Juan Orlando Hernández
President of Honduras
Óscar Fernando Chinchilla
Attorney General of Honduras
We are extremely concerned that the Honduran government has placed a risk on the life of human rights defender Martha Ligia Arnold in the Bajo Aguán Valley but accusing her of having ties to organized crime.
Martha Ligia Arnold, President of the Permanent Human Rights Observatory for the Bajo Aguan (OBDHBA), recently requested information about the status of cases the Human Rights Commission had presented to UMVIBA for investigation. (UMVIBA is the Public Ministry’s Violent Deaths Unit in the Bajo Aguan.) On March 16 Martha Ligia Arnold received a communication from Javier Guzmán, the Local Coordinator of UMVIBA, stating that they would provide no information regarding the status of the investigations because they consider that she has ties to organized crime bands operating in Bajo Aguan.
Martha Ligia Arnold has been persecuted and threatened, her children have been threatened and efforts to discredit her have required her to lower her profile in an attempt to protect her life and the lives of her children. She denounced these acts before the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights on February 26, 2015. She also requested an immediate order to investigate these acts and to secure protection for herself and her children. She is the beneficiary of protective measure No.MC 65-15 from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
These events cannot be seen in isolation from recent assassinations, death threats and persecution. Two members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) were recently assassinated: Berta Cáceres on March 2 and Nelson García on March 15 (cf our letters of March 7 and March 31). On March 12, Jaime Cabrera, Coordinator of the Agrarian Platform of the Bajo Aguán, was followed by a red, double cabin vehicle with darkened windows and no license plates; his home was also surveilled. On March 20 Vitalino Alvarez, spokesperson for the Agrarian Platform of the Bajo Aguán, had to leave the country because of constant persecution and threats against him and his children. Both Cabrera and Alvarez are beneficiaries of IACHR protective measure No.MC50-14.
We believe that the declaration about Martha Ligia Arnold from high level State officials, who are obligated to respect and guarantee the rights of citizens, places Martha Ligia Arnold at great risk. It also stigmatizes other human rights defenders who are part of OBDHBA. We therefore strongly urge that you
- implement IACHR protective measures for Martha Ligia Arnold and her children;
- Implement the Law to Protect Defenders, Journalists and Justice Operators so that Martha Ligia Arnold and members of the OPDHBA are able to do their work in the defense of human rights in a secure environment
Brian J. Stefan Szittai and Christine Stonebraker Martínez