For years there has been a bitter struggle for land between small farmers and major landowners in Bajo Aguán (Honduras). At the end of May 2012 nine organisations and international networks convened a public hearing on the issue.
On 28 May 2012 the public hearing on the human rights situation in the farming cooperatives in the lower Aguán Valley was held in Tocoa, Honduras. During the hearing, testimony was heard from 24 individuals regarding 12 cases of human rights violations and specific situations in the context of the current land conflict. According to the statement by the NGOs, this led to the conclusion that this is the most serious land conflict in Central America in the past 15 years.
Since September 2009, 48 organised farmers and a journalist and his partner have been murdered in connection with the land conflict in Bajo Aguán, Honduras. Another farmer disappeared over a year ago after being abducted by private security forces. In addition, twelve private security guards and a worker on a palm oil plantation have been killed since 2010 under unresolved circumstances.
The peasant cooperatives of Bajo Aguán have been fighting for their right to land and food for almost two decades. In the 1960s, land reform was supposed to result in extensive redistribution of land and farming areas. However, legislation in 1992 reversed major parts of the land reform. Oil palm producers exploited the new situation to seize much of the land covered by the reform.
Since the coup in 2009, the human rights situation in Honduras has deteriorated further. The country’s political circles are playing a double game. On the one hand, an agreement signed by President Porfirio Lobo Sosa in April 2010 guarantees landless families a former military base and further sites with a total area of 11,000 hectares. On the other hand, the police and military are acting in conjunction with private security forces against the peasant movement. The justice system is turning a blind eye or criminalising the peasants in the struggle for land.
The hearing was convened by the NGOs FIAN International (international human rights organisation advocating realisation of the right to food), APRODEV (Association of World Council of Churches related development organisations in Europe), CIFCA (Copenhagen Initiative For Central America), FIDH (Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme – International Federation for Human Rights), LAWG (Latin America Working Group), PIDHDD (Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo – Inter-American Platform of Human Rights, Democracy and Development), Rel-UITA (Latin American regional organisation of the International Union of Food Workers), TROCAIRE (overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland) and Via Campesina Internacional (International Peasant Movement). Observers from the UN Human Rights agency, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and the European Union also attended the hearing.