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Human Rights and Faith Organizations from the United States, Africa and Europe Demand the Safe Return of Honduran Garifuna leaders and Respect for Land Rights

  • JASS

More than 100 organizations from around the world have called for the immediate release of five men abducted July 18 in Triunfo de la Cruz, Honduras. The men are Garifuna land rights defenders, several of them leaders in the internationally known indigenous rights organization, the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH).

The forced disappearance takes place in the context of the Honduran government’s failure to comply with resolutions from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) regarding the legal right of the Garifuna people to their lands, reparations and protection. The organizations call on the Honduran government, the U.S. State Department, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and Court (IACHR), the World Bank and governments throughout the world to pressure for justice and an end to the attacks on the Garifuna communities. Mega-projects backed by foreign interests have fueled many of the land grabs that have decimated Garifuna territories and livelihoods in recent years.

“As the movement for Black lives grows around the world, the disappearance of the Garifuna leaders is a critical moment for demonstrating our solidarity and also in revealing the links between elite economic and political interests and the violence we see globally against Black peoples”, said Shereen Essof, Executive Director of Just Associates (JASS), among the organizations that initiated the letter.

OFRANEH recently denounced a slander campaign against the disappeared men, who were violently taken from their homes by men in Honduran police uniforms. The organization has called for a full investigation that is not led by the security forces allegedly involved in the crime, and accused the Honduran government of maintaining a criminal structure at the service of the state.

The statement of concern urges maximum pressure at the international level to return the men safely home, prosecute those responsible for the crime and assure enforcement of the legal rights of the Garifuna.


Contact OFRANEH:

International Statement of Concern and Solidarity with the Garifuna People of Honduras

We, the undersigned organizations, are deeply concerned about the fate of five Black Garifuna men, leaders of their Garifuna community, abducted July 18, 2020 by armed men in police uniforms in Triunfo de la Cruz, Tela township, Honduras.  We demand the immediate, safe return of Alberto Snider Centeno, Milton Joel Martínez Álvarez, Suami Aparicio Mejía Garcia, Gerardo Mizael Rochez Cálix and Junior Rafael Juarez Mejia. The young men are active in the defense of black indigenous land rights in the region and several are members of the internationally-known Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) and received previous threats for their defense of their community.

The abduction of the young men follows a pattern of violence and harassment over the past years. The Garifuna people have bravely defended their rights and their lands against land grabs by megaprojects in palm oil and tourism and invasions by drug traffickers. In 2019 alone, 18 Garifuna leaders were murdered in still-unpunished crimes. Residents of Santa Rosa de Aguán report that on July 17 of this year, their rivers were poisoned, killing thousands of fish which are their livelihood. 

Garifuna communities of Triunfo de la Cruz won an historic court decision in 2015, when the Inter-American Court of Human Rights established that their rights to collective property, community rights, judicial rights and the right to life had been systematically violated by the Honduran government, and ordered protection and reparations. The Honduran government did not comply with the terms of the ruling, and instead numerous groups, with the overt or tacit support of the Honduran government, have continued to attack the Garifuna people and steal and contaminate their lands.

We join the Garifuna people in Honduras and in the diaspora in demanding urgent resolution of this crime, and full prosecution of those responsible, not only the individuals who carried out the abduction, but also of those behind it. We also demand compliance with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling, application of the precautionary measures assigned the communities, protection and the guarantee of full rights for the Garifuna people, including their rights to control over their lands and territories enshrined in Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal People of the International Labor Organization.

We demand maximum pressure be brought to bear to assure that these five men are returned unharmed to their families.


Just Asssociates (JASS), Americas Program; Red DESC/ International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; MS Black Women’s Roundtable; Global Witness; Oxfam America; Mijente; Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES); Protection International Mesoamérica; International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific); Friendship Office of the Americas; Interfaith Worker Justice; Otros Mundos AC; Unitarian Universalist Service Committee; CODEPINK; ‘Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui à la Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale; Community Resource Centre Foundation, University of San Francisco Immigration & Deportation Defense Clinic; Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective; Nicaragua Center for Community Action; Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO); Not1More; PAN: Priority Africa Network; Recourse; Center for Human Rights and Environment (CEDHA); Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional – CEJIL para México y Centroamérica; International Accountability Project; Project HEARD; CASA; Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER); Coalition for Women Prisoners; Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network; Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP); African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS); Global Exchange; Latin America Working Group (LAWG); Adagio; Move to End Violence; Latin American & Caribbean Solidarity Network; Women, Human Security and Sustainable Peace Collective; Task Force on the Americas; African Advocacy Network PAN; Payday Men’s Network – US/UK; #FreeToo Rising LLC; NCDG; WellShare International; F.I.R.E. (Fight for Im/Migrant Rights Everywhere); Latinx Therapists Action Network; Social Policy Research Associates; Lokshakti Abhiyan; Earth Evolution; Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL); Solidarity Collective; OAASIS–Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service; Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca AC; Witness at the Border/International Tribunal of Conscience of People in Movement;; Freedom Inc; Instituto Paz; Witness Radio – Uganda; Tewa Women United; Iniciativa Meosamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos; Al-Haq Network; Movement for Justice and Development; Concerned Belizeans; Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala; Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO).

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