News Source: honduras-forum.ch
It seems there was only one topic this month, the general elections. In the weeks running up to November 28, fear grew ever stronger of a repeat of 2017. A record number of candidates and their family members had been murdered. The JOH regime started an unprecedented vote-buying campaign handing out 7000 Lempiras to over 100’000 families. Days before the election, the new ID needed to vote had still not been distributed to everyone. And it was unclear if the new electoral bodies were up to the task as the National Party tried to undermine them all along the way. On election day, reports of voting centers opening late, long lines, more vote-buying and intimidation of voters further compounded the fear of another electoral fraud. The National Party also seemed to believe in its own capacity to steal elections and announced their victory already by mid-day. But then everything changed as the first results were published. Hondurans went to the polls in higher numbers than feared (participation is estimated at around 69%) and the opposition candidate Xiomara Castro led with 53.55% over Nasry Asfura's 33.87% with 46.5% of votes counted. In the remaining days of November, her victory was recognized by all other parties and even JOH himself. While the fight about the new configuration of Congress will be fought in December, it seems not too optimistic to say: Welcome to a new month in Honduras. In solidarity, Daniel Langmeier Honduras Forum Switzerland.
Human Rights and Their Defenders
The highly controversial reforms made by the Nationalist in Congress during the Morazán Holiday came into law (see last month).178 "The Office in Honduras of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expresses its deep concern over the entry into force of the reforms to the Criminal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Special Anti-Money Laundering Law, which contravene the human rights obligations of the Honduran State, restrict civic space and limit the capacity to conduct effective investigations in corruption cases. (...) The urgency and lack of transparency in the approval of these reforms prevented a citizen debate representative of the diversity of the country and the groups and communities affected by them. The fact that the reforms to the Penal Code extend the application of the crime of usurpation to public spaces, seriously aggravate its penalties and turn it into a crime of continuous flagrancy would result in illegitimate restrictions to the right to participate in public affairs, freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and the right to defend human rights. (...) For their part, the reforms to the Code of Criminal Procedure enable preventive and immediate evictions without judicial control. (...) "We are concerned that the entry into force of these reforms will aggravate the situation of conflict over access to land, particularly for peasant groups and indigenous peoples. Both our Office and international human rights mechanisms have recommended that Honduras address the structural causes of conflicts over land and territories and avoid the use of criminal law as a response to this conflict," added the Representative. "The work of civil society organizations that carry out social audits and denounce corruption, and in general, of all those that defend human rights, is fundamental for the promotion and guarantee of human rights, the development of the country and the full functioning of the rule of law," said the Representative. Furthermore, OHCHR notes with concern the negative impact of these reforms on the investigative capacities of the Public Prosecutor's Office in corruption cases. The reforms related to bank secrecy and the functions of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in the Special Law on Money Laundering restrict access to financial information needed in the investigation of corruption and organized crime cases."179
"The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE) warn about the regressive impact on the exercise of human rights due to the entry into force of reforms to the Penal Code and the Special Law on Money Laundering in Honduras, which by their wording could affect the right to protest, and call on the State to ensure that the regulations are in line with Inter-American standards." 180 Social movements, campesino and indigenous organizations presented a constitutional challenge to the reforms.181 On November 24, the CNA presented another constitutional challenged specifically against the reforms made to the money laundering law.182
On November 16, "[a]head of the upcoming general elections in Honduras, Amnesty International sent today an open letter to the candidates for the presidential candidates, in which it shares seven points necessary to build a more just and human rights-based country."183 Human rights organizations and social movements challenged the changes before the Supreme Court.184 Assassinations The Intercept published an investigation into land conflicts in Honduras and how paramilitaries infiltrate local groups and then kill their leaders.185
On November 21, campesino defenders Nelson García and Celenia Bonilla, members of the National Center of Rural Workers (CNTC) in Guaymaca, Francisco Morazán, were murdered.186 This community had been constantly threatened and evicted. 187 OACNUDH condemned the assassination. Attacks, Criminalization and Harassment Some good at the beginning of the month: "During the development of the Oral and Public Trial, held this November 1 of this year, José Elvis Martínez, of the peasant group "Los Puentes" member of the National Center of Rural Workers (CNTC), was acquitted for the crime of aggravated damages."189
Human rights defender and director of ACI-Participa, Hedme Castro, has suffered various attacks in the past even having to leave the country once. This week, there was a fire in her house. She demands an investigation into its cause, but the authorities so far did not pay her attention. 190 Swiss congressman Fabian Molina, who was at the time on a pre-electoral fact-finding mission in the country, denounced the attack and demands her protection.191 EU ambassador Jaume Segura also met with her.192
On November 11, IM-Defensoras sent out an alert. "Approximately 120 families of the Lenca Tierras del Padre Indigenous Community are under threat of being dispossessed of their land by a violent eviction order from the Criminal Court, scheduled for this Thursday, November 11." 193 The Lenca community resisted by taking to the streets and the next day a judge stopped the eviction order.194 OACNUDH welcomed the decision but expressed concern that an eviction could still happen in the future.195
On November 14, human rights defender Lucía Enamorado was detained and beaten by the police yesterday. She was freed again after national and international pressure.196
Pasos de Animal Grande denounces that the JOH regime uses provisional dismissals of charges against criminalized defenders as blackmail.197
"Landowners who threatened to kill peasants in Santa Barbara found guilty. Yesterday the oral and public trial was held against landowners Florencio Ríos Pineda and Renán Ríos Pineda, who since 2011 have harassed and threatened members of the "Jardines del Valle" Peasant Company of Santa Bárbara, in order to take their land. Despite having property titles granted by the INA, Florencio and Renán Ríos have repeatedly threatened and carried out actions against the community leaders, putting their lives at risk. The landowners were found guilty and are awaiting their individualized sentencing hearing."198
The EU Spanish, French and German representatives in Honduras met with representatives of the criminalized Guapinol defenders this month.199 They also announced to observe in person the trial. On November 11, the Guapinol community denounced that the location of the trial was unexpectedly changed. “In what is yet another arbitrary ruling, judges Franklin Marvin Arauz Santos, Ricardo Rodríguez Barahona and Henry Geovany Duarte Zaldivar notified the legal team yesterday that the trial location will move to La Ceiba - their motivation? Ensuring no one exercises their right to protest during the legal proceedings."201
On November 17, "[i]nternational and national organizations filed an amicus curiae brief before the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice demanding compliance with international standards and justice for the eight Guapinol River defenders who continue to be imprisoned under arbitrary and illegal detention”.202 Two days later, "UN human rights experts* (..) urged Honduras, elected to the Human Rights Council last month, to release eight environmental defenders in line with recommendations made by another UN body. "As a new member of the UN Human Rights Council, Honduras should be redoubling efforts to clean up its human rights record, and an obvious first step is to release the Guapinol defenders," said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders”.203
A week later, “national, and international organizations announced the formation of the "Observatory for the Justice of the Guapinol River Defenders", an initiative that aims to monitor the development of the trial that the eight water defenders of the Guapinol community, who have been deprived of their freedom for more than two years, will face as of Dec. 1, 2021”.204
On November 26, there was another setback in the case. "The Guapinol Case seems doomed to regress to an inquisition-type trial where opacity guarantees ease of arbitrary actions to convict the defenders, according to the legal defense team that today was notified that judges Franklin Marvin Arauz Santos, Ricardo Geovanny Rodríguez Barahona and Henry Geovany Duarte Zaldivar have denied the request for observation and transmission. "Once again, the Court has demonstrated why it is not suitable to preside over this case. It is preparing everything to condemn the defenders without society knowing it. Through another arbitrary ruling, the court is not going to guarantee the right of the defenders to have presence in the courtroom through observation, and they have not managed to ensure the live transmission and guarantee transparency in a case of public interest," said lawyer Edy Tabora upon receiving the notification."205 OACNUDH expressed concern.206 The next day, the ruling was reversed and the trial was declared public again.