International Organisations condemn repression and criminalisation of peasant organisations of Bajo Aguán, Honduras

FIAN International Sept. 3, 2011 — We, the undersigned international organisations and civil society networks, would like to express our severe concern with respect to the recent acts of repression, violence and criminalization of peasant organisations of the Bajo Aguán.
On 21 August 2012
, in front of the Supreme Court of Justice in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, the police violently dispersed a peaceful demonstration of hundreds of peasant farmers from the Bajo Aguán who had been asking to meet with the President of the Court to request for an impartial judgement in the case of three farms currently in the possession of the peasant organization MARCA,  and to end the criminalisation of the peasants’ struggle.

Instead of accepting the request for dialogue, the State security forces, specifically the preventative police, used excessive force to disperse the protestors, including the use of teargas, leaving three people wounded, including a 16-year-old. Furthermore, 27 protestors were detained, among them two women, the President of the National Association of Honduran Peasants (ANACH), the lawyer and legal representative of MARCA, and the Secretary General and Public Relations Secretary of the Unified Peasant Movement of the Aguán (MUCA).

On 22 August 2012, hundreds of peasants from the Bajo Aguán region in Honduras occupied the police station in Planes, Sonaguera in the Department of Colon, in protest of the repression and demanding the release of their colleagues in the capital. In response, a strong contingent of police attacked the protestors and the excessive use of force resulted in various protestors being injured, including a 77-year-old who was taken to hospital for treatment. The police also detained 19 people, among them three children and a human rights defender who documented the events on behalf of the Permanent Observatory of Human Rights of the Aguán.

On 23 August 2012, the 27 detained in Tegucigalpa were conditionally released and 25 of them were charged with "illicit protesting and association, and criminal damage." The conditions attached to their release included a prohibition on leaving the country, a prohibition on participating in public protests and an obligation to present themselves before a judge once a week. On the same day, the courts in Tocoa, Colon, ordered preventive measures against 19 people detained in Planes, among them three minors and two elderly adults.

On 26 August 2012, Leonel Acosta Aviles, who was one of the 27 people detained on 21 August in Tegucigalpa, and who had been released from prison on preventive measures, was shot at by unknown individuals while he was driving on the road from Tocoa to Sinoloa in the Department of Colon. As a consequence, his car overturned. Fortunately, members of his community managed to reach him and took him to hospital.

On 27 August 2012, José Braulio Díaz López, secretary of the Associative Peasant Enterprise of El Tranvio, a member of MUCA, was assassinated by unknown gunmen.

These latest acts of repression and criminalisation demonstrate that the Honduran authorities have maintained the same position against the peasant communities involved in the agrarian conflict with the effect of preventing an integral, just, peaceful and sustainable solution to this conflict. Human rights violations and impunity have persisted as a consequence of the failure of the authorities to investigate and punish those responsible for the attacks and murders of members of the peasant organisations in the region.

International organizations have been constantly monitoring the situation in Bajo Aguán, inter alia, through an international fact finding mission on human rights in Bajo Aguán, conducted in March 2011 and the international public hearing on the human rights situation in Bajo Aguán, held on 28 May in Tocoá, Colón.

According to our documentation, 53 people belonging to or affiliated with peasant organisations, as well as a journalist and his partner, have been killed since September 2009, in the context of an agrarian conflict in the region. Furthermore, a peasant was disappeared on 15 May 2011. According to the information provided by the Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor in Honduras, there have been no investigations into any of these cases.

We consider that the protest carried out by the organisations on 21 August in front of the Supreme Court of Justice, as well as the requested audience with the President of the Court, had a very valid legal and political basis. It is regrettable that the response of the authorities was to reject this attempt at dialogue, and to use violence and criminalisation. Furthermore, the threat of violent evictions against the communities who have been awarded their land rights continues. Our organizations and networks are convinced that the route to the solution of the conflict in the Bajo Aguán is through the respect and protection of human rights and not through violence, repression and criminalisation of the peasant struggle.

APRODEV (Association of World Council of Churches related Development Organizations)
CIFCA (Copenhague Initiative for Central America and Mexico)
CIDSE (International Alliance of Catholic Development Agencies)
FESPAD (Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho)
FIAN International (International Human Rights Organisation for the Right to Food)
FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)
HIC (Habitat International Coalition)
LAWG (Latin America Working Group)
La Vía Campesina
PIDHDD (Inter-American Platform of Human Rights, Democracy and Development)
Rel-UITA (Latin American regional branch of the International Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Tabacco and Allied Workers’ Association)

Martin Wolpold-Bosien, FIAN International
+49 177 3391263