PBI-Honduras notes letter from MEPs calling for release of Guapinol water defenders from prison

Published by Brent Patterson on

The Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project has highlighted on its Facebook page, “On April 3, in the midst of the COVID crisis, 20 European parliamentarians called on the Honduran authorities to release the Guapinol human rights defenders. They expressed their concern that ‘they are arbitrarily detained, without legal justification and in retaliation for their peaceful work in defense of the right to water.’”

Nine of the Members of the European Parliament who signed the letter are in the photo above. Six of the 20 signatories are from Ireland, 4 from Spain, while the rest are from Luxembourg, Portugal, France, Germany and Denmark.

On March 11, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned, “An outbreak of COVID-19 in prison could be devastating to the population there, especially an overcrowded prison where general health is already low.”

By March 20, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC/USA) and others requested the revocation of the preventive detention measure faced by defenders of Guapinol and the San Pedro sector in the context of the health emergency caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Then on March 25, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued this statement: “Now, more than ever, governments should release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views.”

Background

In August 2018, area residents set up a ‘Guapinol Camp in Defence of Water and Life’ in opposition to the Inversiones Los Pinares mine.

The Nation reports, “It lasted 88 days, from August 1 to October 27 of 2018.”

“The water in the Guapinol River was filling with sediment from a hydroelectric project upstream, part of the growing infrastructure for the forthcoming mine, making the prospect of using the water for drinking, cleaning, or agricultural purposes impossible.”

“[On October 27, 2018 an estimated 1,500] security forces fired volleys of tear gas before opening fire with live ammunition. In the ensuing blitz of bullets, eight civilians were injured and one activist, Levin Alexander Bonilla, was killed.”

Related to these protests, the Honduran Public Prosecutor’s Office began to pursue charges against at least 32 defenders of the Guapinol River.

Twelve water defenders presented themselves in court in February 2019. The UUSC has reported that the 12 defenders had the charges against them dropped on March 4, 2019 and were released from jail on March 6, 2019.

The Nation notes, “It was in August of 2019 that the charges against [another] seven of the protesters finally landed them in prison.”

On August 26, 2019, the Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project posted on their Facebook page, “This morning we were present at the hearing for the presentation of the accused of 7 new defendants (for illegal association, robbery and aggravated fire) in the Guapinol case for the defence of natural assets.”

The letter from the European Union parliamentarians (which can be read in full below and now online here) notes with concern that the defenders have been held “in pre-trial detention with no sound legal justification” since September 1, 2019.

Peace Brigades International-Canada shares the concerns expressed by the European parliamentarians, PBI-Honduras and others for the Guapinol human rights defenders who are now facing increased risks in prison due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

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