Honduran State Continues to Criminalize Human Rights Defenders
BACKGROUND: Many Development and Peace members and supporters are familiar with our work with partner CEHPRODEC for responsible mining in Honduras.
Have you been at a speaking event with Pedro Landa? He speaks regularly and strongly about the Goldcorp-owned San Martin mine in the country’s Siria Valley and the struggle of the directly affected communities for respect to their right to live in a healthy environment and have access to a clean water supply.
The following action put out by another partner organization, COFADEH, a human rights committee, highlights the situation faced by Carlos Amador, Secretary of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee, a committee that has been active on mining and forestry issues facing their communities for several years now.
Carlos and other local activists are increasingly concerned about the ease with which the government is granting permits to slowly deforest the area, which has already been environmentally damaged by open-pit mining. In the face of mounting opposition by the local population to the destruction of the local forests, trees are now being chopped down by armed men, and tensions are escalating.
In this context, a local powerful family has filed charges against 18 local environmental activists, who are opposed to the destruction of the forests. This lawsuit illustrates the reduction of democratic space in Honduras for any opposition to the government, a space that has been reduced since the June 2009 coup d’etat which ousted democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya from Honduras. It also illustrates the trend of criminalization of social protest.
Development and Peace upholds the right of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee and local activists to protest against environmental degradation that is ultimately damaging the livelihoods of poor small-scale farmers. Please support this action suggested by COFADEH.
URGENT ACTION: Honduran State Continues to Criminalize Human Rights Defenders
THE SITUATION: The Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (Cofadeh) expresses its repudiation and concern for the Honduran State’s systemic practice of qualifying the most basic actions defending of nature and the rights accorded by the Constitution of the Republic as disturbing the peace, sabatoge and terrorism.
Various legal tools and policies are being used to inhibit the work of human rights defenders. In this particular case, defenders of the environment Carlos Danilo Amador and Marlon Hernández were detained by police, with warrants, between 6:30 and 7:00 AM on their way to work on charges of obstructing the excecution of an environmental management plan. Juan Ángel Reconco was detained in the early afternoon on the same charges. All are members of the Environmental Committee of the Siria Valley. Another 15 environmental defenders, also members of the committee, also have warrants out for their arrest on the same charge, and are at risk of arrest.
The charges are related to incidents that occured on April 7, 2010, when 600 residents of the Municipality of El Porvenir prevented logging of trees that protect the mini-watershed of the Guayabo Stream, known as el Tapalito, in the village of El Terrero.
This source supplies water for human consumption to 6 communities in the municipality, directly affecting 10,000 residents who have been protecting the area and forest for years. This protection was formalized on December 27, 2007 in an agreement with then AFE-COHDEFOR (State Forestry Administration – Honduran Corporation for Forestry Development), the Municipality of El Porvenir, and the residents.
The Environmental Committee and the affected communities consider that the management plan granted to Hayde Urrutia Mejía by the Honduran State is illegal because it deos not comply with the prerequisites established in the Forestry, Protected Areas and Wildlife Law, which requires an Environmental Impact Assessment including the participation of the population that could be affected by the project or activity under review. They also consider the management plan illegal due to irregularities regarding land tenancy.
The environmentalists in question are facing charges of Obstructing the Execution of a Management Plan, which carries a penaly of 4-6 years in prison according to article 186 of the above mentioned law. In the hearing that took place on July 5, 2011, Judge Ingrid Quiroz Banegas imposed precautionary measures on the defendants, including the requirements that they present themselves and sign-in at the courthouse every 15 days, do not leave the country, do not approach the mini-watershed of Tapalito, and do not approach the person, family, or dwelling of the beneficiary of the Management Plan, Hayde Urrutia Mejia.
In this particular case the justice system has not acted objectively and is instead favoring the executive branches of the state and criminalizing civil protest in the name of national (and international) interests, while the national (and international) interests in question are the precisely the reason for concern and protest on the part of the people and communities of the municipality of El Porvenir and leaders of the Environmental Committee of the Siria Valley.
THE ACTION:Cofadeh is requesting the national and international community to demand that:
1) the Honduran State take the necessary measures, including implementation the required mechanisms, to guarantee personal freedom, due process, and the right to defend human rights to Carlos Danilo Amador, Marlon Hernández, Juan Ángel Reconco and all other members of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee;
2) cease all acts of retaliation against them; and
3) guarantee in general the right to defend universally recognized human rights as established in the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, approved in 1998, and similar OAS Resolutions emitted in 1999 and 2000.
Please direct letters, calls and faxes to Honduran Justice officials and diplomatic representatives of your country of residence. (Fax and phone numbers are listed with calling codes from the US or Canada.)
On 5 May, I met with Canadian mining giant Goldcorp to talk about its San Martin mine in Honduras.
This was just one day after Goldcorp, in the lead up to its annual general meeting, published on its website that “reported net earnings from continuing operations in the first quarter of 2011 were $651 million compared to $232 million in the first quarter of 2010. Adjusted net earnings from continuing operations were $397 million, or $0.50 per share, compared to $159 million, or $0.22 per share, in the first quarter of 2010.”
Certainly such earnings seem to substantiate Goldcorp’s claim to being the “fastest growing, lowest-cost senior gold producer with operations and development projects in politically stable jurisdictions throughout the Americas”. In other words, great news for shareholders.
The thing is, I wasn’t there to discuss Goldcorp’s profits, instead I – together with CAFOD’s Honduran partner organisation CEHPRODEC and our Canadian sister agency Development and Peace – wanted to know how this claim to fastest growing and lowest cost (read highest profit margin) senior gold producer, sits alongside Goldcorp’s environmental and social responsibility record.
CAFOD has been looking at the environmental and social impact of mining for over 6 years now as CAFOD’s partner organisations from across the world have been telling us how in their experience mining can fuel conflict or pollute water sources in some of the poorest and most excluded communities.
In the case of Honduras, the people living near Goldcorp’s San Martin are small farmers whose long-term survival depends on raising animals and growing subsistence crops. When communities living downstream from the mine showed increasing concern about the water they use in the home and for farming, CAFOD commissioned international mine water management experts from Newcastle University who found evidence of pollution due to acid mine drainage.
Considering this, it was great to hear Goldcorp’s Vice President for corporate social responsibility finally say that the Newcastle University report with recommendations on how to better treat and prevent acid mine drainage (AMD) was “extremely well done” and that Goldcorp “responded to it internally”.
We were told that Goldcorp’s own environmental consultants “had the same comments and analysis” as experts Dr Jarvis and Dr Amezaga regarding the water quality. In other words, in 2008, water data for San Martin showed “typical characteristics of severe AMD” and “risks remain in relation to pollution due to AMD post-closure”.
We also welcomed Goldcorp’s openness to increase water sampling types and water monitoring frequency in order to get more certainty on the effectiveness of the AMD prevention system.
How disappointing then to hear that two weeks later at Goldcorp’s AGM, CEO Charles Jeannes – when talking about San Martin mine – did not openly acknowledge what was said to us in private: Goldcorp has to “continue monitoring to make sure [the pollution prevention system] works in the way we think it is working”.
We know that CEO Jeannes wasn’t asked explicitly about AMD in the AGM but if people in the vicinity of the mine are worried about the way in which the mine might be impacting on their health, surely it is in the company’s interest to publicly acknowledge what they are doing to prevent pollution.
Let’s start with a definition. Civil society is the people and groups that form the basis of a functioning society that are not part of the government (regardless of that state’s political system) or business institutions. Civil society tries to protect people against human rights abuses and try to protect freedom of speech and other individual rights. Organizations that are part of civil society include political parties, trade unions, human rights organizations, newspapers, community groups, faith-based and charititable organizations (definition from here).
How does one begin to articulate how incredibly important civil society is in a country like Lebanon? When a government is unable or unwilling to provide for the needs of its people, it is left to individuals and groups to advance their common interests.
This may take the form of a women’s group implementing a daycare program in a high-needs area, or a faith-based organization advocating for the rights of migrant workers and refugees, or a coalition which endeavours to build peace within a divided society.
The depth and breadth of issues addressed by civil society groups is awe-inspiring! It seems that when there is a need, people from diverse backgrounds quickly come together to work towards a solution.
It truly was a humbling and amazing opportunity to meet Development & Peace partners who work tirelessly within Lebanon, and the wider region, to bring about positive change.
It also reminded me that people are experts in their own experience, and that collaborating with and supporting our partners throughout the world is truly the most effective means of eradicating unjust social, economic, and political structures.
On June 21st, the Lebanon Solidarity trip team was fortunate to spend a second day with Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre. The Centre was established in 1994, in response to the large number of refugees from Sudan arriving in Lebanon. CLCM aims to serve migrant workers, asylum seekers, and refugees by offering a variety of social services to migrants, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or political persuasion.
However, the issue of migrant workers within the country, and their need for protection, was not an issue that the group had imagined prior to traveling to Lebanon…
BUT according to statistics, there are more than 157,000 migrant workers legally entitled to work in Lebanon. Additionally, there are more than 100,000 Syrian workers in the country, with rules around travel and work in Lebanon are somewhat more lax. There are also a large number of illegal workers whose status in Lebanon is even more precarious.
In our meetings with CLCM staff members, we learned about the plight of migrant workers. Many women from countries including Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Madagascar and many others, arrive in Lebanon every year as domestic workers.
Agencies recruit the women, and connect them with households in Lebanon. We learned that there are over 600 recruitment agencies working in Lebanon. The agency holds the worker’s passport. Women have to sign on for 3 year minimum contracts, and collect around $150 – $250 dollars per month.
At times, these domestic workers are physically or sexually abused and/or harassed in the homes where they live and work.
Tragically, we learned that there has been an increase in the numbers of murders and suicides of migrant domestic workers, and it is believed that some deaths go unreported.
The Centre for Migrants offers support to domestic workers in need of assistance. The Solidarity Trip team was able to visit a shelter for vulnerable women and their children.
The women are from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and come from a range of very difficult experiences. Some are newly-arrived Iraqi women and children, with the father in prison for entering “illegally”, while others have had awful experiences of being mistreated by their employers. We spent the day with the women, sharing in each other’s cultures, dancing, playing soccer with the kids and eating traditional food that the women had made. We really enjoyed their company!
CLCM offers key services to migrant workers, refugees, and asylum seekers, including providing basic needs, social and psychological support, providing for medical needs, educational support and payment of school fees and supplies, and legal support.
And, importantly, the organization is also working with the government to develop a special law relating to domestic workers. This law would better protect the rights of both Lebanese and foreign-born domestic workers. With the frequent changes to governmental leadership in Lebanon, it has been difficult to get the law ratified.
It is positive to know that Caritas Lebanon Migrants Centre is doing everything they can to assist the large number of migrants and refugees, both by advocating for changes in law, and by providing vital services.
Day of Solidarity – June 20th in support of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Kairos: Suicide rates among Indigenous youth between 15 and 24 years are five to six times higher than the national average. For Inuit youth in particular, it’s 11 times higher. Suicide accounts for 25% of all deaths among Indigenous youth (Health Canada).
When confronted with such despair, it’s easy to feel hopeless and helpless. Becoming aware of the legacy of colonization is not easy. We may feel ashamed of the inequality that divides Indigenous peoples of Canada—First Nations, Inuit and Métis—from other Canadians. We are challenged to recognize how governments and corporations have failed to honour the rights to the land and self-determination of Canada’s first inhabitants.
Yet these realities don’t have the last word. Together, whether Indigenous or newcomers, we seek to heal and renew the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people because we know that what causes harm, inequality and injustice cannot be of God.Together, we find signs of hope and we dare to dream the promise of right relationship.
In November 2010, the Government of Canada’s endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples represented a step towards right relation with Indigenous peoples in Canada. KAIROS and our member churches have long called for Canada’s endorsement of this important global human rights standard.
On June 20 KAIROS member churches, communities and Indigenous partners will join in a Day of Solidarity urging Canada to take concrete steps, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, to implement the UN Declaration. We will bring banners to Ottawa calling for the human rights of Indigenous peoples to be respected. This is followed by National Aboriginal Day on June 21, which offers many opportunities to celebrate the contributions of Indigenous peoples to the history and present of our country.
We ask you support these events with your presence and your prayers. Hold in prayer our common hopes for a just future, together in this beautiful land. And bring those prayers to action in your faith community and home.
One: God of all people, Great Spirit, Holy One All: Listen to our prayer. One: Give your blessing this day to the First Peoples of this land. All: Guide the elders and give them strength; One: Comfort and renew men and women in times of sorrow and despair, All: Give grace and pride to children as the daughters and sons of your creation. One: Hear our prayer as we gather today to commit to right relations. All: Give us a sense of justice, an awareness of new beginnings, that wrongs may be redressed, rights respected and a new covenant forged. One: May those who have used this land with little thought or regard learn to love and respect this gracious heritage; All: May those who find your presence in the land be free to model its grateful use to all. One: In common life and common dignity… All: May all people receive from you a new humanity. Amen.
FIVE THINGS YOU AND YOUR COMMUNITY CAN DO:
Build relationships.Learn whose traditional territory you live and work on, and learn about your local treaty or treaty negotiations. Get to know your local First Nations, Inuit or Métis community. Contact your Friendship Centre; attend public powwows, Treaty Days or ceremonies. Connect with your denomination’s right relationship networks.
Learn.Learn more about the Canadian history we’re not taught in school. Host a KAIROS workshop on this: contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the reality of residential schools, even if your denomination was not involved in running the schools. Go to TRC hearings; learn more about local survivors’ groups. Learn about the Indigenous membership and perspectives of your own faith tradition.
Workfor an end to violence against Indigenous women, who face a rate of violence many times higher than in the general population. Support vigils in your community, and support the work of groups like Families of Sisters in Spirit, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Walk 4 Justice, and more.
Go global. Learn about the UN Declaration and the worldwide concerns and movement that brought it to birth after thirty years of work. Reflect on the struggles that made the Declaration necessary, and think about how to put into action here in Canada.
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives is a faithful movement for human rights and ecological justice, uniting the local and the global.
Our founding members are: The Anglican Church of Canada, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the United Church of Canada, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Canadian Religious Conference, the Mennonite Central Committee of Canada, and the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF).
March 10, 2011 actions are a collaboration between Development and Peace, Polaris, the Canadian Federation of Students, CUPE, and Sierra Youth Coalition.
By creatively planning events around the need to STOP the privatization of water, you can help build a community that recognizes the right to water. Let’s continue to create and support alternatives to bottled water!
*And this amazing website Tap That Water! Teens Against Privitization of Water: http://www.tapthatwater.org/about. They have embedded awesome videos and documentaries on the right to water, so you can watch them too!
* On facebook, the Canadian Catholic Student’s Association is doing a facebook blast – with this passage “Let justice flow like a river” Amos 5:24. Post it as your status over the next 24 hours!
* Participate in an activity sending a message to Cedar Springs, who are trying to take over our day for themselves. Click here to participate in the phone and email blitz.
* More resources on our campaign can be found throughout this blog, but here is the page with the print materials, skits and action ideas.Go Water Justice!
One way you know your advocacay and organizing is working – when companies try to flip your actions! For Bottled Water Free Day – where WE fight for water justice and pledge to tap back into the tap… some companies are taking advantage and giving away free bottled water.
There are over 120 events across the country taking place around ending the privatization of water for Bottled Water Free Day and industry is feeling the pressure. Bottled water company Cedar Springs and the Canadian Bottled Water Association are at it again with bottled water giveaways on Bottled Water Free Day. Last year we shut down their phone lines—but apparently they didn’t get our message!
Flood Cedar Springs Lines–Call today!
Flip the TAP to the bottled water industry! Bottled water company Cedar Springs and the Canadian Bottled Water Association are at it again with bottled water giveaways on Bottled Water Free Day 2010. Last year we shut down their phone lines—but apparently they didn’t get our message! Call Cedar Springs today and tell them you back the TAP! Call: (416) 798-7675
“On Canada’s Second Bottled Water Free Day I am working to kick the bottle and back the tap! The knockoff website that Cedar Springs has produced to promote giving away free bottled water is a desperate effort on behalf of your organization. It is clear that your company and all bottled water companies are feeling the heat as education and action around the negative environmental, health and social impacts of bottled water is growing! I choose NOT to drink bottled water”
Thanks for chipping in – all our efforts are working!
Genevieve Gallant for Development and Peace, part of Bottled Water Free Day 2011!
Delegates at the World Social Forum in Dakar have now been considering how social movements can work together to build another world for more than 48 hours.
Each day, Julie, Hélène and I are confronted with a smorgasbord of workshops to attend, from how African farmers are saying no to GM crops and demanding food sovereignty to how Senegalese hip-hop musicians are forging cultural frontiers of resistance to the dominant economic model.
A theme that emerges is that if the social movements of the Global South are struggling against economic domination by the powerful, the wealthy are resisting the resistance of the poor – and have been for the last few centuries.
In a workshop organized by our German counterpart organization, Misereor, a joke originally told by Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town was quoted : «When the whites arrived in Africa, we had the land, and they had the Bible.
So they said, `Brothers and sisters, let us close our eyes and pray.’
So we did. Only when we opened our eyes, they had the land, and we had the Bible.»
Ruth Hall, a South African researcher, gave a harrowing account of a worsening state of affairs, with multinational corporations forming partnerships with governments of Africa to buy up huge tracts of land in Africa that they say are unused – financed by some so called ‘ethical’ investment funds. The result is more dispossessed peasants, who sell their land for next to nothing and end up swelling the slums of the continent’s cities.
The extremely lucrative crop Jatropha, a plant used to make bio-fuels, is a jealous plant, Rene Segbenou of Benin explained. «It tolerates no other plants in its midst, and kills the soil.»