Honduran State Continues to Criminalize Human Rights Defenders

Posted on July 6, 2011

Carlos Amador

Carlos Amador

The Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (Cofadeh) expresses its repudiation and concern for the Honduran State’s systemic practice of qualifying the most basic actions defending of nature and the rights accorded by the Constitution of the Republic as disturbing the peace, sabatoge and terrorism.

Various legal tools and policies are being used to inhibit the work of human rights defenders. In this particular case, defenders of the environment Carlos Danilo Amador and Marlon Hernández were detained by police, with warrants, between 6:30 and 7:00 AM on their way to work on charges of obstructing the execution of an environmental management plan. Juan Ángel Reconco was detained in the early afternoon on the same charges. All are members of the Environmental Committee of the Siria Valley. Another 15 environmental defenders, also members of the committee, also have warrants out for their arrest on the same charge, and are at risk of arrest.

The charges are related to incidents that occurred on April 7, 2010, when 600 residents of the Municipality of El Porvenir prevented logging of trees that protect the mini-watershed of the Guayabo Stream, known as el Tapalito, in the village of El Terrero. This source supplies water for human consumption to six communities in the municipality, directly affecting 10,000 residents who have been protecting this forest for years. This protection was formalized on December 27, 2007 in an agreement with then AFE-COHDEFOR (State Forestry Administration – Honduran Corporation for Forestry Development), the Municipality of El Porvenir, and the residents.

The Environmental Committee and the affected communities consider that the management plan granted to Hayde Urrutia Mejía by the Honduran State is illegal because it does not comply with the prerequisites established in the Forestry, Protected Areas and Wildlife Law, which requires an Environmental Impact Assessment including the participation of the population that could be affected by the project or activity under review. They also consider the management plan illegal due to irregularities regarding land tenancy.

The environmentalists in question are facing charges of Obstructing the Execution of a Management Plan, which carries a penalty of 4-6 years in prison according to article 186 of the above mentioned law. In the hearing that took place on July 5, 2011, Judge Ingrid Quiroz Banegas imposed precautionary measures on the defendants, including the requirements that they present themselves and sign-in at the courthouse every 15 days, do not leave the country, do not approach the mini-watershed of Tapalito, and do not approach the person, family, or dwelling of the beneficiary of the Management Plan, Hayde Urrutia Mejia.

In this particular case the justice system has not acted objectively and is instead favoring the executive branches of the state and criminalizing civil protest in the name of national (and international) interests, while the national (and international) interests in question are the precisely the reason for concern and protest on the part of the people and communities of the municipality of El Porvenir and leaders of the Environmental Committee of the Siria Valley.

Cofadeh is requesting the national and international community to demand that: 1) the Honduran State take the necessary measures, including implementation the required mechanisms, to guarantee personal freedom, due process, and the right to defend human rights to Carlos Danilo Amador, Marlon Hernández, Juan Ángel Reconco and all other members of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee; 2) cease all acts of retaliation against them; and 3) guarantee in general the right to defend universally recognized human rights as established in the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, approved in 1998, and similar OAS Resolutions emitted in 1999 and 2000.

SOURCE: COFADEH, translation by Friendship Office of the Americas