Honduras: Trial of Guapinol defenders begins as state continues to ignore calls for their release

  • The trial of the Guapinol human rights defenders begins on 1 December, after 2 years of unlawful detention.
  • Human rights defenders featured in CIVICUS's #StandAsMy Witness Campaign.
  • United Nations declared their detention is arbitrary and called for their release.
  • Honduras was recently elected to the UN Human Rights Council for the first time.
  • Honduras is one of the most dangerous places for environmental rights defenders.

After more than two years in pre-trial detention, eight members of the Committee for the Defence of Common and Public Assets (CMDBCP) are set to begin trial on 1 December 2021 in Honduras for defending protected water sources and natural resources of communities in danger of mining-related contamination. Referred to as the "Guapinol human rights defenders", they have been advocating against a Guapinol mining project in Tocoa, in the department of Colón in Honduras. The eight defenders were detained on 1 September 2019 and have been kept arbitrarily in pre-trial detention without any legal basis.

The eight defenders are Ewer Alexander Cedillo Cruz, José Abelino Cedillo Cantarero, José Daniel Márquez Márquez, Kelvin Alejandro Romero Martínez, Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, Orbin Nahuan Hernández, Arnol Javier Alemán and Jeremías Martínez. They were initially arrested on 26 August 2019 while protesting against the mining activities of the Honduras company Inversiones Los Pinares (ILP), which threatens the safety and livelihood of thousands of people in communities in the department of Colón. ILP was granted mining concessions by the state of Honduras in 2014, and its ongoing mining projects have contaminated water sources. Projects are being implemented without adequate consultations with the communities affected.

"Even though civil society groups in Honduras and members of the international community have repeatedly raised concerns over the continued detention and judicial persecution of the eight human rights defenders, the Honduran authorities are proceeding with the trial. The judicial process has been flawed so far, and the human rights defenders should be released immediately," said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead, CIVICUS.

The CMDBCP was set up primarily to raise awareness about the impact of the Guapinol project mining activities and advocate against mining communities' actions on behalf of the people affected. More than 32 members of CMDBCP have been subjected to judicial persecution and arbitrary detention and six have been killed. Many more continue to face threats and intimidation. The targeting of members of CMDBCP is symptomatic of the violence and human rights violations against environmental and land rights activists, making Honduras one of the most dangerous countries for activists working on climate justice and environmental rights globally.

On 9 February 2021, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions established that the deprivation of the liberty of the Guapinol human rights defenders is arbitrary and called on Honduras to release them immediately. In October 2021, Honduras was elected as a member of the Human Rights Council for the first time.

"Honduras continues to ignore findings by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions and sends a conflicting message about its human rights commitments as a member of the UN Human Rights Council," David continued.

The Guapinol human rights defenders are part of the CIVICUS #StandAsMyWitness campaign - a global campaign that advocates for the rights of human rights defenders and calls for their release.

CIVICUS calls on the new Honduras government to respect the rule of law and immediately release the Guapinol human rights defenders and hold those responsible for human rights violations accountable.

For more information on civic space violations, visit the Honduras country page on the CIVICUS Monitor.