On July 18, five members of Norwegian People's Aid's partner in Honduras, OFRANEH (Organización Fraternal Negra de Honduras), were kidnapped in the local community Triunfo de la Cruz on the coast of the province of Atlantida.
Norwegian People's Aid has collaborated with and supported OFRANEH for ten years. OFRANEH works with and for Garifuna indigenous peoples, who have their territories along the Caribbean coast of Honduras. This area is threatened both by interests that want to utilize natural resources and expand the tourist industry, and by drug trafficking.
OFRANEH explains that they still don't know anything about what has happened since the kidnapping, and that the authorities have not yet provided answers to their requests, or more information about the incident. The five people who are missing are Alberth Snaider Centeno, leader of the charity of the Triunfo de la Cruz, Milton Martínez and Suamy Aparicio Mejía, - both members of the land committee in the village, and two other members of the local community: Alberth Santana Thomas y Gerardo Mizael Róchez.
Norwegian People's Aid's country director for Honduras and Guatemala, Roberto Barra, is very concerned about the developments in Honduras.
- OFRANEH and the Garífuna communities are strongly threatened and are subject to criminalization. In 2019, around 16 Garifuna were killed, and the majority of these killings are connected to the victims defending their territory. In addition, paramilitary groups linked to drug trafficking are pushing the leaders of the garifuna communities to allow them to operate in their territories. Young Garifuna are being recruited to engage in drug trafficking and sales.
According to OFRANEH, the kidnappings are part of the long-standing and systematic repression of the authorities and paramilitary groups linked to drug trafficking and the tourism industry. In 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos - Corte-IDH) recognized the collective right of the Garifuna people to the Triunfo de la Cruz area. Honduran authorities have not yet followed up on the verdict or implemented protection measures for the endangered communities.
- This case makes several things clear, Roberto explains.
- It is the Honduran state that is responsible for protecting these communities in a territory that is recognized as their rightful place. Over a month has passed since the kidnappings, and still no offenders are identified, and no progress has been made in the investigation whatsoever. This is unacceptable. International organizations must acknowledge the likelihood of these kidnappings not being an isolated incident, and that violence and human rights violations are intensifying in Honduras in general, and against the Garifuna people in particular.
OFRANEH has now persuaded other Honduran and international organizations to ask the Honduran authorities to step up the search for the five still reported missing, and to find the offenders. Norwegian People's Aid asks the Norwegian authorities to support the work by raising the matter with the Honduran authorities.