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Environmental Human Rights: News & Updates
December 30, 2020
We wrote once again regarding the ongling criminalization of eight environmental defenders from the community of El Guapinol in Tocoa, Colón Department, who have been imprisoned in “preventive detention” awaiting formal charges since September 2019. A petition for their release was again denied on December 18. To bring attention to several identified environmental, social, human, and economic impacts of large scale mining projects in the Atlantic zone, residents of El Guapinol and surrounding communities (including the eight who are imprisoned) organized the Encampment on the Defense of Water and Life in August 2018. They pointed to contamination of the Guapinol and San Pedro Rivers resulting from an iron ore mine. There are legitimate concerns that the mine is contaminating drinking water sources for populations across three departments in northern Honduras. These eight environmental defenders are: Ewer Alexander Cedillo Cruz, José Abelino Cedillo, Cantarero, José Daniel Márquez Márquez, Kelvin Alejandro Romero Martínez, Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, Orbin Nahúm Hernández, Arnold Javier Alemán, and Jeremías Martínez. Because of the COVID-19 health crisis, their continued imprisonment exposes them to serious risks to their lives. We are therefore urging that authorities in Honduras: 1) immediately release them from preventive detention; 2) condemn the misuse of criminal law to control, neutralize and punish people who exercise the right to organize resistance in defense of land and waterways
December 29, 2020
Another indigenous environmentalist has been killed in Honduras, cementing the country’s inglorious ranking as the deadliest place in the world to defend land and natural resources from exploitation.
December 29, 2020
We are demanding an investigation into the assassination of Lenca indigenous leader Félix Vásquez at his home in La Paz Department on December 26. Four armed men in balaclavas entered his home and shot him in front of his adult children. Félix Vásquez was well-known nationally for his work in defense of indigenous land rights (since the 1980s) and for organizing opposition to environmentally destructive megaprojects such as mines, hydroelectric dams, wind farms and logging, as well as for helping dispossessed communities recover ancestral land titles. He was the Secretary General of the Union of Rural Workers (UTC) in La Paz. He was also a pre-candidate for Congress for the Libertad y Refundación (LIBRE) party.
December 22, 2020
We are deeply concerned for the safety of environmental defenders. We are aware of two assassinations (November 30) and ongoing death threats to another. Assassinations: Meta Department: Javier Francisco Parra Cubillos was a 47-year-old environmentalist who worked as coordinator of CORMACARENA (Corporation for the Sustainable Development of the Special Management Area of La Macarena). Chocó Department: Harlin David Rivas Ospina was a student of environmental engineering at the Technological University of Chocó and environmental activist in the National Youth Environment Network. Death threats: Santander Department: Nini Johana Cárdenas Rueda is an environmental defender in Carmen de Chucurí in Santander Department who is active in the Alianza Colombia Libre de Fracking and Movimiento Nacional Ambiental. Because of her work denouncing illegal extractive projects, she has been the victim of death threats, surveillance, and physical attacks for the past few years.
December 17, 2020
By Nan McCurdy
Honduran Supreme Court rules against Aura Minerals (MINOSA) illegal grave digging & destruction of Azacualpa cemetery
December 1, 2020
The Bufete de Estudios para la Dignidad, in conjunction with the Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia, MADJ, makes public the sentence resolution issued by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), in which the CSJ orders the municipal government of La Union, Copan and the Ministry of Health to reject any authorization of exhumations in the Cemetery of San Andres (Azacualpa) carried out by Aura Minerals (MINOSA).The ruling restores the right to self-determination of peoples, personal integrity, culture and the right to protection of the family. It constitutes a precedent that vindicates and strengthens community struggles and the exercise of sovereignty against the abuses and violations of rights by companies and, in general, by the extractive model in Honduras.
October 23, 2020
Environmental defender Arnold Joaquin Morazán Erazo of the Guapinol community in the municipality of Tocoa, Colón Department, was assassinated on October 13. Arnold Morazán was one of 32 environmental defenders in Tocoa who have been criminalized for their involvement in a community encampment set up to defend the Guapinol River from the iron ore mining industry. The murder of Arnold Joaquín Morazán occurred at a decisive moment in the ongoing trial of eight Guapinol environmental defenders and reveals the systematic threats faced by the Guapinol community, where violence is employed to punish their work in defense of water and the environment. We are urging that officials in Honduras: 1) carry out an exhaustive and impartial investigation into the murder of Arnold Joaquín Morazán, publish the results and bring those responsible to justice; 2) cancel the concession to the iron ore mining company Los Inversiones Los Pinares
October 12, 2020
A group of armed men arrived at the Garífuna community of Vallecito, whose residents have been victim to harassment, intimidation and threats over their land for many years. Attempts at forcible seizure of their territory (sometimes successful) has come from drug traffickers and African palm growers. In recent years, private investors (including many from the US and Europe) have been looking at Vallecito and other Garífuna communities on the Atlantic Coast to build their Model Cities, which was authorized under the ZEDE (Economic Development Zone) legislation passed in 2013. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has criticized the government of Honduras for not adhering to its mandates to protect Garífuna ancestral lands and adequately investigate the murders of Garífuna community leaders. As recently as May 2019, the Court acknowledged that Garífuna community members are still experiencing "direct death threats," "blackmail, increased robbery," and "profiling of leaders."
October 6, 2020
“Every day that passes we know less about him. He’s weak, he’s had Covid symptoms; we worry about his health and safety in the prison.” Gabriela Sorto expresses great concern for her father Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, a 48-year-old builder and farm worker, who is one of eight protesters from Guapinol held in pre-trial detention since September 2019 for alleged crimes linked to their opposition to an iron oxide mine which threatens to contaminate their water supply. The community of Guapinol (named for its river) is in the fertile, mineral-rich Bajo Agua region, where for years subsistence farmers and indigenous Hondurans have been forcibly displaced, criminalized and killed in conflicts with powerful conglomerates over land and water. “My dad has been jailed for defending a river which gives our community life, for trying to stop the exploitation of natural resources by rich companies who the government helps to terrorize us,” said Gabriela Sorto.
October 5, 2020
The ZEDEs (Zonas de Empleo y Desarrollo) -- also known as "model cities" -- continue stirring up controversy on the pages of the daily newspapers and on the streets of Honduras in the form of organized resistance. Edmundo Orellano is the former foreign minister and former defense minister of Honduras. In this article published in La Tribuna, he describes the ZEDEs this way: "We are handing over the territory and sovereignty, displacing the population and stripping it of its real estate, to establish small States ['model cities"] in a territory that will no longer be ours, populated by foreigners, that are like the ones that appear provoking the islanders in the video went viral on the networks, they will be, for the most part, louts."