Monday, February 27, 2012

New Threats In Aguan- Amnesty International

Amnesty International - HONDURAS:  
Two human rights activists in the Lower Aguán region in Honduras received a death threat on 22 February.
Wilfredo Paz is the spokesperson of the Permanent Observatory of Human Rights in the Aguán (Observatorio Permanente de Derechos Humanos del Aguán), a group that monitors human rights violations in the Aguán region. He is also a member of the National Front of Popular Resistance (Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, FNRP). Juan Chinchilla is an activist with the group Campesino Unified Movement of Aguán (Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán, MUCA), campaigning for land rights of peasant farmers amid ongoing disputes over land ownership. The Observatory and MUCA have been working together on a number of initiatives, and were both involved in the organization of the International Meeting in Solidarity with the Aguán that took place from 17 to 20 February. The meeting drew substantial media attention to the human rights situation in the Aguán.

On the morning of 22 February, Wilfredo Paz received a threat by SMS, directed at Juan Chinchilla. The SMS said “Can you read well? Juan Chinchilla. Your name is on the list we’re after your head. You’re running things you shouldn’t do, but we’ll look for you in the same way you’re looking for socialism” (Lee bien? Juan Chinchilla. Tu nombre está en la lista buscamos tu cabeza .Estás ejecutando cosas que no deves de hacer, pero te vamos a buscar como tu buscas el socialismo). Although Wilfredo Paz was not mentioned in the message, he also feels threatened as it was sent to his phone, and because he has received threats in the past. Neither Wilfredo Paz nor Juan Chinchilla reported the threat, due to a deep lack of trust in the authorities which has escalated in recent months due to forced evictions, arbitrary detention and harassment of human rights defenders by police.

Wilfredo Paz is a beneficiary of Precautionary Measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2009 due to concerns for his safety, which ensure that he receives adequate protection in accordance with his wishes. No action has been taken by the authorities to comply with Precautionary Measures. Juan Chinchilla was kidnapped in January 2011 by unknown men, and was ill-treated before managing to escape. The incident was immediately reported to the authorities, but to date no one has been held to account.  

* Call for an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the threats against Wilfredo Paz and Juan Chinchilla, with the results made public and those responsible brought to justice.
* Urge the authorities to take immediate steps to provide appropriate protection to Wilfredo Paz and Juan Chinchilla, in accordance with their wishes.

Attorney General:
Sr. Luis Alberto Rubí  
Fiscal General de la República
Lomas del Guijarro, Avenida República Dominicana
Edificio Lomas Plaza II           
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Fax:                  011 504 2221 5667
Salutation:     Sr. Fiscal General / Dear Attorney General

Minister for Justice and Human Rights:
Ana Pineda
Ministra de Justicia y Derechos Humanos
Col. Lomas del Mayab,
Ave. República de Costa Rica
Tegucigalpa MDC, Honduras
Salutation:     Estimada Sra. Ministra / Dear Minister

Non-governmental organization:
Observatorio Permanente Internacional de Derechos Humanos en el Aguán         

The Lower Aguán region is at the centre of a series of land disputes between peasant farming communities and various companies and private landowners that have erupted into violent clashes. Since 2011, large numbers of military personnel have been deployed to the Aguán region amid concerns of unrest. There have been widespread reports by campesino groups that private security guards and military have targeted peasant communities. Forced evictions have been reportedly carried out by the security forces. For example Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action following the forced eviction of the community of Rigores in June 2011 (AMR 37/006/2011,  

The Honduran government and peasant farmers’ organizations, including MUCA, have been negotiating a solution to the conflict that would see the sale of the disputed lands from a private owner to the organizations with the mediation of the state. In February, a provisional agreement on land ownership was reached with some, but not all, of the communities. While the talks have been taking place in recent months, human rights organizations and activists in the area have been reporting harassment and intimidation against  local community activists, both men and women, and unlawful killings.

Kathy Price, Campaigner
Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking Branch)
1992 Yonge Street, 3rd Floor, Toronto, Ontario M4S 1Z7
Tel: 416.363.9933 ext 322
Fax: 416.363.3101

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