Tag Archives: human rights

[en] COFADEH to participate in Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Hearings in DC

Original article in Spanish by Mario Casasus, DefensoresEnLinea.com

 

Lawyer Kenia Oliva and human rights activist Mery Agurcia will represent the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) in three Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearings on October 25th and 26th in Washington, DC: Protective Measures, Freedom of Expression, and Criminalization of Human Rights Defenders.

In a radio interview by the Voices Against Forgetting (Voces contra el olvido) program, Kenia Oliva explained: “We will follow up on the case of protective measures, report on the state of freedom of expression, and denounce the criminalization of human rights defenders. We are taking well-documented case files to demonstrate that human rights violations are still occurring. The State has even criminalized human rights defenders. In this situation of legal uncertainty, the Office of the Public Prosecutor itself, which would be the institution responsible for protecting and cooperating with human rights defenders in terms of investigating human rights violations, is instead criminalizing defenders, initiating criminal charges against them.”

Kenia Oliva will also take advantage that “while in Washington, on October 26th, the time limit to respond to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regarding the case of ‘The Six Students’ is up. COFADEH was involved in a process of an “Amicable Settlement with the State.” In 2008, the government of President Zelaya had enacted an Executive Decree in which the government committed to starting a National Program of Reparations for Victims of Human Rights Violations during the 1980s. However, the Office of the Public Prosecutor opposed its creation, arguing that it was excluding. Thus, COFADEH decided not to pursue the “Amicable Settlement” and to instead to follow the formal case proceedings before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.”

The case of ‘The Six Students’ dates back to 1982, when army soldiers kidnapped six students – Milton and Marlen Jimenez Puerto, Gilda and Suyapa Rivera Sierra, and Edwin and Adan Guillermo Lopez Rodezno – and tortured them for four days. In July 1995, the Special Attorney for Human Rights, Sonia Dubon, accused ten military officials with attempted murder and illegal detention in connection with the “temporary disappearance” of the students. Among the accused military officials were Raymundo Alexander Hernandez and Billy Joya Amendola, who both currently live in total impunity.

Translated from Spanish by Sandra Cuffe

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[en] MISF Briefing: Government-Supported Human Rights Abuses and the Legacy of Impunity

Briefing on Honduras: Government-Supported Human Rights Abuses and the Legacy of Impunity

READ MISF’s FULL BRIEFING, UPDATED OCT. 11 2010, HERE (PDF) AND IN SPANISH HERE (updated Spanish version coming soon).

In the months after the June 28 coup in Honduras, international media and NGOs reported on the de facto government’s suspension of constitutional rights, censorship of media outlets and repression of peaceful demonstrators. Less reported and harder to monitor has been an ongoing wave of human rights violations—illegal arrests, intimidation, police beatings, and suspicious deaths of journalists, resistance leaders, activists, advocates and their family members—which have continued, and in the case of journalists increased, since the inauguration of President Porfirio Lobo Sosa.

Human rights advocates say they have been witnessing a pattern of abuse strikingly similar to what citizens suffered during the political conflicts of the 1980s. They point to a culture of ongoing repression that has been cultivated by government and military impunity for human rights violations over the last 30 years.

“The connection is very evident in the patterns of repression that have played out. The mode of repression, the sowing of fear, detentions, and the general climate of terror is very reminiscent of the 80s,” Claudia Hermansdorfer, director of the Honduran Center for Women’s Rights, said.

In the 1980s the Honduran Military Battalion 3-16 kidnapped, tortured or “disappeared” citizens. Today at least five former military officers with ties to Battalion 3-16 are reported to hold powerful positions within the government or police (see Former Battalion 3-16 members in positions of power today, below) and little has been done to end a dysfunctional culture of impunity.

In 1994, then Human Rights Commissioner Leo Valladares published numerous recommendations in The Facts Speak for Themselves (Los Hechos Hablan Por Si Mismo) following his independent investigation into human rights abuses perpetrated by Honduran security forces in the 1980s.

In his report, Valladares advised that “the creation of [several specific] greater legal protections will be necessary to prevent disappearances from happening again,” including a “central registry of detained persons” and a “special law regarding detention.” He also recommended several reforms regarding accountability, noting, “The state has the duty and the right to use force against those who violate its laws. The legitimate use of force, however, flows from respect for the Constitution and laws of the nation.” His recommendations include those to “assure democratic and citizen control of all public security actions,” among others.

Those recommendations remain valid today and, regrettably, most have not been acted on by any Honduran government since the report was published. According to Susan Peacock, a former fellow at the National Security Archive who assisted Valladares in his efforts to obtain U.S. declassified information on events in the 1980s, “If those recommendations have not been followed up on, it is unlikely the Truth Commission’s will be. History is likely to repeat itself until actions are taken to break the cycles of impunity.”

The net result is a culture of impunity that has left many Hondurans fearful of the current situation. Bertha Oliva, director of Committee for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), said, “Before, they hid the dead. Now they do it in public, challenging every principle of human rights.”

CLICK HERE to download a PDF of the full backgrounder on government-supported human rights abuses and the legacy of impunity in Honduras. The information provided is based on research that May I Speak Freely Media has conducted over the past 10 years.

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[en] COFADEH: 157 Hondurans have fled into Exile

By Dina Meza, DefensoresEnLinea.com

Original article in Spanish

 

The Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras, COFADEH, is able to confirm that there are political exiles. Over the last few weeks, three more people have been taken out of the country because their lives are in danger, bringing the total to 157 persecuted people who have left Honduras, said Bertha Oliva, coordinator of the human rights organization COFADEH.

After declarations by [ousted] President Manuel Zelaya Rosales about the existence of political exiles, the regime of Porfirio Lobo Sosa has tried to delegitimize these allegations, requesting a list of the exiles’ identities. On the matter, Oliva pointed out that COFADEH has registered 157 people in exile due to political persecution by the Honduran State and its agents.

“At the same time they say they are creating mechanisms, they are going looking for people with photographs in hand. They are paramilitaries, death squads that persecute people who have some level of leadership in their communities and neighbourhoods,” denounced the coordinator of COFADEH.

To Oliva, the total of 157 Hondurans who have fled Honduras is a scandalous number, considering that if Honduras is supposedly living through a process of reconciliation, there should not be a single person leaving the country due to terror or political persecution.

COFADEH is not working with cases of family vendettas, but with people involved in the national resistance with some level of leadership in their communities and neighbourhoods who are being followed, pursued using their photographs – in short, we are talking about paramilitaries, death squads, reiterated the human rights activist.

It is about political persecution. If it were not so, why is it that members of the resistance are those who are being persecuted?, she asked while emphasizing the regime’s double standards.

Concerning Porfirio Lobo’s repeated statements asking for the list of exiles in order to prove that they really exist, human rights defender Oliva asked how it is possible that Lobo, who supported left-wing movements in the 1980s, now asks for names and addresses, which would place these people at risk.

“This is not a legend, it is not happening in Bosnia… this false respect of human rights needs to be stopped,” expressed Oliva, who returned last weekend from a trip to the United States where she denounced what is happening in Honduras and, together with the Human Rights Platform [of Honduras], received the Letelier Moffitt award.

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[en] COFADEH: Alert in the Aguan, Young MUCA Member Murdered

Alert: New Violent Incidents in the Aguan, Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras, COFADEH, calls out urgently to the international community in the face of new acts of violence that occurred in the Aguan region today, Thursday, April 1st:

1.-We condemn the murder of 22-year-old Miguel Alonso Oliva, murdered by security guards when the Aguan Unified Campesino Movement (MUCA) occupied lands in the Boleros estate, which are illegally possessed by landowner Rene Morales.

2.-At the same time, we condemn the lack of quick action to solve the land conflict in the lower Aguan by the Porfirio Lobo Sosa regime, which is showing itself to be acquiescent to the landowners by failing to take on the responsibility of returning the State-owned lands that should be immediately handed over to the campesinos and campesinas, as per the law.

3.-We urge the international community to send urgent actions to the Honduran State in order to end this precarious and difficult situation against women, men, and children. They are terrorized by the weapons belonging both to the security guards working for landowners Miguel Facusse, Rene Morales and Reynaldo Canales, as well as those of the heavily-armed army and police forces that are preparing to move into the area with the intention of evicting the campesinos and campesinas who have recuperated the lands along the left bank of the Aguan river. Several cooperatives are located along the left bank: Suyapa del Aguán, Guanchías, Buenos Amigos, Remolino, Despertar, Trinidad, San Esteban, Quebrada Honda, Paso Aguán, El Plantel, Islas 1 and 2, Marañones, and Boleros.

4.-We proclaim our solidarity with the family of young Miguel Alonso Oliva, whose wake is being held in the community of Guadalupe Carney in Silin, Colon, where dozens of people have gathered to accompany his relatives.

5.-COFADEH has received unconfirmed reports of other possible deaths of security guards, demonstrating the urgency of a resolution to this conflict in order to avoid further bloodshed and the polarization of the Honduran family.

OF THE ACTS AND THOSE RESPONSIBLE,
WE DO NOT FORGET, NOR DO WE FORGIVE

Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras
COFADEH

Tegucigalpa, April 1st, 2010

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[en] Rights Action: ‘Text-Book’ State Terrorism in Honduras

‘TEXT-BOOK’ STATE TERRORISM IN HONDURAS:
DEATH-SQUADS KILL TEACHER, BROAD DAYLIGHT, IN FRONT OF STUDENTS

On March 23, at the same moment that a group of seven Honduran lawyers were presenting information to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in Washington DC concerning systematic human rights abuses being committed against the pacifist Honduran National Resistance Front (FNRP), a death squad comprised of heavily armed men wearing ski masks and civilian clothes, killed a prominent FNRP member, a teacher, in front of his high school students.

According to a communiqué issued by the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH),

“At 3pm an unknown person was spotted in front of the San Jose del Pedregal High School.  The unusual presence of a stranger caused concerns among students and thirty teachers who make up the staff of teachers who work at the school.  Among the teachers was Professor of Social Science Jose Manuel Flores, who worked as teacher counselor.

“Witnesses on the scene saw two pickups approach the rear of the school premises, apparently 2009 models, one green and white.

“Professor Manuel, as his friends called him, was in the back of the facility overseeing pupils, when the assassins found him.  They passed the perimeter fence and fired their guns at close range.

“The teacher was on a balcony from which he fell, and they fired on him again from above.  As they fled, the ski mask of one of the attackers became entangled in the razor coil over the fence which they had cut open to look for their victim.  The teacher died instantly.”

THIS IS STATE TERRORISM
The killing of a prominent teacher in front of his students and colleagues, in the middle of the day, a man who was active in the FNRP, participating in protests and publishing articles in alternative press, is calculated act of repression designed to terrorize other Honduras and to send a silencing message.

Among many in the FNRP, the timing of the crime – at the same time as the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights hearing held in Washington – is part of that message, reminiscent of the attack on the family lawyer Jari Dixon Herrera immediately following a CNN interview in Washington DC.

While the attackers’ identity is not known, it is important to note that when current Minister of Government Oscar Alvarez served as Minister of Government, under the administration of President Maduro, he instituted a practice in which police dressed in civilian clothes and wearing ski masks (of varying types) participate in raids.  Their appearance makes them indistinguishable from organized crime assassins, who operate with impunity throughout Honduras and the region.

This is the same modus operandi of state terrorism and death squads that operated in U.S. backed regimes in Honduras throughout the 1970s and 1980s, during the so-called ‘cold war’.

During the eight months since the June 28, 2009 military coup in Honduras, dozens of FNRP activists have been killed, some during illegal detention by police forces, others in death squad type situations like the killing of Professor Manuel.

There is not a credible or functional justice system operating in Honduras.  Proper investigation by Honduran authorities is not possible.

In reaction to the killing, teachers are holding a national strike and there is a national protest scheduled to occur March 25.

Millions of Hondurans, along with the Organization of American States (OAS) and many nations around the world, do not recognize the legitimacy of the current acting president of Honduras, Pep Lobo.

The FNRP continues to struggle for the legitimate goal of convoking a constitutional convention to create a new constitution since the current one, formulated in 1981 amidst widespread repression and militarization, does not adequately protect the rights of citizens.

The massive support the call for a new constitution enjoys among Hondurans resulted in the violent military overthrow of the elected president in June 2009 and the de facto powers are attempting to silence this on-going demand through violence such as the killing of Professor Manuel.

UNITED STATES & CANADA
The US and Canadian governments must be held partially responsible for the on-going State terrorism and repression in Honduras.

  • The US and Canada indirectly legitimized the military-oligarchic regime after the June 28th military coup;
  • they recognized the illegal “elections” on November 28, 2009;
  • they attended the January 27, 2010 “transfer of power”, when the regime of current leader Pepe Lobo took power;
  • they are now promoting the “normalization of relations” with Honduras in the international community;
  • both governments continue to ignore the well-documented State-sponsored killings and repression;
  • both work to invisibilize the massive social movement and the call for a new constitution.

The legitimate struggle of the majority of Hondurans – peaceful and courageous – continues.  They need on-going support.  They also need Canadians and Americans to pressure our own governments – the main supporters of the Honduran regime – to condemn the systemic repression in Honduras; to not turn a blind eye to repression and impunity and casually maintain full political, economic and military relations with the regime.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Annie Bird, annie@rightsaction.org, 1-202-680-3002 & Grahame Russell, info@rightsaction.org, 1-860-352-2448.  www.rightsaction.org

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[en] Human Rights Platform: Prevent Intensification of Violence in Aguan Region

Press Release

We Must Prevent the Intensification of Violent Incidents in the Lower Aguan

The Human Rights Platform, in its travels to learn in situ about the conditions of violence in the Aguan Valley and the conditions in which the families organized in the Aguan Unified Farmworkers’ Movement (MUCA) live, visited the La providencia de la Concepción, La Aurora, La Confianza and Los Camarones cooperatives, located along the right-hand riverbank, and the Guanchías cooperative along the left bank.

From this visit, we summarize our report in the following points:

* The facts learned refute the media campaign that criminalizes the actions taken by MUCA, relating them to guerilla groups advised by foreigners who supposedly operate in the region;

* We confirmed the presence in the land occupations of families including children (including infants), pregnant women, seniors, disabled people, living in deplorable conditions;

* The Human Rights Platform has documented complaints that reflect a state of distress, helplessness, and anxiety, caused by the presence of groups armed with sophisticated military equipment (weapons with laser beams and night vision) that harass the population in the area, violent evictions, and constant death threats against members of the different cooperatives;

* The testimonies highlight that various people have been injured as a result of the violent evictions and acts of intimidation, and that a series of anomalies has taken place during illegal detentions: arrest and detention of minors (children between 5 and 8 years of age); confinement in places of detention with no legal authorization (a case in which detainees were held in military facilities in the region); the supposed authorities did not identify themselves at the moment arrest, and did not read the detainees’ rights or inform them of the supposed charges.

* We denounce the precarious situation of the families claiming their right to land in the lower Aguan. Among our discoveries in the settlements, we found that there is little food, serious signs of malnutrition, unsanitary conditions, huts made of palm fronds and/or plastic, where entire families live, and ontop of all of this the lack of medical attention that may cause problems in the children’s development. Furthermore, the Human Rights Platform is concerned about the impossibility of obtaining a working income while the crisis continues.

* In the case of the Guanchías cooperative, the families occupying the property are living in warehouses with toxic waste, which represents a threat to their health. Ontop of this, ten people with rabies due to bat bites have been identified.

* Apart from the violations of the rights to life and to physical and psychological integrity, the rights to education, health, and food are being violated.

As the Human Rights Platform, we declare ourselves in constant vigilance with respect to the situation in the lower Aguan, taking into account that it demands prioritized attention in terms of human rights.

We demand that the Special Attorney’s Office on Human Rights pay close attention to the conflict posed in this region and we encourage the national and international community and international human rights organizations to issue statements with regard to the observations presented in this release.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 24, 2010.

CDM-CIPRODEH-CODEH-COFADEH-CPTRT-FIAN

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[en] Human Rights Platform concerned about potential eviction in Aguan Valley

Human Rights Platform warns of possible violent eviction of farmworkers’ settlements in the lower Aguan

The Human Rights Platform informs the national and international community of the possible violent eviction of the families organized in the Aguan United Farmworkers Movement (MUCA) engaged in land occupations in the Aguan Valley. According to reports received about the current state of the negotiations, the designated governmental commission will present a written proposal to the farmworkers’ movement today.

MUCA has announced that it will analyse the proposal with its members and will then make a declaration on the subject. The concern is that if the farmworkers’ response does not please the landowners, the latter may proceed to an eviction using the traditional violent methods that, given the current circumstances, could result in deaths and injuries.

According to formal complaints obtained in the region, heavily armed uniformed groups aided by special equipment for nocturnal operations patrol the areas surrounding the farmworkers’ settlements in a threatening way.

The Human Rights Platform believes that the necessary precautions should be taken to avoid potential violence, which would once again endanger the physical and psychological integrity of thousands involved in the conflict.

The Honduran State is responsible for preventing and guaranteeing that citizens’ human rights are respected and for punishing the perpetrators of crimes against the physical integrity of others. It is also responsible for ensuring that farmworkers have access to land and other resources to live decently.

We demand that the Special Attorney’s Office on Human Rights pay attention to events in the region and take measures appropriate to the particular conditions there in order to avoid greater trouble.

We ask that international human rights organizations, populations, and governments demand of Porfirio Lobo Sosa the immediate dismantling of paramilitary squadrons and a halt to actions of repressive State forces biased in favour of the landowners.

Tegucigalpa, MDC, Honduras, March 24, 2010

CDM, CIPRODEH, CODEH, COFADEH, CPTRT and FIAN

[translation from the original Spanish version by Sandra Cuffe]

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