According to reports in local media on the morning of Friday, 17 February, José de los Santos Sevilla, leader of the indigenous Tolupán people, was shot dead in his home in the community of La Ceiba in Montaña de la Flor, Francisco Morazán, in central Honduras.
José de los Santos Sevilla, a teacher and community leader, was at home with his family when 5 heavily armed men broke into his house and shot him multiple times. José de los Santos Sevilla died instantly. The National Police have opened an investigation, and a mobile forensic unit as well as a team from the Special Murder Investigations Unit (Unidad Especial de Homicidios) have been sent to the area to carry out an investigation.
The National Commission for Human Rights, CONADEH, has requested protective measures for the residents of Yerba Buena and La Ceiba given the high levels of violence in the area from criminal gangs. The level of violence is such that an estimated 20 children have stopped going to school because of attacks. There is concern that this will lead to another forced displacement of the community.
According to a recent Global Witness report, “For nearly a decade, Tolupan indigenous peoples from northern Honduras have been threatened, criminalised and killed for taking a stand against illegal logging and mining operations which have pillaged their resources without consulting communities. The Tolupan are the most marginalised indigenous group in Honduras, living in extreme poverty in remote rural areas with little access to basic services”.
During her visit to Honduras in November 2015 Mrs Victoria Tauli Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said “The murders of indigenous leaders defending their lands, including numerous Tolupan, Garífuna, Lencas, Chortís and Pech leaders, are among the most frequently reported cases appearing before the Special Prosecutor for Ethnic and Cultural Heritage, along with cases of injuries, attempted Homicide and violence against indigenous women, “