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Honduras: Supreme Court must correct distorted ruling & free arbitrarily detained Guapinol defenders

For immediate release -

Tegucigalpa, April 7, 2021

The eight illegally detained Guapinol and Sector San Pedro water defenders filed an injunction today against the distorted and malicious ruling of the Court of Appeals of La Ceiba for violation of fundamental rights established in the Constitution of the Republic and International Human Rights Treaties. The legal action comes one day after the filing of a Habeas Corpus by the National Human Rights Ombudsperson (CONADEH) Commissioner, Blanca Izaguirre, urging the application of international standards to guarantee the immediate release of the defenders.

On December 18, 2020, a hearing to review the precautionary measure was held in the Court of Tocoa and Judge Zoé Guifarro decided to dismiss the defense's petition, illegally maintaining preventive detention. An appeal was then filed against this resolution before the Second Court of Appeals of La Ceiba.

On February 2, 2021, magistrates Irasema Guillén, Jimmy Chirinos and Garin Enoc Urquía confirmed the arbitrary detention of the eight water defenders, using a reasoning related to guilt, and then erroneously interpreting the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The La Ceiba Court rejected the defenders' argument that they had presented themselves voluntarily, that a reform to the Criminal Procedural Code allows for other measures besides pre-trial detention, and that the initial charges of illicit association had long since been dropped.

It is worth mentioning that at no time has the individual participation of the eight defenders in the alleged events of September 8, 2018, for which they are charged, been accredited. The Inter-American Court has determined that in order to deprive someone of liberty, sufficient evidence of that person's participation in the crime is required. However, the La Ceiba Court does not discuss the actions, or even the presence, of the eight defenders in the protest camp that day.

Moreover, the La Ceiba magistrates justify citing the seriousness of the alleged crimes by distorting international standards. This logic assumes that the defenders are guilty, and therefore clearly violates the presumption of "innocent until proven guilty" guaranteed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights. Pre-trial detention should be an "exceptional" measure enacted "solely to ensure the representation of the accused in the judicial process."

In February, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention publicly called on Honduras to remedy the situation of illegal detention without delay, but the State has not reacted to release and compensate the defenders.

The decision issued by the Court of Appeals of La Ceiba only demonstrates the failure of the Honduran authorities to comply with their human rights obligations by maintaining the detention without individual assessment and by misrepresenting human rights standards.

We urge the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice to correct the error of the Court of Appeals of La Ceiba to guarantee the immediate release of defenders Daniel Márquez, Kelvin Romero, José Abelino Cedillo, Porfirio Sorto, Orbín Hernández, Arnol Alemán, Ewer Cedillo Cruz who have been in illegal preventive detention for 585 days and Jeremías Martínez Díaz, illegall detained 855 days.

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