On 24th November 2020, Laura Carolina Valentín Dolmo, a young Garífuna defender and member of the Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH), was found dead in the river Danto in La Ceiba, in the northern Atlantida department of Honduras.
OFRANEH has published a letter calling for a rigorous autopsy and investigation, which the organisation said had not been carried out.
The murder of Laura Valentín Dolmo is one in a series of homicides, feminicides and cases of forced disappearance that have beset the Garifuna people during the past year, such as the case of the five young people who have been disappeared since 18 July, 2020.
According to the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA), 2020 was the worst year on record in terms of attacks on human rights defenders since the organisation began documenting abuses in 2000.
From January 1 to December 15, UDEFEGUA documented 1,004 attacks on human rights defenders. Women defenders were the targets of 33.66 percent of these attacks. The attacks include 15 assassinations and 22 attempted assassinations of human rights defenders.
According to UDEFEGUA, “In practical terms, the current government has dismantled the institutional framework for the promotion of peace and human rights, as well as the few and weak existing protection mechanisms. . . . [T]his period [of the pandemic] was used to repress, violate, and attack those who defend human rights in the country.”
UDEFEGUA has called on the international community to increase its observation and documentation of such incidents, denounce the violations, and demand that the Guatemalan government stop the violence and decrease the impunity afforded to perpetrators of crimes committed against human rights defenders.