IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Condemns Killing of Members of the Tolupán Indigenous Peoples in Honduras

March 7, 2016

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001
mrivero@oas.org

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of five members of the Tolupán indigenous peoples in Honduras, from the community of San Francisco de Locomapa. One of the victims was Mr. Santos Matute, a member of the Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia (MADJ) and a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR. The Commission urges the Honduran State to immediately conduct an investigation on its own initiative, in order to clarify the circumstances in which these killings occurred and to prosecute and punish those materially and intellectually responsible.   

According to the information received by the IACHR, on February 21, 2016, Nahún Alberto Morazán, Roberto Carlos Palencia, José Alvarenga, Elvin Joel Alvarenga and Santos Matute, all members of the Tolupán indigenous peoples, were assassinated in San Francisco de Locomapa. Although four of them died immediately, Santos Matute was transferred while wounded by gunshots to the Mario Catarino Rivas de San Pedro Sula Hospital, where he died on February 22, 2016. Mr. Stantos Matute was the beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR on December 19, 2013 because of threats, harassment and acts of violence members of the MADJ were subjected to for their work defending the natural resources of indigenous peoples in the Locomapa sector of the Yoro Department.

In its report on the Situation of Human Rights in Honduras, published on February 18, 2016, the IACHR analyzed with preoccupation the situation of risk of the Tolupán indigenous peoples in the context of the execution of mining and hydroelectric projects in their territories without their free, prior and informed consent. The report noted that 17 members of the Tolupán peoples had been killed in the past years without their killings having been properly investigated. The IACHR recalls that indigenous and tribal peoples have the right to enjoy effective control over their territories and to be free from interference from people who seek to maintain or take control of their territories by force or by any other means, to the detriment of their rights as indigenous peoples. States also are obligated to prevent acts of violence and to protect indigenous and tribal peoples who are affected by such acts when they occur within the context of territorial disputes. The existence of an active precautionary measure of the IACHR means that State authorities were informed of the imminent risk of great harm in which the beneficiaries of the measure found themselves, making it particularly preoccupying that the necessary and urgent measures to guarantee their security were not adopted.

The IACHR calls on the Honduran State to investigate these killings without delay and with due diligence, as well as to promptly prosecute and punish those responsible. The Commission reiterates that acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders not only affect the basic guarantees owed to every human being, but also undermine the fundamental role that human rights defenders play in society and leave defenseless all those for whom they fight.

Accordingly, the Commission urges the competent authorities to follow all logical lines of investigation, including the possibility that these killings were motivated by the activities of these indigenous leaders as human rights defenders. In turn, the IACHR urges the Honduran State to adopt all necessary measures to ensure that human rights defenders can carry out their activities of denunciation, accompaniment, and protection, free from attacks or acts of violence that endanger their life, integrity, and safety. It also urges the State of Honduras to adopt immediate measures to protect the life and integrity of members of the Tolupán indigenous peoples, their leaders and human rights defenders, in a way which respects their cultural identity, perspective and conception of human rights, in the aim of avoiding repetition of these acts.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 028/16