Honduras blatantly lies in public hearing before IACHR regarding situation of Guapinol Defenders
We denounce the blatant lies of the Honduran State in the public hearing "Human Rights and Extractive Projects in Honduras", held before the IACHR on March 19, 2021. This hearing was requested through an articulation of civil society organizations including the Tocoa Municipal Committee in Defense of Common and Public Assets.
Today, before the IACHR and the national and international human rights community, Nelson Molina, Director of Human Rights and International Litigation at the Solicitor General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la Republica PGR) misleadingly said that the Guapinol River Defender Jeremías Martínez has been released after an acquittal in his favor on March 17. This is totally false.
- Jeremías Martínez faced trial for the crimes of usurpation and damages to the detriment of the extractive company Inversiones Los Pinares during the months of February and March 2021. This, after being arbitrarily detained for more than two years and three months. Read more about Jeremías' judicial process.
- We denounce that during the trial, the PGR acted as public accusation, together with the Public Prosecutor's Office of Tocoa and the private accusation, Inversiones Los Pinares. In its conclusions, the PGR requested a conviction despite the fact that no evidence was presented that would prove the alleged crimes of usurpation and damages were committed. In other words, far from promoting his freedom, as urged by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in its Opinion 85/2020, and as alluded to today, the Attorney General's Office has played a decisive role in criminalizing and maintaining the arbitrary detention of Jeremías Martínez.
- At the culmination of the trial of Jeremías Martínez, on March 19, 2021, the Sentencing Court with National Territorial Jurisdiction acquitted Jeremías Martínez of all crimes. During the trial it was proven that Jeremías Martínez, together with hundreds of other people concerned about the risks posed by mining exploitation in the Carlos Escaleras National Park, exercised their legitimate right of association and protest in defense of the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers by setting up and participating in the "Water and Life Camp", a legitimate expression of defense of common and public goods. The unfounded accusation promoted by the PGR and Public Prosecutors served as a reason to violently evict the camp in October 2018. Read more about the accusation and the camp.
- Despite the acquittal in his favor, Jeremías Martínez is still in jail because, along with seven other people, he has another judicial process promoted by the Public Prosecutor's Office of Tocoa and Inverisones Los Pinares for the crimes of aggravated arson and unjust deprivation of liberty, for which five more defenders are also in danger of detention. We recall that in the first instance, the PGR played a perverse role in this judicial case to promote the accusation of "Illicit Association" against the defenders, which served as the initial motive to deprive them of their freedom. We recall the use of illegal evidence against the defenders to sustain these accusations that served to stigmatize their legitimate defense of the environment.
- To clarify the lies of the PGR expressed today before the IACHR - Jeremías Martínez continues to be arbitrarily detained and has not been released, along with seven other defenders. Far from promoting their freedom, the Honduran State continues to knowingly keep the defenders of Guapinol and San Pedro in jail arbitrarily. Furthermore, it does not investigate the numerous complaints of corruption and fraud against state authorities, and of environmental contamination against the mining company Inversiones Los Pinares.
We demand the immediate release of José Daniel Márquez Márquez, Kelvin Alejandro Romero Martínez, José Abelino Cedillo, Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, Orbín Nahúm Hernández, Arnold Javier Alemán, Ewer Alexander Cedillo Cruz and Jeremías Martínez Díaz who remain arbitrarily imprisoned in Honduras.
In its resolution 85/2020, the Working Group stressed that there is no legal reason for the use of preventive detention in the case of defenders José Daniel Márquez Márquez, Kelvin Alejandro Romero Martínez, José Abelino Cedillo, Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, Orbín Nahúm Hernández, Arnold Javier Alemán, Ewer Alexander Cedillo Cruz and Jeremías Martínez Díaz and emphasized that the State is punishing them for being environmental defenders and for exercising their legitimate rights. Furthermore, he stressed that there is no reason to prosecute them in the first place. He emphasized that they should be released and redressed and that those responsible for the illegal detention should be investigated.
The Arbitrary Detention Group urged the State not to wait because every day they do not release them, they are committing another violation. They also stressed that due to the COVID crisis, the release is urgent.
One month later, the Honduran State has not responded. We have followed up with all the institutions responsible for guaranteeing their release and they have done nothing. Now, one of the defenders, who suffers from a pre-existing disease, is COVID positive which increases his risk.
In addition, there are at least 15 more positive cases but the number may be much higher given the overcrowded conditions and lack of prevention measures. The outbreak in the Olanchito detention center means that other defenders are also at risk.
The Honduran state knowingly holds the Guapinol Water Defenders in illegal detention and puts their lives at risk. The state is responsible for their well-being and physical integrity and has an obligation to release the defenders now.
Read more: bit.ly/DetencionIlegalGuapinol