By UUSC Staff on August 29, 2019
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again. No one should be criminalized for trying to expand access to clean water – not those working to save migrant lives in the deserts of Arizona and not those standing up to extractive industries and government corruption.
But that’s exactly what’s happening in Honduras – and the situation is getting worse.
In late February, a dozen people were arrested in Honduras for protesting an illegal, extractive mining project that poisoned clean water sources for 14 local communities. The 12 defendants were originally charged with “usurpation of land” for their protesting of the project, but the charges were then upgraded to arson, robbery, and unlawful association with criminal intent. Thanks in part to international attention and advocacy, the charges against the 12 defendants were dropped on March 4.
This week, seven of the water defenders, aware of arrest warrants against them, voluntarily presented themselves to the Court of National Jurisdiction in San Pedro Sula. An eighth member of the community listed in the indictment, Don Antonio Martínez Ramos, has actually been deceased since 2015 — years before the alleged events took place. In presenting themselves for arrest, therefore, the seven accused water defenders carried a coffin, as a way to symbolize Don Antonio’s presence and to underline the false and contradictory nature of the charges against them. They have been detained by the government and are now facing charges that could result in lengthy prison sentences.
Our organization, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, strongly condemns the Honduran government’s detention of the activists this week because of their opposition to an illegal mining project that threatens the safety of their community’s drinking water. The activists are part of a grassroots coalition of Honduran community human rights defenders who are fighting to protect the water supplies of Guapinol and 14 neighboring communities. UUSC stands with the water defenders and demands that the Honduran government immediately free the activists and drop its misguided attempt to prosecute and imprison them.
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Update, 8/30/19: The Guapinol water defenders are still being jailed, after their initial hearing was suspended. This confinement is just one of numerous due process failures plaguing this case, including the fact that one of the defenders is now being tried inside a military base. The water defenders must be released and all the charges dropped – protecting the human right to water is never a crime.
UUSC’s Migrant Justice program is responding to situations at home and abroad. The ongoing political crisis in Honduras has led to extrajudicial killings, rampant criminalization, and arbitrary arrests. UUSC is partnering with local human rights defenders to quickly assist organizations and individuals directly targeted in the government’s ongoing human rights crackdown, while also raising awareness of the issues in the United States.
Photo Credit: iStock – Claude Gaumont
About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!