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Three Honduran human rights defenders killed in one week

Association

Garifuna leader shot and killed

On 28th December 2019, Garífuna human rights defender Ignacia López Martínez was shot several times by unidentified attackers. She passed away on 11th January 2020 as a result of her severe injuries from this attack. Ignacia was the sister of defender Amada Lopez Martinez, who is a member of the General Coordination of Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (National Black Fraternal Organisation of Honduras - OFRANEH). According to OFRANEH, this was the fourth time Amada and people close to her have been attacked. On 12th December 2019, assailants shot at Amada’s house in the Masca Garífuna community and injured Paula Álvarez. In a blog post, OFRANEH stated that persecution in Masca has worsened because of land disputes and claimed that these attacks have the objective of eliminating the community’s matrilineal structure, driving its members out of their territory. As previously reported in the Monitor, Garífuna defenders, and particularly women leaders, have been subjected to constant attacks. Honduran human rights organisations have denounced the systematic extermination of Garífuna leadership.

Two Indigenous defenders found dead within a week

On 29th December 2019, Efraín Martínez Martínez, a leader of Tolupán tribe la Montaña de la Flor, was found dead near his community. The defender had disappeared eight days earlier. The cause of death has not been reported, but the police said that the community leader’s body was found half-buried in a scrubland area and that he had likely been killed days earlier.

On 4th January 2019, Santos Felipe Escobar García, a leader of the Pech Indigenous community of Santa María del Carbón, was found dead with signs of torture. According to reports, the defender had been missing since 29th December 2019. His body was found in a bag at a seaside town in the Colón department.

Environmental defenders defamed and threatened

On 6th January 2020, environmental defender and journalist Dolores Valenzuela stated that activists resisting the construction of a housing project in the La Tigra National Park have been subjected to an online defamation campaign. Valenzuela herself has reportedly received death threats from presumed local government supporters. In 2019, she publicly denounced the Bosques de Santamaría project because of environmental impacts which could potentially put the distribution of drinking water for Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela at risk.

Activists Christopher Castillo and Tatiana Lara have also been targeted and threatened. Videos have circulated on WhatsAPP accusing the environmental defenders of terrorism and of damaging the political career of Mayor Nasry 'Tito' Asfura. Messages against them claimed that they were taking advantage of their position as social leaders and that Lara paid journalists to smear the reputation of other organisations. As reported by the Monitor, in September 2019 protests against the housing project were repressed by security forces.

Expression

In a separate incident on 6th January 2020, journalists Eddie Andino of Canal 6 and Mai Ling Coto of Corporación Televicentro were removed from San Pedro Sula’s police headquarters while covering an arrest. When Coto tried to take official statements about the case, a police officer forcibly pushed her out of the police station. Andino was broadcasting and filmed his colleague being removed. According to the reporter, minutes later a group of ten officers approached, attempted to intimidate him and ordered him to leave.