Honduras and Pakistan are two places from which we have curated relatively little human rights footage. In Honduras, threats against human rights defenders have escalated since the coup d’etat in 2009. Speaking out about abuse can put a target on someone’s life, which is why the video we feature this week, comprised of testimony from three indigenous rights activists, caught our attention. In Pakistan, a ban on YouTube restricts the footage the outside world is exposed to about civil society struggles. Also this week, villagers in Cambodia finally receive a government response regarding a decade-long battle over land.
A video released last week by the Garifuna and indigenous rights organization, OFRANEH, describes some of the latest threats to communities and activists of the Tolupanes indigenous group. For years, indigenous communities have suffered violence and displacement from mining companies, drug traffickers, and the state. Just over a year ago, three activists from the Tolupan indigenous group were assassinated in Locomapo, Yoro. According to witnesses and local reports, assassins were contractors of a company engaged in illegal mining of antimony. Locals say that known hitmen continue to pose a threat to the indigenous community, while law enforcement does nothing.
The first speaker in the video, Consuelo Soto, says she went to the District Attorney’s office to complain that one year after the killing of three indigenous activists, their killers roam free. “This resulted in me having more problems with the hitmen,” she says. The wife of one of them, she says, told her that “if I continue talking, my life will be in danger.”
The second woman in the video, Merari Ramirez, says that threats in her community are due to the illegal mining of natural resources in nearby land. “There are constant threats,” she says, but indigenous activists won’t leave because their children are there, and they are committed to defending their natural resources.
The final person to testify in the video, José María Pineda, says that mining companies should provide health services because the mining of antimony has caused many indigenous people to suffer from cancer and other ailments.
In its country report on Honduras last year, the Organization of American States outlined a broad range of violations against indigenous communities and human rights defenders in Honduras, and called on the country’s authorities to put measures in place to defend activists at risk and indigenous communities’ rights.
For more videos documenting threats against indigenous communities and human rights defenders in Honduras, see this playlist on the Human Rights Channel about the targeted killing of land rights activists in the Bajo Aguán Valley.
Last week, after a group of rural villagers protested in front of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, the government announced a plan to settle a long running land dispute. For more than a decade, villagers in Cambodia’s Kampong Chhnang province have fought back against a development project by the firm KDC International. As the video above illustrates, created by Cambodian human rights advocacy organization, LICADHO, many land conflicts in the country involve private interests that benefit public officials, and this case is no different. KDC International is owned by the wife of the Minister of Industry, Mines, and Energy. Villagers say they have faced intimidation, violence, and forced displacement from their homes and farmland. This July, after a resident was beaten unconscious during clashes with armed company security guards, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights called on the government to do more to protect residents of disputed land, and for the company to stop development until the dispute is fairly resolved. On Friday, after meeting with village representatives, the National Assembly laid out a plan to resolve the dispute.
The footage above shows a rally on September 11 of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Peshawar, Pakistan. It was not the first time this summer that IDPs from North Waziristan staged protests demanding better living conditions in IDP camps or repatriation to their homeland, which has been engulfed in military operations against the Taliban. While it is not a citizen video but rather produced by Radio Free Europe (a broadcaster funded by the U.S. government), citizen footage from Pakistan is rare due to a government ban on YouTube.