Why Did the Honduran Army Fire on a Peaceful Protest?

Members of COPINH demonstrating in front of the Public Prosecutor's Office in Tegucigalpa, following the killing of Indigenous leader Tomas Garcia (Photo Credit: COPINH).
Members of COPINH demonstrating in front of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Tegucigalpa, following the killing of Indigenous leader Tomas Garcia (Photo Credit: COPINH).

On July 15, the Honduran army fired on peaceful protesters from the Civic Council of the Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). The gunfire killed COPINH leader Tomas Garcia, who also served as a deputy mayor in the region. The attack also seriously wounded his teenage son, Allan Garcia Dominguez. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has condemned this killing, which it has categorized as “murder.”

Every day since April, COPINH has held a peaceful march to protest the construction of a hydro-electric damn that they believe threatens their land. Like other indigenous communities, the culture and livelihood of the Lenca in Honduras is tied to their land. They argue that the authorities did not properly consult with the communities that would be effected by this project.

[pullquote text=”The marchers were simply exercising their basic human rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Yet someone within the military chose to shoot to kill.”]The fact that these nonviolent protests have taken place for three months should have clearly demonstrated to the Honduran military and police that the marchers were simply exercising their basic human rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Yet someone within the military┬áchose to shoot to kill.

So far, one soldier has been arrested in connection with this attack. Why did this soldier act? Did his superiors order the troops to open fire? What actions, if any, did the police and other soldiers present at the incident take to stop the attack and protect the marchers?

Please join Amnesty International in demanding an independent, thorough, and impartial investigation to identify and punish whomever bears responsibility for this crime.

Unfortunately, I have been blogging a lot about human rights abuses in Honduras recently. Last month, I reported on the abduction of popular television journalist Anibal Barrow. Sadly, Amnesty confirmed that his mutilated body was found on July 9. Please also demand a full investigation into the murder of Anibal Barrow.