International Statement of Concern and Solidarity with the Garifuna People of Honduras

We, the undersigned organizations, are deeply concerned about the fate of five Black Garifuna men, leaders of their Garifuna community, abducted July 18, 2020 by armed men in police uniforms in Triunfo de la Cruz, Tela township, Honduras. We demand the immediate, safe return of Alberto Snider Centeno, Milton Joel Martínez Álvarez, Suami Aparicio Mejía Garcia, Gerardo Mizael Rochez Cálix and Junior Rafael Juarez Mejia. The young men are active in the defense of black indigenous land rights in the region and several are members of the internationally-known Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) and received previous threats for their defense of their community.

The abduction of the young men follows a pattern of violence and harassment over the past years. The Garifuna people have bravely defended their rights and their lands against land grabs by megaprojects in palm oil and tourism and invasions by drug traffickers. In 2019 alone, 18 Garifuna leaders were murdered in still-unpunished crimes. Residents of Santa Rosa de Aguán report that on July 17 of this year, their rivers were poisoned, killing thousands of fish which are their livelihood.

Garifuna communities of Triunfo de la Cruz won an historic court decision in 2015 , when the Inter-American Court of Human Rights established that their rights to collective property, community rights, judicial rights and the right to life had been systematically violated by the Honduran government, and ordered protection and reparations. The Honduran government did not comply with the terms of the ruling, and instead numerous groups, with the overt or tacit support of the Honduran government, have continued to attack the Garifuna people and steal and contaminate their lands.

We join the Garifuna people in Honduras and in the diaspora in demanding urgent resolution of this crime, and full prosecution of those responsible, not only the individuals who carried out the abduction, but also of those behind it. We also demand compliance with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling, application of the precautionary measures assigned the communities, protection and the guarantee of full rights for the Garifuna people, including their rights to control over their lands and territories enshrined in Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal People of the International Labor Organization.

We demand maximum pressure be brought to bear to assure that these five men are return unharmed to their families.





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