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Honduras State Officials Criminalize Defenders of Ethnic Peoples

The Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) expresses its utter condemnation and concern regarding the repeated attacks against social leaders and defenders of human rights in Honduras, especially worrisome when the attacks are instigated by state officials for the purpose of generating public hatred towards the defenders.

On March 10th, 2011, Elmer Noel Molina, mayor of San Francisco de Lempira, located in the western part of the country, initiated a media campaign against one of the members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras, COPINH, whom he accused of arson in the fire that occurred in the primary school José Nahúm Gámez in the community of Santa Rosita on March 6th, 2011.

The Mayor stated on the Levantando Nuestras Voces (Raising our Voices ) radio programme directed by Filomeno Díaz on COPINH's radio station La Voz Lenca, that Salvador Zúniga and Bertha Cáceres, members of COPINH's coordinating team, were responsible for the fact that members of the resistance set fire to the school and accused them also of holding clandestine meetings in the San Francisco de Lempira municipality. Moreover, he demanded that they not return to the municipality, while also stating that the community radio station La Voz Lenca was a means of creating conflict |1|.

The Mayor also communicated with national media such as Programa TV 5, and Programa Frente a Frente, which are both broadcasted through Canal 5, for the purpose of persisting with the defamation. The host of the show accused members of the COPINH of being vandals and called the Public Prosecutor to open a criminal investigation against them. This reporter has been inciting public hatred against social leaders, and depicting them as instigators of conflicts that have provoked the insecurity of affected parties. Canal 10 and Diario El Heraldo joined the campaign and accused the members of the COPINH of having set fire to two schools, while the Secretary of State for Education said that he had in his possession reports indicating that fire had been set to two schools by members of the COPINH, also active in the Resistance.

The criminalisation campaign against the Council Coordinator of COPINH arose out of a complaint filed by this organisation against the Mayor Elmer Noel Molina, and the District Director of Education, J. Wilmer Molina, before the Prosecutor for Ethnic Groups and Cultural Heritage for the politicization of education and the unjustified dismissal of 8 teachers contracted by the Community Education Association in the framework of the Honduras Community-Based Education Project (PROHECO). Said Prosecutor opened investigations. The prosecutors assigned to the preliminary inquiry became victims of threats and illegal detention by shock troops under the command of the Mayor.

  • We urge the national and international community to demand and remind the State of Honduras of its obligation to guarantee human rights defenders their right to carry out their work without unjust restriction and without fear of reprisal, in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and resolutions of the OAS.

  • The criminalisation campaign, of which the COPINH is a victim, violates articles 14 and 16 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

  • Urging the authorities to take immediate steps that put an end to the criminalisation campaign against the Council Coordinator of the COPINH, and to effectively implement the precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to the members of the COPINH.

    Address your appeals to:

    Jorge Alberto Rivera Avilés
    President of the Supreme Court of Justice
    Tel (504) 269-3000 269-3069
    Mail: cedij@poderjudicial.gob.hn

    Luis Alberto Rubí
    Public Prosecutor of the Republic
    Fax (504) 221-5667
    Tel (504) 221-5670 221-3099
    Mail: lrubi@mp.hn suazog@mp.hn

    Copy to:

    Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH)
    Barrio La Plazuela, Avenida Cervantes, Casa No. 1301
    Apartado Postal 1243
    Tegucigalpa, HONDURAS
    Fax: +504 220 5280 (gives "fax signal")
    Mail: berthacofadeh@yahoo.com

    Send a copy also to the accredited diplomatic representatives of Honduras in your countries.


    1. "Salvador Zúniga and Bertha Cáceres are responsible for the vandals of the resistance who set fire to the school, which does not want the presence in the municipality of these two individuals, nor of the COPINH, who go about in their vehicles holding clandestine meetings. I am the Mayor and I do not want their presence, nor that of the COPINH. The radio is a means of creating conflict". [Volver]

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    small logoThis document has been published on 18Mar11 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.