News Article

Many of us in Cleveland had the opportunity to meet water defender Reynaldo Domínguez when he spoke at our Liberation Lab on April 22, 2023. We are sad to report that his brother,  environmental defender Oqueli Domínguez, was brutally killed last week.

On Thursday June 15, Oqueli  was shot by an unidentified gunmen from a motorcycle in front of his family home in Tocoa, northern Honduras. For years the Domínguez family and other environmentalists have been in the crosshair of corporate violence for their activism. Just 6 months ago, in January of 2023, Aly Domínguez, Reynaldo's other brother, and Jairo Bonilla were   killed on their way from from La Concepción and Guapinol. 

So far the local police have not commented on the case, but Reynaldo has stated that the police are trying to frame the attack as a robbery. Reynaldo opposes this downplaying of a most likely politically motivated assassination, saying that the family has nothing of value in their house and pointed at the fact that Oqueli was targeted directly, and separated from his family. Oqueli, together with Reynaldo, his brother Aly and Jairo Bonilla were active in the opposition to an iron oxide mine in the Carlos Escaleras National Park. Together with local environmental groups, the activists have protested the legality of the mining project as well as the damage it will do to the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers.

Honduras is known for being the most dangerous country for environmental defenders, as it provides massive power to corporations and a justice system in which impunity prevails. To find a solution for the ongoing conflict, experts of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have met with authorities as well as activists. In its final report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has articulated its deep concerns about the fact that environmental defenders are a common target of violence. So far eight environmental defenders have been killed in 2023 alone. 

As IRTF we deeply condemn the killing of Oqueli and the ongoing attacks on activists around Honduras. We also want to offer our condolences to Reynaldo and the all other members of the the Domínguez family. 

For more information on the case, read our RRN Letter: Honduras 6/15/2023