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Upcoming hearing of members of Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos amid increasing tensions

Status: 
Pretrial detention
About the situation

The hearing of the members of the Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos (CMDBCP), Antonio Martínez Ramos (deceased), Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, José Abelino Cedillo, Kelvin Alejandro Romero, Arnold Javier Alemán, Ever Alexander Cedillo, Orbin Nahún Hernández y Daniel Márquez and Jeremías Martínez, scheduled for 28 August 2019 in the National Jurisdiction Court in San Pedro Sula, was suspended after their defence attorneys recused the judge for irregularities in the process. The case was then transferred to the National Court of Jurisdiction of Tegucigalpa, where, on 31 August 2019, the defence lawyers of the mining company Los Pinares recused Judge Victor Mendez for abuse of power. The new judge appointed to the case is Lizeth Vallecillo.

On 27 August 2019, nine human rights defenders, all members of the Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos, were sent to pretrial detention in connection to the trial they are facing related to the defense of the San Pedro and Guapinol Rivers. The next hearing on the case is scheduled for 29 August 2019.

About Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos (CMDBCP)

The Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos (CMDBCP) is an organisation in Tocoa, in the department of Colón, comprised of several organisations defending land and environmental rights: the Environmental Committees of Sector San Pedro (13 communities) and Sector Committee Abisinia (14 communities); the Environmental Committee of the Community of Guapinol, campesino groups and the organisations Coordinadora de Organizaciones Populares del Aguán (COPA); Fundación San Alonso Rodríguez (FSAR) and Parroquia San Isidro de Tocoa. The objective of CMDBCP is to provide a platform in which these organizations can mobilise resources in order to protect public goods in the region and to advocate for the right to food, water and a safe environment.

4 September 2019
Hearing against members of Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos (CMDBCP)

The hearing of the members of the Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos (CMDBCP), Antonio Martínez Ramos (deceased), Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, José Abelino Cedillo, Kelvin Alejandro Romero, Arnold Javier Alemán, Ever Alexander Cedillo, Orbin Nahún Hernández y Daniel Márquez and Jeremías Martínez, scheduled for 28 August 2019 in the National Jurisdiction Court in San Pedro Sula, was suspended after their defence attorneys recused the judge for irregularities in the process. The case was then transferred to the National Court of Jurisdiction of Tegucigalpa, where, on 31 August 2019, the defence lawyers of the mining company Los Pinares recused Judge Victor Mendez for abuse of power. The new judge appointed to the case is Lizeth Vallecillo.

The hearing began at 3 pm on 31 August 2019 and ended at 8:30 pm on 1 September 2019, when the judge dismissed the charges of "unlawful association" and "theft”. However, the judge formalised the charges of "arson" and "deprivation of liberty" for all human rights defenders, including Antonio Martínez Ramos, who died before the alleged events took place. The charges related to “damages” were dropped by the General Prosecutor’s office, for being comprised in the charge of “arson”. The CMDBCP members will remain in pretrial detention until the next hearing, which could take up to one year. The human rights defenders can request a review of the pretrial detention within three months.

Arnold Javier Alemán was granted temporary dismissal for "illegal occupation" and "damages" by Judge Claudio Aguilar (Judge of the Inter-Institutional National Security Force, composed of members of the armed forces) on 30 August 2019. The same charges were formalised in the case of Jeremías Martinez Díaz, who has been in pretrial detention since December 2018.

29 August 2019
Upcoming hearing of members of Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos amid increasing tensions

On 27 August 2019, nine human rights defenders, all members of the Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos, were sent to pretrial detention in connection to the trial they are facing related to the defense of the San Pedro and Guapinol Rivers. The next hearing on the case is scheduled for 29 August 2019.

Download the Urgent Appeal

The Comité Municipal de Defensa de los Bienes Comunes y Públicos (CMDBCP) is an organisation in Tocoa, in the department of Colón, comprised of several organisations defending land and environmental rights: the Environmental Committees of Sector San Pedro (13 communities) and Sector Committee Abisinia (14 communities); the Environmental Committee of the Community of Guapinol, campesino groups and the organisations Coordinadora de Organizaciones Populares del Aguán (COPA); Fundación San Alonso Rodríguez (FSAR) and Parroquia San Isidro de Tocoa. The objective of CMDBCP is to provide a platform in which these organizations can mobilise resources in order to protect public goods in the region and to advocate for the right to food, water and a safe environment.

On 27 August 2019, nine members of the Environmental Committee of the Community of Guapinol and Environmental Committees of Sector San Pedro Colón, were sent to pretrial detention after appearing voluntarily before the National Jurisdiction Court on 26 August 2019. This decision was taken as part of the trial against human rights defenders Antonio Martínez Ramos, who died three years before the events he allegedly took part in, Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, José Abelino Cedillo, Kelvin Alejandro Romero, Arnold Javier Alemán, Ever Alexander Cedillo, Orbin Nahún Hernández and Daniel Márquez. They are being charged with "unlawful association", "damages", "arson" and "deprivation of liberty". Jeremías Martínez Díaz is being held in pretrial detention in La Ceiba for the same case since December 2018. Furthermore, Arnold Javier Aleman is currently facing an initial hearing related to the same case and for charges of “illegal occupation” and “damages”. Both hearings are scheduled to take place in the National Jurisdiction Court in San Pedro Sula on 29 August 2019.

The trial is connected to the human rights defenders’ activities to protect the San Pedro and Guapinol rivers in 2018. In August and September 2018, the communities part of CMDBCP peacefully occupied the margins of a road that leads to the mining company Los Pinares. The human rights defenders maintained this peaceful protest against violations of the rights to access to land, food and water for more than three months, establishing the Guapinol camp in defense of water and life. The extractive activities began in 2014, contaminating the water of the Guapinol River and resulting in the death of animals and the spreading of disease among inhabitants of the area. There are allegations of irregularities in project licensing and implementation.

The legal process against the defenders of environmental and land rights began on 13 September 2018, when a Honduran court specialising in organised crime issued an arrest warrant against 18 of the members of the CMDBCP . In February 2019, a judge of the National Jurisdiction Court dismissed all charges against the defenders for lack of evidence, however, this decision was appealed by the Public Prosecutor's Office.

On 27 October 2018, members of the CMDBCP suffered police and military repression, whereammunition and tear gas bombs were used. The events resulted in the murder of a human rights defender. Ever since, state security forces are maintaining a constant presence in the region.

Members of the CMDBCP defend the right to land against human rights violations in the context of a mining project that was carried out without free, prior and informed consent of the communities. So far, six people have been killed in this conflict, the most recent killing occurred on 28 August 2019. Front Line Defenders is concerned at the escalation of military and police presence related to the ongoing trial against the human rights defenders.

Front Line Defenders remains concerned at the criminalisation of human rights defenders based on fabricated charges and the impact that this may have on their work defending environmental rights in Tocoa. Furthermore, Front Line Defenders remains worried at the misuse of pretrial detention that seeks to curtail their work and create a chilling effect on other members of the organisation.