REPORT No. 37/14
PETITION 674-06
ADMISSIBILITY
GARIFUNA COMMUNITY OF SAN JUAN AND ITS MEMBERS
HONDURAS
JUNE 5, 2014
I.

SUMMARY

1.
On June 9, 2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter the
“Commission,” the “Inter-American Commission” or the “IACHR”) received a request for precautionary
measures lodged by the Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña or Honduran Black Fraternal Organization,
known by the Spanish acronym OFRANEH 1 (hereinafter, “the petitioner” or “OFRANEH”), on behalf of the
Garifuna Communities of San Juan and Tornabé, alleging an emergency situation of risk stemming from threats
leveled against several leaders of said community, as well as a lack of protection of their ancestral lands. The
IACHR decided to initiate motu proprio the processing of the petition on behalf of the Garifuna Community of
San Juan and its members (hereinafter, the “alleged victims”), as provided for in Article 24 of the IACHR Rules
of Procedure, and assigned the petition the number 674-06, notifying the petitioner and the State of doing so
in a note of July 7, 2006.
2.
Under the petition 674-06, the petitioner alleges that, despite several steps taken by the
Honduran State, it has failed to grant fee simple property title to all of the ancestral lands of the Community of
San Juan. It claims that, on the contrary, these lands have been the target of many acts of trespassing by
outsiders and unlawful sales by public officials and third parties, as well as projects, which are to be carried out
without any prior consultation with the Community. It contends that keen third party interests in the territory
of the Community has given rise to a climate of ongoing unrest and persecution, particularly targeting leaders
engaged in defending the territorial rights of the Community. It reports that, in this context, on February 26,
2006, the young Garifuna men Gino Eligio López and Epson Andrés Castillo were the victims of extrajudicial
execution perpetrated by agents of the Honduran Army on the outskirts of Laguna Negra, without effective and
diligent response from the State.
3.
In response, the Honduran State alleges that, based on the request lodged by the Community
with the National Agrarian Institute, fee simple property title was granted to it over the area determined
through the appropriate administrative procedure and that this decision was not challenged in any way under
domestic law. Consequently, it claims that domestic remedies have not been exhausted, as required under
Article 46.1 of the American Convention.
4.
Without prejudice to the merits of the matter, after examining the positions of the parties and
in keeping with the requirements set forth in Articles 46 and 47 of the American Convention, the Commission
has decided to find the instant petition admissible as to the alleged violation of Articles 4 (right to life), 5 (right
to humane treatment), 8 (right to a fair trial), 16 (freedom of association), 21 (right to property) and 25 (right
to judicial protection) of the American Convention, in connection with Articles 1.1 and 2 of this instrument.
The Commission also has decided to notify the parties of this decision, publish and include it in the IACHR
Annual Report to the OAS General Assembly.
II.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

5.
On June 9, 2006, the IACHR received a request for precautionary measures on behalf of the
Garifuna Communities of San Juan and Tornabe in the Department of Atlantida, Honduras. In a note forwarded
on July 7, 2006, the IACHR informed the petitioner that it was initiating motu proprio the processing of the
1 In a communication received on January 21, 2009, the petitioner appointed attorney professor Joseph P. Berra as its legal
representative. Subsequently, in a note received on September 7, 2010, it announced that it had appointed Christian Alexander Callejas
Escoto as “legal partner” (acompañante jurídico) in the petition.

Select target paragraph3