Oct 25, 2013
Four leaders of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) are being persecuted by the Honduran court systems for standing up for a local community, the Lenca people, who were not consulted about the construction of a hydroelectric project on their lands. This is COPINH's latest call for solidarity.
The Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH)’s General Coordinators are calling for the solidarity of grassroots organizations, progressive social and political groups, the resistance as a whole, national and international human rights organizations and the media.
We would like to inform you about a situation that took place as a result of political persecution against our organization by the Honduran courts, which are racist and follow the orders of private corporations. We are referring in particular to the cases of Bertha Isabel Cáceres Flores, General Coordinator, and Aureliano Molina Villanueva and Tomas Gómez Membreño, communicators and indigenous members of the grassroots and of the executive committee. They are being persecuted for COPINH’s defense of the collective and individual rights of the communities of Rio Blanco, of common goods, of the rights of the Lenca people in general and for their struggle against the privatization of River Gualcarque.
For all of the above we hereby express the following:
1. That the case brought about by DESA corporation against our colleagues, accusing them of damage and sedition is now at the appeals court of Camayagu. Legally, the court has up to five days to respond to the appeal filed by COPINH’s lawyers. Judge Lissien Lisseth Knight sentenced Bertha Caceres to prison and Tomas Gomez and Aureliano Molina to punitive measures, including appearing in court every fortnight and forbidding them to go to the places where the incidents purportedly took place, as claimed by the Attorney General Henry Alexander Pineda and private lawyers led by Juan Carlos Sanchez Cantiyan.
2. That on October 3rd, at the request of DESA, Judge Lissien Lisseth Knight changed the punitive measures in the case of Aureliano Molina. The new measures included banishing him from neighboring communities, even though it is an unconstitutional and ridiculous measure to ban someone from visiting his or her ancestral lands.
3. That in the case of the court’s false accusation of “illegal possession of arms to the detriment of the internal security of the State of Honduras” brought against Bertha Caceres by the Army and the Attorney General’s office, the Appeals Court of Santa Barbara gives absolute priority and credibility to the testimonies of the military officers of the Army Engineers Batallion. Besides, there has not been an investigation into who are the actual owners of the weapon planted in COPINH’s vehicle, which has been used as evidence to accuse Bertha Caceres, even though there is no evidence, records or expert opinions to support this accusation. This is a way of rendering legal the Army’s illegal acts to criminalize even further the struggle of COPINH and of the Indigenous Peoples. The increasing cases brought against Bertha Caceres show the bad faith and racism of a judiciary at the service of colonial companies.
4. For all of the above we demand the Appeals Court of Comayagua and the judiciary in general to:
-Stick to the law, which includes the indigenous law, by securing the right to justice, truth, the respect of territories, culture and spirituality of the Lenca People, as well as the full and effective enforcement of ILO’s Convention 169.
- To not treat the people who are the actual invaders and usurpers of territories, common goods and life of the Lenca People as victims. This case involves the corporation DESA, which has caused historical and irreparable damage, such as the murder of Tomas Garcia by the mercenary Honduran army at the service of the company. His murder has remained unpunished and it has sown insecurity in our communities, by seeking to divide them, or threaten them with the presence of military and assassins.
-To annul the decision of the Court of Intibuca regarding the aforementioned accusations, and the sentence to prison of Bertha Caceres, the punitive measures against Aureliano Molina and Tomas Gómez Membreño. We also demand the annulment of a court warrant for the eviction of the communities of Rio Blanco.
-That justice be served on those who, from their position of power, are denying the existence of the Lenca People and of our native peoples, such as Deputy Attorney General Rigoberto Cuellar, former Minister of SERNA (Natural and Environmental Resources Secretariat).
JUDGES: LAWYERS HUMBERTO MIDENCE (Presiding the C.A.); RUBEN RIVERA FLORES; OMAR BONILLA.
PHONE/FAX: (504) 27.72.01.76
Our voices of life, justice, freedom, dignity and peace raise with the ancient strength of Icelaca, Lempira, Mota and Etempica!
No more criminalization of COPINH! Stop the criminalization of the right to defend our rivers, territories, ancient culture and lives!
Rio Blanco is not a barracks! Army and Police out of Rio Blanco!
Intibucá, October 21st, 2013
Chair of Friends of the Earth International Jagoda Munic reflects on the international solidarity mission to Palestine
Monday, October 14th 2013
It is time to go home. On the way to the airport by taxi, I was stopped at a check point. A soldier asked where I had been and whether I had passed check points. They searched a rucksack belonging to the taxi driver for weapons. The driver, an Israeli Jew, said later: “It is always a problem when you travel from Jerusalem. There are many Arabs there, and if they stop them, they keep them for a half an hour or longer at the check point. That is way I always tell them that I drive from Tel Aviv, not from Jerusalem. But now, I couldn’t because of you, so that our stories are not different. There are people from Spain, and other countries coming to help Palestinians. Coming to the airport from Jerusalem is always a problem.” We got to the airport, two and a half hours before the scheduled departure. My mind was still stuck on the check point. But little did I know what was ahead of me.
At the airport, my passport was checked 5 times. Apart from where I had been, with whom, etc. they asked me if I had explosives, why had I been in Malaysia (twice), do I know anyone there and where did I stay there (note these travels were in 2010 and 2005 respectively.).
They manually searched all my check-in and hand luggage and I was interviewed by security officers twice. They pulled out Palestinian scarves I had bought and threw them on top of the stuff, as if I was smuggling drugs. Of course, they found a copy of the FoEI annual report and the publication 'Environmental injustice and violations of the Israeli occupation of Palestine' and asked me about FoEI. One security officer said that my readings were rather biased towards the Palestinian perspective, and that he has a feeling that I do not say all the truth. I replied: “What is the whole truth?”. After this, they let me stand there for a while, searched my things a bit more. Then the lady that was searching my things escorted me to the check in desk and then on to a hand luggage scan.
Though I seemed to pass the scan, they put “samples” of something – they wouldn't tell me what – into a computer. The computer display turned red and an alarm went off. They said that they found a little problem in my hand luggage and that they need to search it thoroughly. They took me aside for a body search. Three of them went through all of my stuff, opening jars of cream, pulling coins out of my wallet and taking shots with my camera. I was intimidated of course, but even more worried that they would delete my photographs. I was also worried that they would write down the names of people we met from the notebook and business cards I had with me. After more questions about which hotel I had stayed at etc., they took my laptop out of my hand luggage and put it in a box, which was sent on the same plane. I got the laptop back in Zagreb with my check in luggage.
In the end, I was escorted to passport control and had to go straight to the gate, just in time before the already full plane started to roll off. I was thirsty, exhausted and angry all at the same time. I reckon that is how they treat “Palestinian friends”, as the rest of the team was also questioned and searched. Perhaps this experience is the final proof that what we have observed and heard from Palestinian people is not an exaggeration, but a harsh and underreported reality.
I am now home in Zagreb. It is sunny after rain and green parks are turning in the autumn yellow and red colors. Such a contrast to the dry landscape of Palestine. Croatian problems seem insignificant in comparison with Palestinian, despite our troublesome history in the Balkans and the many economic, social and environmental problems we face.
But what have I learned from this trip? Has this visit to Palestine changed me? And what we can do about it?
You see, before I went to Israel and Palestine, I would not consider myself pro-Palestinian. I was following the conflict superficially. I also know, from the war in Croatia and later in Bosnia, that the media are quite biased and that each side has its own version of a story. I am also very reluctant to jump to conclusions. I prefer to have good information before I make my mind. I did some reading and watched some documentaries prior to the trip.
But nothing prepared me for the harsh reality of Palestine. It is not about two equal sides fighting each other, for reasons illogical to outsiders. There is one side that has much more power and it is abusing this power at every step in the West Bank. The oppression perpetrated by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories is so apparent, that is not surprising that they do not want foreigners to visit the area. It is understandable that Palestinians aim to stop the occupation and that they see it as a root cause of environmental degradation. I also have a much better insight into the work of PENGON - FoE Palestine, that on one side, politically exposes environmental degradation and injustice, but their member groups are working in the fields with poor communities providing access to water and electricity. Indeed, If we stand for environmental and social justice and anti-militarization, we have to support their work and provide accurate information to international fora. I have no doubt that the way to go is to join the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. The boycott has worked well in the case Montgomery and helped in the case of South African apartheid system, so I believe it can work in the case of Palestine too.