Honduras: Protect Tomás Gómez Membreño

Tomás Gómez Membreño is in grave danger because of his efforts to defend Indigenous lands and rights, work that includes challenging powerful economic interests like the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River.

Tomás is General Coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (known as COPINH). He courageously assumed the role following the March 2016 assassination of the organization's then-leader Berta Cáceres, amidst outspoken campaigning to stop the Agua Zarca dam.

On October 9, 2016, gunmen opened fire on Tomás as he was leaving COPINH’s meeting centre in the community of La Esperanza. Thankfully he survived the attack. 

But Tomás remains in ever-present danger amidst an escalation of surveillance, threats, attacks and murders of women and men who dare to defend land rights, Indigenous territory and the environment in Honduras. 

Deadly attacks are on the rise. Berta Cáceres, leader and co-founder of COPINH, was murdered in her home in La Esperanza on March 2. Less than two weeks later, COPINH community leader Nelson García was shot dead in the face by unidentified men in Río Lindo. The death toll grew with the murder of COPINH supporter Lesbia Urquía in July and the gunning down on October 18 of José Ángel Flores, President of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán and his colleague Silmer Dionisio George.

Please raise your voice to protect Tomás and ensure his vital work for human rights can continue.

President of the Republic of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández

Dear President Hernández,  

I am deeply disturbed by the shooting attack on Tomás Gómez Membreño on October 9, 2016.

This is no isolated incident. Members of Mr Gómez Membreño’s organization COPINH, and other organizations that defend land rights in Honduras, are facing increasing attacks, often with lethal consequences. The notorious killing of Berta Cáceres has only been followed with more assassinations of human rights defenders. This cannot be allowed to continue.

I call on you to:

- take prompt, appropriate and effective measures to protect Tomás Gómez Membreño and other members of COPINH, in accordance with their wishes and compliance with precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights;

- initiate a prompt, impartial, thorough investigation into the October 9 to identify both the material and intellectual perpetrators and bring them to justice;

- provide effective guarantees for the protection of all defenders of human rights in Honduras, including threatened members of OFRANEH, MILPAH, MUCA and other organizations that courageously defend land rights, and publicly recognize the legitimacy of their work.

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