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