Honduran authorities must act to protect environmental defenders in the community of Guapinol and investigate threats and harassment against them, according to global civil society alliance CIVICUS. On 14 October 2020 Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo, one of 32 people criminalised for protesting a mining project in the area, was killed by unknown gunmen in his house in Guapinol.
The murder of Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo occurred as new judicial hearings in the Guapinol case are about to begin and takes place against a backdrop of extreme violence against the community and the defenders. The Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos de Tocoa (CMDBCP), an organisation that has been working for the protection of the Guapinol river, says these events are part of a campaign to destabilise the community and provoke fear in the hope of ending resistance to the mining project in Carlos Escaleras National Park.
Although Arnold Joaquín was not a member of the CMDBCP he had actively participated in the protests against the mining project in 2018. Days before the murder of Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo, the CMDBCP denounced an increase in surveillance and intimidation by the army and police in Guapinol; this pattern of harassment has persisted following his murder.
CMDBCP has also denounced online harassment and threats made against the committee and human rights defenders from the area. Such defamation campaigns have been reported to the Human Rights Prosecutor's Office which has so far failed to launch an investigation.
“The Guapinol Water Defenders continuously suffer stigmatisation and harassment because of their work defending human rights and the environment. The Honduran authorities should guarantee an immediate and thorough investigation into threats made against environmental defenders, and do more to protect their lives,” said Natalia Gomez, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns Officer covering Latin America.
On October 15 the legal team of the #GuapinolWaterDefenders presented a new request for a hearing to review the detention of 8 incarcerated defenders. CIVICUS calls on the Honduran authorities to set them free, and to guarantee the right to peaceful protest and association.
On 7 September 2018, dozens of armed security guards from the Los Pinares mining company came to intimidate a peaceful camp in the community of Guapinol that had been set up to demonstrate against an iron oxide mine operating illegally in the Carlos Escaleras National Park.
Following the peaceful protest, 13 defenders from Guapinol were charged with arson and unlawful deprivation of liberty. On September 1 2019, a judge ordered pre-trial detention for 8 defenders; they have been in jail for over a year despite the fact their charges - aggravated arson and unjust deprivation of liberty - do not usually result in imprisonment.
The case of the #GuapinolWaterDefenders is part of CIVICUS’s #StandAsMyWitness campaign, which calls for the immediate release of human rights defenders, and an end to their persecution. It also calls on states, authorities and multinational corporations to guarantee peaceful human rights activities - without fear of reprisals and intimidation.
For more information on civic space violations, visit the Honduras country page on the CIVICUS Monitor
CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organizations dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. CIVICUS has more than 10,000 members around the world.
The CIVICUS Monitor is an online participatory platform that monitors civic freedoms, including freedoms of expression, association and assembly, in 196 countries around the world.