UN calls for investigation into murder of two Honduran environmental activists


Two environmental activists were killed Saturday after resisting an open-pit iron oxide mine on a reservation.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, has called for an independent inquiry into the killing of two environmental activists in Honduras days after they were shot dead.

On Saturday, Aly Dominguez, 38, and Jairo Bonilla, 28, from the village of Guapinol in the eastern Colon Department of Honduras were killed by unknown men. Local police attributed the deaths to a robbery.

“It is vital that there is an independent investigation into the murder of the two defenders in Guapinol, Honduras,” Lawlor said on Twitter on Wednesday.

“Which should take into account the possibility that they may have been retaliated against for their work in defense of human rights,” she added.

Dominguez and Bonilla co-founded the municipal committee for the defense of commons and public goods for the town of Tocoa, about 8 km from Guapinol.

According to the environmental movement, since 2015 they had strongly opposed the operation of an open-cast iron oxide mine in a forest reserve, a concession they say was illegally granted to a company owned by influential businessman Lenir Perez.

Inversiones Los Pinares, the company that operates the mine, says the concession is legal. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Authorities said Dominguez and Bonilla were on motorcycles going about their day jobs collecting service payments for a regional cable television company when they were attacked in a remote area.

Colon police spokesman Angel Herrera told local media that the crime was motivated by an attempt to rob the money they were carrying.

But Guapinol Resiste, which includes the Dominguez and Bonilla environmental movement, rejected that claim on Wednesday.

“It was not a robbery. They were killed because they were defending the rivers from illegal mining. Justice for Aly and Jairo,” the group said on its Facebook group. It also pointed out that the criminals did not take the money, but that it was later handed over to their employer.

Many environmentalists and local communities in Central American countries oppose surface mining and the construction of hydroelectric dams, which can pollute rivers, contaminate water supplies and displace populations.

In March 2016, Indigenous leader and environmental activist Berta Caceres, who fought against the construction of a hydroelectric dam in western Honduras, was assassinated. Six contract killers and two executives from a company promoting the construction of the dam were later convicted.

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