Siege and threats against the life of Miriam Miranda, OFRANEH coordinator and Garífuna defender

WHRD Alert Honduras

20 September 2023

In September this year [2023], Central America watchers received an alert from the Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) about attacks and threats against the Garífuna human rights defender Miriam Miranda. Below the photo of Miriam, WHRD explains the situation and its background.

In the early morning of September 19, at least four unknown and heavily armed men entered the community of Vallecito, Colón, surrounding the house of Miriam Miranda, Garífuna defender and OFRANEH Coordinator.

Members of Miriam’s security team demanded the strangers to identify themselves, but they fled the scene. However, the security forces were able to determine that the men were carrying assault rifles and that they did not belong to the Garifuna community. They also heard the men say that next time they would come to “finish the deal”.

It should be noted that this incident occurred during the visit to this territory by the Technical Committee of the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders members and adds to the attacks, criminalization, persecution, harassment and murders that the Garifuna community has faced for decades.

In August 2022, after demonstrating for the defence and recovery of their territories and demanding the alive appearance of the four young Garifunas forcibly disappeared more than three years ago, Miriam Miranda was prosecuted for the crimes of illegal deprivation of liberty and disturbing the public order. In February of that same year, the Garífuna defender received text messages with threats against her life and that of her family. “You have been warned” they said, from an unknown telephone number.

Aggressions and violent incidents against the Garífuna community, as well as persecution and threats against the lives of their leaders for defending their territory, common goods and ancestral cultures, are on the rise. Last May, the Garifuna people commemorated 226 years of dispossession, resistance and struggle: however, assassinations against OFRANEH leaders continue, as well as attacks against Garifuna spirituality and cosmovision, such as the one that occurred in April 2023 with the burning of the Ancestral Health House of OFRANEH, located in the community of San Juan.

This has taken place in spite of the fact that the Garifuna communities have demanded at national and international levels the guarantee of their rights. Thanks to their struggle and in recognition of the multiple human rights violations against them, they have received sentences and provisional measures from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), the highest court in the Americas. The Court has repeatedly ordered the State of Honduras to adopt a series of measures to stop the violence against the communities and to protect their ancestral rights over their territory. The State, far from complying with its obligations, has contributed to the increase of violence in the communities.

The National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras and IM-Defensoras denounce and condemn this new aggression against Miriam Miranda and OFRANEH.

We are concerned about the seriousness of this attack that puts at risk the physical and emotional integrity of Miriam Miranda, the Garifuna communities and members of OFRANEH. We urgently call on the National Protection Mechanism to guarantee the necessary measures to safeguard the physical and emotional integrity of Miriam and to allow her to continue her legitimate work as a defender of the Garífuna people.

In addition, we hold the State responsible for any act of violence that may occur against her, and we demand that the Honduran government take immediate, responsible and effective action in response to these events, as well as respect for the identity and autonomy of the Garífuna people.

Finally, we call on national and international organizations to be vigilant in the light of this situation of risk faced by those who defend the territories and ancestral rights of the Garífuna people and to speak out against these acts.