A call for an independent investigation into the killing of two environmental activists in Honduras, who had opposed an illegal mine polluting water supplies in a national reserve has been made by U.N. special rapporteur on human rights defenders on Wednesday.
Two environmental activists from the village of Guapinol in Honduras’ eastern Colon department, Aly Dominguez, 38, and Jairo Bonilla, 28, were shot dead on Saturday by unidentified gunmen. Local police attributed the deaths to a robbery.
“It’s vital that an independent investigation is carried out into the killing of the two defenders in Guapinol,” U.S. special rapporteur Mary Lawlor said in a tweet on Wednesday.
She added that the investigation must consider the attack could be a retaliation for their work.
Read also: UN study shows World’s dams could lose a quarter of storage capacity by 2050
Honduran Authorities have said that Dominguez and Bonilla were on motorcycles working their day jobs of collecting service payments for a regional cable television company when they were attacked in a secluded area and Colon police spokesperson Angel Herrera told local media the crime was motivated by an attempt to rob the money they were carrying.
However, Capitol Resiste, the environmentalist group Dominguez and Bonilla belonged to, rejected this claim on Wednesday.
“It was not a robbery. They were killed for defending the rivers from illegal mining. Justice for Aly and Jairo,” the group said in a statement, claiming the criminals did not take the money, which was instead later handed over to their employer.
Dominguez and Bonilla had co-founded the Municipal Committee for the Defense of Common and Public Goods for the city of Tocoa, some 8km (5 miles) from Capitol.
According to the environmentalist group, they had since 2015 put up a strong resistance to the operation of an open-pit iron oxide mine in a forest reserve, a concession they say was illegally granted to a company of influential Honduran businessman Lenir Perez.
Story was adapted from Reuters.