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Honduras – Killings and enforced disappearances of human rights defenders

In the past month, we have received with great concern and alarm information about the murders and forced disappearances of human rights defenders in Honduras, in a context of high risk and harassment for the defense of human rights in the country.

Recently, we have been informed by the Association for Participatory Citizenship (ACI Participa) about the murder of Marvin Damián Castro Molina, defender of the environment, president of the Youth Network of the Association of Development Pespirense-Honduras ( ADEPESHN) in the municipality of Pespire, Choluteca, and coordinator of the Youth Secretariat of the Southern Social Environmental Movement for Life (MASS-Vida). Between 12 and 13 July, Castro Molina, who had been missing since the 12th, was assassinated, his body found on the banks of the Sacamil River, in the Agua Tibia Community. We strongly condemn the murder of Castro Molina, as well as the gross negligence committed by the Honduran authorities, who had been alerted by Castro Molina himself about the serious fears for his life and physical integrity the week before his murder. In addition, said murder is framed in a context of deep criminalization and attacks on people and organizations defending the territory and the environment, and human rights in general, in the southern part of the country, where more than 100 attacks have been recorded between January and June 2020. 

ACI Participa has also informed us about the murder of Scarleth Campbell, a transsexual woman, a defender of LGBTIQ + rights and a member of the “Las Muñecas” collective of the Arcoíris Association. According to the information received, on 10 July,  Campbell was killed by two unknown men in the area known as “El Arbolito” in the La Plazuela neighborhood, in Tegucigalpa. According to the same information, the perpetrators of the murder got out of a vehicle without license plates and fired firearms at Campbell, who died while being transferred to the hospital. 

On the other hand, reliable sources report on the forced disappearance of Alberth Sneider Centeno, President of the Board of Trustees of the Garífuna community of El Triunfo de la Cruz, department of Atlántida, and member of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), and Aparicio Mejía García and Joel Martínez Álvarez, belonging to the El Triunfo de la Cruz community and also members of OFRANEH. According to some information, a fourth individual from the community was reported missing. On 18 July, a group of unidentified and heavily armed men wearing bulletproof vests and uniforms with the initials of the Police Investigation Directorate (DPI), broke into the residence of Sneider Rye and kidnapped him. Subsequently, the same group of armed men kidnapped Mejía García, Martínez Álvarez and a fourth unidentified person. The four members of the El Triunfo de la Cruz community were taken aboard three vehicles and are missing. The facts are being investigated by the Investigative Police Directorate and the Tela City Prosecutor’s Office. 

Honduras is ranked 148th in the RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index, as President Juan Orlando Hernández, who secured a second term in 2017, has stepped up control over news and information and taken a range of initiatives to silence the most outspoken journalists. The security forces, especially the military police and army, are responsible for most of the abuses and violence against media personnel. The situation of the media has worsened steadily for more than a decade, ever since the 2009 coup d’état. In this country racked by violence, organized crime and corruption, the impunity rate is among the highest in the western hemisphere.