Supporting the Challenges by Indigenous Organizations of Honduras

Students traveled to Lenca community of Rio Blanco, Intibucá, Honduras and conducted field and archival research.

In Support of Ongoing Challenges by the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to the Hydroelectric Project Agua Zarca Violation of the Rights to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, to Land and Territory, to Resources, to Cultural Identity, and to Self-Determination

Fall 2017


COPINH and their attorneys with the Movimiento Amplio de Dignidad y Justicia (MADJ) sought to pursue further legal challenges to the legislative and administrative acts that gave rise to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in the territory of Rio Blanco. In ongoing support of their efforts, clinic students further systematized the facts in the case and developed legal analysis under the international human rights framework for Indigenous rights regarding not only the right to consultation and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), but underlying substantive rights to territory and self-determination. COPINH is following multiple legal avenues and exhausting domestic remedies in its effort to permanently rescind the concessions and halt the dam project.


As part of our sustained commitment to COPINH and the Lenca community of Rio Blanco, students analyzed the legal figure of the amparo as a means to challenge the constitutionality of government action and the state's violation of international human rights. COPINH and their lawyers are assessing this potential legal action in light of other remedies they are pursuing. They seek to use all the means available in both the domestic and Inter-American system to effectively rescind the dam project and secure their territorial and other rights enshrined in international law.

In support of this effort, the clinic deepened the factual and legal analysis of the rights implicated and violated in the broader context of the Agua Zarca dam project under international law on the rights of Indigenous peoples. The right to consultation and free, prior and informed consent is a safeguard against violation of substantive rights to territory, resources, cultural identity, livelihood, and self-determination. The students located the consultation right and the dam project within the ongoing struggle of the community of Rio Blanco and the Lenca people to gain recognition of their territorial rights, to preserve their culture and traditions, and exercise meaningful self-determination over the development of resources in their territory.

Students also incorporated more recent instances of threats and intimidation against the community of Rio Blanco and COPINH and updated the previous analysis of the right to free, prior and informed consent in the light of these events. Work on this and the historical territorial claim of Rio Blanco led to fieldwork during the 2018 J-Term International Field Experience of the clinic.

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