9.18.2020
Stop the Pretrial Detention of Guapinol and San Pedro Water Defenders
Water defenders in Honduras are resisting an illegal and toxic mining project

Dear Mr. Attorney General: 

The signatory organizations are writing to show our concern for the ongoing imposition of the precautionary measure of pretrial detention for Mrs. Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, José Abelino Cedillo, Kelvin Alejandro Romero, Arnold Javier Alemán, Ever Alexander Cedillo, Orbin Nahún Hernández and Daniel Márquez and Jeremías Martínez who belong to the communities of Guapinol and San Pedro, members of the Municipal Committee of Public and Common Goods of Tocoa, Colón, and request that the Public Prosecutor reconsider its position and desist from this measure, releasing the defenders while the legal process continues.

We consider that from the beginning there has been no legal basis for their detention. The public prosecutor did not prove the requirements to request this measure, and it was ordered by the judge without the required motivation to justify its application, as required by Honduran criminal procedure regulations. It has not been proven, nor is there any indication of danger, that the accused will try to destroy or manipulate the evidence. On the other hand, it has been amply proven that the defendants do not belong to any criminal organization, as confirmed by the decision of the Court of Appeals, which issued a definitive dismissal for the crime of illicit association. The defendants have demonstrated their willingness to submit to the criminal process, thus eliminating their flight risk, among other factors.

The lack of foundation for these measures is especially notable with the new penal code entering into force. The reclassification of the crime of “arson” to the crime of “damages”, which would now apply under the principle of retroactivity in the new penal code since it is more favorable to the defenders, further reduces the severity of the penalty with which they could be punished, and makes it clearer that the requirements calling for pretrial detention are not met.

Therefore, and within the framework of your functions as established by Article 93 of the Honduran Criminal Procedure Code, we respectfully request that you agree to the request filed by the legal team with the local prosecutor's office in Tocoa, Colón, on July 24, 2020, and to remove the pretrial detention measure.

We reiterate our condemnation of the improper use of criminal law to control, neutralize and punish people who exercise their right to resistance in defense of the land and territory. We also request that an immediate, exhaustive and impartial investigation be initiated into the legality of the mining concessions that originated the conflict, the environmental damage caused, and the actions of the company's security guards, police officers and members of the armed forces, in order to identify those responsible, bring them before a competent and impartial court, and hold them accountable under the law. 

Respectfully,

CIVICUS: Alianza Mundial para la Participación Ciudadana

Diakonia Honduras

Freedom House

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

Latin America Working Group (LAWG)

MARUAH, Singapore

People in Need

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights 

Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos, Guatemala – UDEFEGUA

 cc:

Honduras Human Rights Secretary

National Commission on Human Rights (CONADEH)