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Environmental Human Rights: News & Updates
July 27, 2020
OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras) outlines several threats to the Garífuna communities of the Atlantic coast: 1- the government’s Model Cities (ZDEs) legislation that encourages land grabs of communal Garífuna territories; 2- the lack of prior consultation with communities before economic development projects are started (this is a violation of international law); 3- tourism industry; 4- industrial agriculture (palm oil), 5- climate change, 6- coastal erosion, 7- State violence as weapon of social control, 8- assassinations of community leaders, 9- exodus of young people , many fleeing to the US
July 24, 2020
On June 19, the body of Antonio Bernárdez, a 71-year-old leader of the Garífuna community of Punta Piedra, was discovered with bullet wounds and signs of torture. This was six days after he was disappeared. The Punta Piedra has been plagued by violence stemming from a land conflict since non-Garífuna families started settling there in 1992. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has criticized the government 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." The forced disappearance of at least four Garífuna men from Triunfo de la Cruz on July 18 is evidence of the ever-present dangers faced by the Garífuna communities along the Atlantic coast (cf our letter July 20, 2020). We are demanding that authorities in Honduras 1- carry out a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the assassination of Antonio Bernárdez, publish the results, and bring the perpetrators to justice; 2- develop protection mechanisms for Garífuna communities and their leaders, in strict accordance with their wishes; and 3- adhere to all resolutions and judgments issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to protect Garífuna ancestral lands, community residents and leaders.
July 23, 2020
Fears are growing for the safety of five black indigenous men in Honduras who were abducted from their homes on July 18 by heavily armed gunmen in police uniforms. The victims are Garifuna fishermen from the town Triunfo de la Cruz on the north coast. “We are under constant threat by those who want our land and natural resources,” said Jenny Ramona Herrera Álvarez, a community spokeswoman in Triunfo de la Cruz. “What happened on Saturday shows that powerful people who have illegally taken control of our territory are emboldened by the state’s contempt for the international court ruling. Justice means prosecuting those who ordered this crime,” said Miram Miranda, coordinator of OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras). “The Honduran state created the context for conflicts by violating the community’s territorial rights over years..., and is directly responsible for these aggressions against the Garifuna community, ” said Joseph Berra, director of the human rights in Americas project at UCLA school of law.
July 23, 2020
Environmental leader Jani Rita Silva's life is being threatened in Putumayo, Colombia. We sent letters to the director of the National Protection Unit and other officials in Colombia about acts of intimidation, surveillance, and a recently revealed plan to assassinate Jani Rita Silva. She is the legal representative of the Association for the Integral and Sustainable Development of the Amazon Pearl (ADISPA). She has been a vocal advocate for full implementation of the Peace Agreement of 2016, promoting reforestation initiatives, and denouncing the socio-environmental effects of oil extraction operations, including those of Amerisur, whose partners include Houston-based Occidental Petroleum. On May 26 we wrote that the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP) disclosed information from an anonymous source about a plan to assassinate her. This month, CIJP learned from a confidential informant that there is indeed an assassination plan being conducted by the criminal group “La Mafia.” Organized criminal groups are putting heavy pressure on farmers to grow coca for the cocaine trade. It is presumed that Jani Silva is considered an enemy because of her active promotion of the crop substitution program (PNIS) in Putumayo.
July 20, 2020
We sent letters to officials in Honduras regarding the kidnapping on July 18 of four Garífuna leaders from the community of Triunfo de la Cruz, Atlántida Department. One of the four is Albert Sneider Centeno, president of the Community Board of Triunfo de la Cruz. They were kidnapped from their homes in the early morning by heavily armed men who were wearing bullet-proof vests and uniforms of the Policía Militar (Military Police) and the Dirección de Investigación Policial (DPI, Police Investigations Directorate). Others victims of the kidnapping include Milthon Joel Martínez Suany and Aparicio Mejía. We demand an immediate search to find the Garífuna leaders alive. We demand a thorough investigation process that will lead to the capture and prosecution of the kidnappers. We further demand that the State of Honduras cease all acts of violence and harassment against the Garífuna communities.
July 7, 2020
McGovern (D-MA) and Pocan (D-WI) 94 members of congress through a dear colleague letter urging Trump administration to push for peace in Colombia!
RRN Case Update
July 1, 2020
April, May and June RRN case summaries at a glance
On behalf of our 190 Rapid Response Network members, IRTF volunteers write and send six letters each month to government officials in southern Mexico, Colombia, and Central America (with copies to officials in the US). Who is being targeted? indigenous and Afro-descendant leaders, labor organizers, LGBTI rights defenders, women’s rights defenders, journalists, environmental defenders, campesinos, and others.
June 24, 2020
We are writing to express our concern about attacks on civil liberties against members of the Comité Ambientalista de Azacualpa (Azacualpa Environmental Committee) in Azacualpa, municipality of La Unión, Copán Department.
May 26, 2020
Because she is an outspoken defender of the environment and territorial rights in Putumayo (Amazon Basin), Jani Rita Silva has been subjected to intimidation, surveillance and death threats. In March, the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIPJ) reported that an anonymous informant told them of a plan to assassinate her. After an investigative visit to the Amazon Pearl Peasant Reserve Zone earlier this month (May 2020), representatives of CIJP reported that the military is conducting illegal surveillance on the environmental defender (as well as against staff of CIJP). Jani Rita Silva is the legal representative of the Association for the Integral and Sustainable Development of the Amazon Pearl (ADISPA). As such, she has denounced the oil extraction operations of the multinational company Amerisur, whose partners include Houston-based Occidental Petroleum.
May 1, 2020
We are deeply concerned about attacks on rural community leaders in Cauca Department. This is part of a wave of violence that continues to impact many regions of Colombia. Since January 1 more than 60 social leaders have been assassinated across the country. In a period of just one week, these four social leaders were assassinated in Cauca: Teodomiro Sotelo Anacona, Andrés Andrelio Cacimanca Burbano, Mario Chilhueso, and Hugo de Jesús Giraldo López. We urge the president and attorney general of Colombia to: 1- carry out transparent and thorough investigations into the assassinations listed above, publish the results, and bring the perpetrators to justice; 2- provide protection measures to members of the organizations listed above, in strict accordance with the wishes of their local leaders; 3- demilitarize the rural areas of Cauca because of the military’s complicity in the armed violence, forced displacement, and targeting of rural social leaders.