On 5 March 2014, as human rights defender Ms María Santos Domínguez returned to her home, she was surrounded and attacked with sticks, stones and machete by a group of seven individuals. Her husband and her son came to her rescue but were also attacked, with her son losing his ear. María Santos Domínguez has faced death threats on repeated occasions.
She is the co-ordinator of the Organización del Consejo Indígena del Río Blanco y del Sector Norte de Intibucá (Indigenous Coucil of Río Blanco and the North of Intibucá). The human rights defender is also a member of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Indígenas y Populares de Honduras – COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras) and an emblematic leader in the struggle for the defence of the Gualcarque river and the indigenous Lenca territory. Her husband, Mr Santos Roque Domínguez, is also a member of COPINH and a community activist.
On 5 March, just after noon, María Santos Domínguez was returning from preparing school lunches, on the route she normally uses. Santos Roque Domínguez phoned her several times due to the worry caused by the threats already made against the human rights defender. On the fourth call, María Santos Domínguez informed her husband that seven individuals, allegedly the same who had threatened her with death, and who had been waiting for her on her route, had her surrounded. In that moment, her husband and son left the house to search for her and found her, having already received deep machete wounds, being beaten with sticks and stones by the group. Santos Roque Domínguez tried to reason with them and pleaded with them not to kill his wife, meanwhile his son attempted to aid his mother. Immediately, one of the group slashed the child with the machete, chopping off his right ear and part of his face. Santos Roque Domínguez was also gravely injured. The attack against the three family members has left them in a serious state of health.
María Santos Domínguez, as well as her husband and son, have been the target of serious threats and attacks because of their work in opposition to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric plant. The same group who attacked them on 5 March also destroyed their crops on a previous occasion.
Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a human rights defender, owing to threats, defamation, judicial harassment, physical attacks, attempted killings and killings. Indigenous leader and member of COPINH, Mr Justo Sorto was killed on 21 January 2014. Human rights defender Mr Tomás García was killed on 15 July 2013, and the case has still not been properly investigated.
Front Line Defenders roundly condemns the attempt on the life of human rights defender María Santos Domínguez, as well as the attack on her husband and son. Front Line Defenders considers the attack to be directly related to the peaceful and legitimate work of María Santos Domínguez and the Organización del Consejo Indígena del Río Blanco y del Sector Norte de Intibucá.