The Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) condemn and repudiate the kidnapping, death threats against and psychological torture of two defenders from the Honduras Accompaniment Project (PROAH) . These events occurred in a context characterized by an intolerance of human rights defenders’ work, resulting in systematic and selective attacks against them.
On July 25, 2013, the defenders Daniel Langmeier (25) from Switzerland, and Orlane Vidal (26) from France, were in the house of Concepción Gutiérrez in the Atlantic community of Nueva Esperanza, where they had arrived the previous day to accompany the communities of Nueva Esperanza and El Zapote, who face threats of displacement and the destruction of their natural resources by the Minerales Victoria mining company.
Starting at 8:30 am they began to hear gunshots, and a half hour later ten men, apparently hired gunmen who were heavily armed with high caliber weapons and wearing brown trenchcoats and backed up by thirty workers armed with machetes from the Minerales Victoria company, surrounded Concepción Gutiérrez’s modest residence.
At this point, they heard shooting in the direction of Antonio, Concepción Gutiérrez’s husband, while he was pursued in a nearby field. Fortunately, Antonio managed to reach the house, where he stayed, powerless, observing the abduction.
After having been held captive in the house for about an hour, while the gunmen constantly threatened them by pointing their weapons in their direction, Orlane and Daniel were forced to leave the house and taken at gunpoint to a community where they were forced to delete the photos on their cameras and then to board a black, double cab pickup truck without a license plate.
There were five men in the pickup truck. The driver was an engineer from the mining company, and the leader of the workers sat at his side, carrying a machete (knife). Between them there was a large and heavy firearm and three gunmen traveled in the back of the pickup with their weapons pointed toward the cab of the truck, leading them out of the city.
In the course of the event, Orlane, the only women among more than 40 armed men, was verbally sexually harassed.
Although the defenders had informed the police station of their presence and work as human rights observers, the police station mysteriously remained closed during the events that terrorized the community.
Due to pressure from the community and actions by the COFADEH and PROAH denouncing what had happened and seeking immediate intervention from the highest security authorities in the country, Daniel and Orlane were freed three hours later in the Nueva Florida community.
These events are not isolated; defenders of the natural resources in Nueva Esperanza have been harassed and threatened since 2011, when the Minerales Victoria company, owned by Lenir Pérez and ironically the winner of the 2009 Honduran Foundation of Corporate Social Responsibility (FUNDAHRSE) Seal of Distinction, entered the territory.
On 3 June 2013, residents of the Nueva Esperanza community were assaulted, given death threats, intimidated, and abused by the police.
On 6 June, the residents also received messages of death threats and intimidation from armed men who remain in the area, having moved from the community of Nueva Vista. Priests and regional leaders who support the community have received death threats and threats of assault.
In this case where the masterminds and perpetrators are known, and the facts are known by the highest security authorities in the country, we demand that they not allow more time to pass and they take action within 24 hours.
The COFADEH asks the international and national community to urge the Honduran authorities to:
-Carry out a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations, seeking that the results be made public and that the masterminds and perpetrators are brought to justice.
– Dismantle armed groups operating outside the law, but with the apparent acquiescence of the state.
-Demand the protection of the communities that are permanent victims of the national and transnational companies that try to subjugate the population in an absolute abuse of power for defending their territory and natural resources.
-Take urgent measures to implement the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.
-Ensure the implementation of the provision of this Declaration, in particular with regards to the protection of the right of every person “…individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”.
-Take the necessary measures to stop the assault and threats against all of the members of the community of Nueva Esperanza and in particular to protect Concepción Gutiérrez and her family.
Tegucigalpa, M.D.C., 26 July 2013
The Crimes and the Criminals will Neither be Forgiven nor Forgotten.
Make calls to the following authorities:
Jorge Alberto Rivera Avilés
President of the Supreme Court of Justice
Tel (504) 269-3000 269-3069
Junta Interventora del Ministerio Público
Fax (504) 221-5667 Tel (504) 221-5670 221-3099
Ana Pineda, Lawyer Ministry of Justice and Human Rights
Mr. Arturo Corrales Álvarez, Security Minister
Address: Secretaría de Estado en el Despacho de Seguridad Cuartel General de Casamata, subida al Picacho, Tegucigalpa, M.D.C, Honduras, Centro América
Tel: (504) 2220-4298 y (504) 2220-4299 Fax: (504) 2220-1711
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.seguridad.gob.hn
With copy to:
Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH)
Barrio La Plazuela, Avenida Cervantes, Casa No. 1301
Apartado Postal 1243
Fax:+504 220 5280 (solicite: “tono de fax”)
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Honduras Accompaniment Project