100+ Days Without Garifuna Community Members

Over 100 days have passed since 5 members of the Garifuna community in Triunfo de la Cruz, Honduras were kidnapped by armed men dressed in police uniforms. Four of the five who were abducted are members of OFRANEH, a grassroots organization of the Afro-descendant and indigenous Garifuna community in Honduras. OFRANEH, along with other Honduran and international human rights organizations have been mobilizing to demand their immediate safe return. They have criticized the Honduran government led by Juan Orlando Hernández for its lack of seriousness and will to find those responsible and bring the disappeared home safely.

Letter in Support of OFRANEH and the Garifuna Communities in Honduras

It has been more than 3 months since the forced disappearance of 5 men – 4 Afro-Indian Garifunas and another man visiting from Belize – from the community of Triunfo de la Cruz, Honduras. Their families, their communities, and the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH) continue to demand information about their whereabouts, demanding that the Honduran state comply with requests for information from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) regarding the alleged state investigation, and to protect the Garifuna families and communities at risk.

In the early morning of July 18, 2020, a group of men armed with vests from the Directorate of Investigative Police (DPI), kidnapped the men at gunpoint from their homes. The men were handcuffed, taken from the community and disappeared.

For more than three months, the Honduran regime has done almost nothing to find the missing men. To make matters worse, the government has involved ECD in the investigations ignoring allegations that the institution is involved in forced disappearances and its history of serious human rights abuses. This has deepened fears in Garifuna communities and the Honduran population in general, undermined any small attempt to carry out any kind of investigation into the disappearances, and made it clear that the Honduran government is NOT taking this incident and its contextual factors seriously.

The Honduran government is not interested in conducting a full investigation or revealing the details of what happened on July 18, 2020 in the days following that date. This is likely because the state has long been involved not only in attacking land defenders, journalists, lawyers and indigenous leaders, but has also been controlled by the interests of organized crime structures that proliferate ruthless corruption and widespread impunity. The 2009 U.S.-backed coup further entrenched this pattern that for the Garifuna of Honduras deepened systematic land dispossession, threats, murder, and institutional racism.

Since the July 18 forced disappearances in Triunfo de la Cruz, Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) has largely ignored IACHR rulings on forced disappearances and contextual land issues. For example, the Honduran government ignored the September 28 deadline set by a September 2 IACHR resolution requesting a full report on the investigation into the forced disappearances, the results, and how the rights of Garifuna communities are being protected. The state’s failure to do so adds to its total disregard for and failure to comply with the final resolutions of the IACHR of October 2, 2015 in favor of the Garifuna communities of Triunfo de la Cruz and Punto Piedra. The 2015 ruling requires the government to implement a program of reparations and actions to correct the government’s violations of the territorial and indigenous rights of the Garifuna communities.

Instead of complying with its international obligations and applying its human rights rhetoric, the JOH regime has intensified attacks against Garifuna and OFRANEH communities. The latest escalation of violence began in 2018 and intensified in 2019 with numerous killings of OFRANEH members and Garifuna leaders in the coastal territories. This violence continues to this day.

Responsibility for these attacks and the forced disappearance on July 18 falls directly on the Honduran government and its security forces, which are intertwined with organized crime, agribusiness interests, and mega tourism, all working to displace the Garifuna from their ancestral territory. It is the responsibility of the State to investigate and prosecute state agents and individuals involved in forced disappearances, as well as to implement mechanisms to protect the rights of Afro-indigenous and indigenous communities, cultural and physical integrity, and ancestral use and possession of land.

The undersigned organizations join international and Honduran voices in support of OFRANEH and the Garifuna communities of Honduras. We condemn the outrageous violence and harassment against the communities and their leaders. We hold the Honduran regime of Juan Orlando Hernández and the state security apparatus directly responsible for crimes against humanity and violations of the rights of Afro-Indian Garifunas.

We support and demand:

1. The appearance alive of Alberth Snider Centeno, Milton Martinez, Suami Mejía and Gerardo Trochez, kidnapped and disappeared in Triunfo de la Cruz on July 18, 2020.
2. The formation of the Multidisciplinary Investigation Team proposed by OFRANEH to carry out a serious and thorough investigation of the forced disappearances and all contextual factors to bring to justice those who planned and authorized the crime, as well as those who carried it out directly.
3. Compliance with the 2015 resolution of the IACHR in the case of the Garifuna Communities of Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra v. Honduras
4. Compliance with the October 2020 order of the Secretariat of the IACHR requiring the Honduran government to investigate the July 18 kidnappings and provide a full report.
5. An immediate end to all harassment and violence against OFRANEH, Garifuna leaders and all Garifuna communities in Honduras.
6. That the campaign and violence to dispossess Garifuna communities of their lands be immediately ended, and that their rights to their ancestral territory be respected.
7. That impunity for crimes against humanity and all violence against the Garifuna people be ended and that justice be done for all victims.