Land disputes undermine civic space in Honduras

Association

On 13th September 2018, 18 land rights defenders and members of Comit茅 Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y P煤blicos de Tocoa were informed of an arrest warrant issued against them. The defenders participated in the Campamento Digno por el Agua y la Vida (Dignity Camp for Water and Life) to protest against the mining company Inversi贸n Los Pinares, which is causing serious environmental damage in the San Pedro and Guapinol rivers.

In a separate incident, the Plataforma Agrariaexpressed on 28th September 2018 their concern over the arrival of unknown armed men to the premises of Paso Agua cooperative in the Aguan Valley, an area currently under dispute with the private company, Dinant Corporation. In their communication, the organisation said that at least 20 armed men arrived to intimidate the community. One of its leaders was murdered in 2012 and they now fear for the lives of Hip贸lito Rivas, Jaime Cabrera y Jos茅 Ch谩vez, who are under protection measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 

In other developments, at least 17 students and human rights defenders have been informed that the court decision that dismissed the charges against them for participating in a series of protests in 2017 was revoked. They are now again subject to a judicial process for participating in demonstrations last year demanding better conditions for public education.

The family of Berta C谩ceres reported a series of due process violations in the context of the hearing regarding C谩ceres' murder in 2016 as reported by the Monitor. For example, it was reported that the court issued a decision where it declared that the victim's representatives "abandoned" the process. In addition, the prosecutor imposed restrictions to prevent the arrival of Gustavo Castro to the country. Castro is a key witness in this case as he was with Berta when the murder took place. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 13th October 2018, the "Migrant Caravan" started in the city of San Pedro Sula. Initially, approximately 2,000 Hondurans embarked on their trip to the United States looking for better living conditions. The UN estimates that there are currently more than 7,000 people involved in the mobilisation that has already crossed Guatemala and part of Mexico. The US government has been putting pressure on the Honduran government to stop the mobilisation. The government set a blockade in the border with Guatemala to try and stop the caravan but the mobilisation managed to continue its way to the United States.

In a press release issued on 23rd October, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern about the constant violation of human rights that participants of this caravan are facing and called on the authorities of the transit countries to protect the caravan participants. 

At the national level, priest Ismael Moreno called for an internal caravan from Santa Cruz in the north of the country to Tegucigalpa as a sign of solidarity with the "Migrant Caravan" and to reject the current administration of Juan Orlando Hernandez. 

On 15th September 2018,  police officers repressed a peaceful demonstration in Tegucigalpa during the independence day celebrations. At least 20 people had to be assisted after fainting as a consequence of the tear gas used by police. 

Expression

Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos and Red Nacional de Defensoras de DDHH en Honduras rejected on 18th September 2018, the defamation campaign against Nina Lakhani, a British journalist who is in Honduras covering the trial for the murder of Berta Caceres. According to the  Committee to Protect Journalists information was circulated on social media platforms, accusing Lakhani of "manipulating" the local population in the Bajo Agu谩n region and "forcing residents to give false statements and inciting them to violence". The CPJ said: 

"The eyes of the world are on Honduras as the Berta C谩ceres trial begins. If the Honduran government is serious about protecting democratic values like press freedom, authorities must investigate the threats against Lakhani and ensure she and other journalists are not driven from reporting on entire regions."

On 24th September 2018, the journalist Fabricio Garibaldi Mej铆a was called to a mediation hearing after he was sued for defamation after publishing on social media several complaints about unjustified dismissals and the misuse of funds from Cooperativa Taulab茅 Limitada. Given that no agreement was reached between the parties, Garibaldi now has to wait for an initial hearing and the start of the trial.