Leader of the Movimiento Campesino Unido murdered in Honduras

Association

As previously reported on the Monitor, environmental activists continue to be the main target of attacks in Honduras. On 18th October, José Ángel Flores, leader of the Movimiento Campesino Unido (MUCA) and activist Silmer Dionisio George were murdered. Both defenders were leaving a meeting when an armed group shot them several times. Due to the levels of harassment and attacks he was subjected to, since 2014, José Ángel Flores had been the beneficiary of precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. These, however, had not been fully implemented by the Honduran authorities.

In another incident, on 9th October, two members of indigenous rights groups Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), were attacked in separate incidents. Tomás Gómez Membreño was shot in his car while the windows of Alexander García Sorto's house were shot while the family was sleeping. 

Peaceful Assembly

In the past month, a number of protests by land rights groups have been repressed in Honduras. On 30th September, a group of 210 farmers from Aguán Valley tried recover land which they claim was illegally obtained by landowner Reinaldo Canales. When they arrived at a security checkpoint, they were attacked by private security agents.

On 20th October, police used tear gas, water cannon and pepper spray to disperse a peaceful protest by indigenous communities organised by COPINH. Days earlier, police also used excessive force (including tear gas and water cannon) to disrupt another protest against an increase in toll prices organised by the party of former president Manuel Zelaya. Seventeen people were arrested, including two minors.

Expression

On 19th October, Ricardo Matute, a journalist from Corporación Televicentro, was shot in the neck when he arrived at the scene of a traffic accident. The assailants demanded that he help them escape the scene by driving his company's car. When he was unable to, they shot him, drove off and left him lying in the street. It has not been established if the attack was linked to his journalistic work.

In a statement on 14th October, the Honduran Armed Forces threatened to sue anyone who links the institution or its members with criminal activities without sufficient evidence. The statement was made in the wake of allegations by the US Embassy in Honduras that some of the army's senior offices were involved in drug trafficking and corruption. Critics have highlighted that threats of legal action like this one constitute a freedom of expression violation, as previously interpreted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Finally, in a separate incident on 23rd October, the director of Radio Progreso Ismael Moreno reported that the station's premises were being spied on by someone who parked in front of their offices and used a drone to take pictures of the building.