The 8 Water Defenders of the Guapinol and San Pedro Rivers have been in detention since 2019 on charges related to their peaceful opposition to a mining project, inside the Carlos Escaleras National Park in Bajo Aguan region of Honduras, that polluted the rivers their community depends upon. On September 7, 2018 their protest camp was attacked by the mining company private security resulting in property damage to the company.
The trial of these defenders of environmental rights concluded with guilty verdicts on 4 criminal charges in Tocoa on February 9th for 6 of these men despite numerous irregularities in the proceedings. One day later, the Constitutional Chamber of the Honduran Supreme Court ruled on two outstanding injunctions from 2020 and 2021, holding that the pretrial detention was arbitrary and also declared the entire trial annulled, resulting in two distinct judicial orders to release the defenders. The Supreme Court held that the Tocoa trial court did not have jurisdiction to prosecute the case. Nonetheless, both lower courts (Trujillo and Tocoa) have refused to order the release of the defendants, despite the orders being officially delivered to the Trujillo court regarding illegal detention and the annulment order served to the appellate court in La Ceiba with jurisdiction over Tocoa. The 6 defenders remain in custody as both lower courts continue to defy the orders of the Supreme Court and the appellate courts.
Intimidation and harassment of the Guapinol water defenders’ families and supporters continues. Heavily-armed members of the National Police and armed forces remain outside the courts to intimidate the families and community members who are peacefully demanding release of the defendants. A leader of the support committee, along with her family were threatened by armed motorcyclists last week and shots were fired at her home while the threats to the defense attorneys continue as well.
For all these reasons, and in the face of the serious risks and threats mentioned above, the Observatory organizations are demanding protection for the human rights defenders, journalists, social communicators and the legal defense team, as well as the immediate implementation of prevention and protection measures for the eight river defenders, their families and committees of support.
Organizations that make up the Observatory for Justice for the Guapinol Defenders:
- Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Costa Rica
- International Human Rights Clinic, University of Virginia Law School, USA
- Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC), Honduras
- International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
- World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), Switzerland
- Front Line Defenders
- International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild, USA
- Due Process Law Foundation
- Human Rights Clinic, University of Ottawa, CA
- Peace Brigades International (PBI).
- Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights.
- De Justicia.
 The Observatory for Justice for the Guapinol River Defenders is an essential tool to demand that the State ensure that criminalized defenders receive an impartial, public, transparent and transparent process that complies with human rights standards, as well as accountability.