HONDURAN Shooting — The killing of two environmental activists in Honduras in broad daylight has prompted new calls for an independent investigation into the persecution and violence against a rural community that is fighting to halt an illegally sanctioned mine. The deaths of the environmental activists have also sparked international outrage. Aly Dominguez, 38, and Jairo Bonilla, 28, both of the town of Guapinol in northern Honduras, were killed on Saturday afternoon as they rode a moped home to Guapinol after completing their shifts as payment collectors for a cable business.
According to statements made by their family, they were ambushed by armed criminals and killed at the scene of the crime. Dominguez and Bonilla were two of the co-founders of the grassroots opposition movement in Guapinol against an iron ore mine that was owned by one of the most influential couples in the country. Dominguez was one of 32 prominent members of the town who were falsely accused of criminal activity by the mining corporation and the local police. Even though the perpetrators of the crime ran away without stealing the victims’ mopeds, telephones, or money, the local police and prosecutors quickly determined that the killings were the result of a botched robbery attempt.
The executions were denounced by many UN bodies, rights organizations, and the US embassy. Relatives and attorneys have cast doubt on the official account of what transpired, citing the persistent acts of intimidation and hostility that have been directed on the community. “We do not accept the hypothesis that is officially supported. These two young men were the pioneers in the fight to safeguard our natural resources from an illegal mining that is wreaking havoc on the rivers that are located within the national park. “After being harassed, criminalized, and falsely imprisoned for the past five years, the only option left was murder,” said Rey Domengez, 58, a community leader and Aly’s brother.
According to Michael Phoenix, the head of research for the UN special rapporteur for human rights defenders, “it is vital that an independent impartial investigation is carried out which must take into account the possibility that Aly and Jairo have been targeted for their work defending human rights.” “It is vital that an investigation is carried out which must take into account the possibility that Aly and Jairo have been targeted for their work defending human rights.” According to the opinions of foreign specialists, the Guapinol scandal began with a massive open-pit mine located in the vicinity of Tocoa.
This mine received approval to operate inside a national park through a process that was riddled with legal inconsistencies. After the mine damaged rivers that were used by thousands of people every day, community residents, including Dominguez and Bonilla, set up a camp to protest the mine in a peaceful manner. The encampment was forcibly removed by security personnel, and dozens of arrest warrants were issued against the demonstrators. In 2019, both Rey Dominguez and his sister Aly Dominguez were arrested on false allegations and served time in jail. The criminalization of the activists and the ensuing militarization of the community have been strongly criticised by international legal and human rights experts. These events have caused numerous people to escape their homes and seek asylum in the United States.
Why where they shot and killed?
The mine was one of hundreds of environmentally harmful extractive projects that were given the green light by officials of the National party. Several of these figures are now facing charges in the United States related to the trafficking of drugs and weaponry. Since 2009, Honduras has risen to the position of being one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to safeguard natural resources. Indigenous rights activist Berta Caceres, who had been the target of years’ worth of threats and harassment connected to her opposition to a dam that was supported by international organizations, was killed in March of 2016, becoming the case’s most high-profile victim.
A year ago, the post-coup administration came to an end when Xiomara Castro took office. Castro is the wife of Manuel Zelaya, the president who was deposed in 2009, and she campaigned on a platform that promised to restore the rule of law and safeguard defenders. After the Supreme Court set free Guapinol officials who had been imprisoned on spurious charges, there were initially tremendous hopes that the situation would improve. However, the mine is still operational, and residents of the surrounding neighborhood have alleged that police harassment persists.
Joaqun Mejia, a prominent Honduran human rights lawyer, stated that the new government bore some responsibility for the killings because it did not suspend or cancel the illegal mining concessions that had been granted by the previous regime. Mejia was of the opinion that the new government should have done so. Phoenix stated, “Xiomara Castro made a campaign promise to protect those who advocate for human rights when she ran for office.” One of the main reasons of attacks against defenders in Central America is the imposition of extractive projects on communities without the agreement of the communities themselves. However, when there is political will, governments may address this issue. More has to be done by the Honduran government.”
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