Between February 23rd and March 4th 2011 an international mission composed of six networks and international organizations, supported by national organizations, conducted a study in situ, in order to evaluate the situation of human rights in the Bajo Aguán region in Honduras. In this context, the mission held meetings with different peasant organizations and communities as well as with authorities, such as the Public Prosecutor, judges and the National Agrarian Institute (INA) at regional level. Meetings were also held with representatives of the international community, the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights and the Truth Commission.
Based on their investigations, the international mission observed a severe human rights crisis in Bajo Aguán consisting of the following main elements:
- 19 peasant workers belonging to organizations in Bajo Aguán were killed from January 2010 until today and, according to the Public Prosecutor, no arrest warrant has been issued in any of the cases. In the majority of cases not even an initial investigation has been carried out. In consequence, it is more than likely that these crimes will remain unpunished.
- Multiple violations of the right to the integrity of the person, including threats and permanent harassment against leaders and members of peasant organizations on the part of both public security forces and private security companies that protect the properties of regional landowners. Besides, the mission found cases of abduction and torture, several cases of assault and battery, as well as cases of sexual abuse.
- Forced evictions which violate the right to food, housing and health of the resident peasants continue. This is a flagrant violation of the international law standards and the standards of due process.
- Non-implementation of the legal provisions and political agreements that oblige the state institutions to give the entire land held by the former Regional Military Training Center (CREM) to peasant groups affiliated to the Peasant Movement of Aguán (MCA). This means the state has to transfer a total of 11,000 hectares to the members of the Unified Peasant Movement of Aguán (MUCA) and it has to respect and to ensure the land rights of the cooperatives of the Authentic Movement to Vindicate the peasants of the Aguán (MARCA).
- Furthermore, the commitments obtained so far in the Agreement with MUCA to secure the right to education, health and housing are still notfulfilled.
- Instead of political measures and decisive action in order to resolve the regional land dispute, a process of stigmatization and criminalization of the agrarian conflict can be observed. This includes the arbitrary arrest of 162 people and the systematic prosecution of the peasant leaders.
The international mission is concerned about the continuing repression and violence taking place against
members of peasant communities and organizations who are completely helpless and unprotected regarding the lack of action by the state authorities. The crimes against life committed in Bajo Aguán are likely to remain unpunished. This fact will probably lead to more human rights violations.
Facing this situation, the mission calls on the national authorities to fulfil their duty to investigate and punish every committed murder and crime against women and men peasants in Bajo Aguán and to prosecute all offenders whether they were executing or planning the crime. Moreover, the repression and violence taking place against the peasant movement has to end immediately and effective measures, providing protection for the people at risk, have to be adopted. The national authorities also have to fulfil the legal provisions and political agreements that have been signed to simplify the access to land, health, education and housing for communities in precarious situations.
It is necessary to redefine the direction of the current rural development model based on agribusiness and
landgrabbing, and instead change towards a policy that promoting sustainable peasant agriculture and the
implementation of an integral agrarian reform which, in Honduras, is a constitutional mandate..
In this context, the international community plays a major role in protecting and promoting human rights. This means that the diplomatic corps has to contribute with concrete and decisive measures to a major protection of the people at risk, especially the people in Bajo Aguán, and to assure that the cooperation fully respects human rights.
Furthermore, the international community has to try to ensure that the financial cooperation, offered to the state and to companies, does not contribute to human rights violations. Therefore we request that in the particular case of Bajo Aguán the bilateral cooperation and the multilateral banks review all their financial cooperation agreements with the public security forces and the private companies that are allegedly involved in acts of violence, harassment and human rights violations in this region. The international organizations that were part of the mission will publish the results of this investigation in a
report that will be delivered to the Truth Commission in Honduras, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the European Union, as well as to the International Criminal Court. The organizations will also continue to precisely control the development of the situation, to accompany the fight for human rights and to pursue the struggle against the impunity in Bajo Aguán and the rest of the country.
Tegucigalpa, 4th of March 2011