Honduras: Honduras: use of violence against opponents to the construction of two dams
ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS CONCERN
Case HON 230701. ESCRC
The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Honduras.
Brief description of the situation
The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Comite para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Honduras (CODEH), a member of OMCT network, as well as by other reliable sources, of the disproportionate and excessive use of force by the Honduran security forces against protesters in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, on July 18th 2001.
According to the information received, around 50 National Police troops descended on the Legislative Palace at around 0:30 in the morning to forcibly remove 300 peaceful demonstrator from the premises.
It is reported that the security forces used shields, clubs, rubber bullets, tear gas and wooden sticks to push the demonstrators out from the premises. The demonstrators allegedly briefly opposed the security forces, brandishing pieces of firewood, but soon stopped at the request of protest leaders. The eviction by security forces allegedly lasted for around 2 hours and resumed in the afternoon, with the whole area being completely sealed off by heavily armed riot troops.
It is reported that following the morning and afternoon interventions by the security forces, 13 people suffering from serious injuries had to be transported to the hospital, and that the following 5 persons had been arrested:
1. Santos Valentin Mejia (suffering from grave injuries to the head)
2. José Antonio Velasquez (suffering from grave injuries to a leg)
3. Gabriel Pérez
4. Silverio Molina Ventura
5. José Angel Gonzalez
It is also reported that on the following day, on July 19th 2001, the Minister of Security, Gautama Fonseca, charged the following human rights defenders, leaders of trade unions, peasants, indigenous people and indigenous leaders, with, among other charges, disobedience, disrespect, attack and crimes against the public administration for their involvement in the peaceful demonstrations:
1. Andrés Pavon, President of the CODEH -Comite para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Honduras (a member organisation of OMCT network)
2. Antonio Velasquez, an activist of the CODEH
3. Santiago Sosa, an activist of the CODEH
4. Henrich Pineda Plateros, an activist of the CODEH
5. Bertha Olivia de Nativi, Coordinador of the COFADEH -Comité de Familiares de Desparecidos en Honduras.
6. Candido Martinez, leader of COPINH (Consejo de Organizaciones Populares Indigenas de Honduras)
7. Salvador Zungia, leader of COPINH
8. Abraham Diaz, indigenous activist from Lenca
9. Jimena Gonzales, indigenous activist
10. Gabriel Perez, indigenous activist
11. Angel Gonzales, indigenous activist
12. Santos Valentin Mejia, indigenous activist
13. Silverio Molina Ventura, indigenous activist
14. Julian Martinez, indigenous activist
15. Rafael Alegria, trade unionist
16. Carlos H. Reyes, trade unionist
17. Alberto Cancelas, inhabitant of Gualaco
18. Edgardo Hernandez Guevara, inhabitant of Gualaco
19. Sally O’Neal, international cooperation
20. Jeronimo Gonzales, Honduran singer
Background Information: the Opposition of the Population to the Construction of Two Dams
The events of July 18th 2001 have to be seen against the background of the socio-economic situation in Honduras. According to the 2001 UNDP Report, inequalities are prevalent throughout the country, with 62 percent of the total national income being shared by only 20 percent of the population. In this regard, peasants and the indigenous population face serious destitution, marginalisation, and regular violations of their economic, social and cultural rights. Development projects have so far mostly failed to involve those affected, to address effectively these issues, and might lead, as highlighted by this case, to further violations of human rights, including civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights.
The demonstrators, coming from the municipality of Gualaco (in the department of Olancho, Eastern Honduras) had been in Tegucigalpa since July 4th 2001 to demand the removal of the company Energisa from the municipality of Gualaco and protest against the brutal and illegal methods used by this company in order to curve the opposition of the local population to the construction of a 4.4 megawatt dam in the Sierra de Agalta National Park, which is being built with financing from the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (Banco Centro-Americano de Integracion Economica). It is reported that the executive power granted the company Energisa the permit for the construction of the dam within the National Park of Sierra de Agalta, without consulting the affected communities and without evaluating the possible environmental impact of the project. The implementation of the hydro-electric project would allegedly leave 11 communities without access to water. Moreover, according to the information received, several irregularities surround the granting of the permit. In this regard, in its 2001 recommendations to Honduras, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights urged the authorities to “implement existing legislative and administrative measures to avoid violations of environmental and labour law by transnational companies”.
Since January 2001, the population of Gualaco has involve those affected been facing regular threats and harassment by some Energisa’ security guards. On June 30th 2001 the community leader Carlos Roberto Flores, who was deeply involved in the struggle to stop the implementation of Energisa’s hydroelectric project, was shot in front of his family by six security guards from the company.
It is also reported that on July 18th 2001, the demonstrators from the municipality of Gualaco were joined by around 1000 peasants from western Honduras (departments of La Paz, Intibuca, Lempira), and members of the indigenous organisation COPIN (Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Populares e Indigenas de Honduras). The peasants protested against the possible construction of the dam ”El Tigre” which would forcibly displace around 20’000 people from their homes and communities.
In this regard, OMCT would like to recall the statement of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ratified by Honduras, that “the international human rights normative framework includes the right of those affected by key decisions to participate in the relevant decision-making processes”.
Please write to the Honduras authorities urging them to:
i. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the above-mentioned arrested persons and order their immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges or, if such charges exist, bring them before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee her procedural rights at all times;
ii. order the immediate abandonment of legal proceedings against the above-mentioned persons in the absence of valid charges or, if such charges exist, bring them before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times;
iii. guarantee an immediate investigation into the circumstances of the violent action by the Honduras security forces, identify those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law;
iv. guarantee an immediate investigation into the circumstances of the assassination of Carlos Roberto Flores, identify those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law;
v. guarantee that the activities of the company Energisa and the implementation of development projects do not impair the enjoyment of all human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights;
vi. guarantee respect for the economic, social and cultural rights throughout the country;
vii. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and ILO Convention No 169.
i. Engineer CARLOS FLORES FACUSSE, President, República de Honduras, Casa Presidencial, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Fax: (504) 235-69-49
ii. Professor RAFAEL PINEDA PONCE, President, Congreso Nacional, Palacio Legislativo, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Fax: (504) 238-60-48
iii. Lawyer MIGUEL ANGEL RIVERA PORTILLO, President, Corte Suprema de Justicia, Palacio Judicial, Fax: (504) 233-79-21
iv. Lawyer ROY EDMUNDO MEDINA, Fiscal General de la República, Edificio Las Lomas, Teléfono: (504) 239-42-36/37
v. Doctor LEO VALLADARES LANZA, Comisionado Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Edificio Galerias La Paz, Fax: (504) 221-05-36
Geneva, July 23rd, 2001
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.