Honduras: Authorities must deploy all necessary measures to locate five victims of apparent enforced disappearance

Almost two weeks on from the illegal abduction of five men in an apparent case of enforced disappearance in the coastal town of Triunfo de la Cruz, Amnesty International is calling on the Honduran authorities to take urgent steps to locate them alive as soon as possible.

“Testimonies suggest that the five young men were victims of enforced disappearance, allegedly at the hands of agents of the Honduran state security forces. If confirmed, this crime under international law would mark another atrocious chapter in the country’s recent history,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

“We demand that the Juan Orlando Hernández administration take urgent measures to find the five missing people, including four Garifuna activists from the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, alive. The authorities must also carry out a swift, exhaustive, independent and impartial investigation to identify and punish all those responsible for planning and carrying out this crime. We cannot allow impunity to encourage endless cycles of violence and grave human rights violations.”

Witnesses state that on 18 July, individuals dressed in police investigations branch uniforms took four members of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), Alberth Snider Centeno Tomás, Suami Aparicio Mejía García, Gerardo Mizael Rochez Cálix and Milton Joel Martínez Álvarez from their homes; along with a fifth person, Junior Rafael Juárez Mejía.

Amnesty International sent an open letter to President Juan Orlando Hernández on 24 July, demanding that his government guarantee that it will find the victims, ensure justice for the events and provide collective protection for the Garifuna community in El Triunfo de la Cruz.

On 8 October 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of the Garifuna community in Triunfo de la Cruz and found the Honduran state guilty of violating this community’s right to collective property. Previously, on 28 April 2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had issued protective measures to the Triunfo de la Cruz community and requested that the government adopt the necessary measures to protect the community’s right to ownership of its ancestral lands.

In a report published on 29 July, the international organization Global Witness named Honduras the country the fifth most lethal country in the world for people defending the rights to land and the environment, and the first per capita.

“The Honduran government must immediately comply with its international obligations, including recognizing the Garifuna community’s ancestral territory, and implement a comprehensive plan for collective protection that combats the structural causes of the violence against them,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

“It’s imperative that President Hernandez prioritizes the situation of the people and communities who defend human rights in his agenda, so that these terrible events do not happen again, and the communities can defend their rights without fear of reprisals.”

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Duncan Tucker: +52 55 4848 8266, duncan.tucker@amnesty.org