GENEVA / WASHINGTON, D.C. (19 August 2016) – Honduras has become one of the most hostile and dangerous countries for human rights defenders, warned today two top United Nations and Inter-American human rights experts. So far this year, at least eight defenders have been killed in the country, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
“The Government of Honduras must immediately adopt and apply effective measures to protect human rights defenders, so they can carry out their human rights work, without fear or threat of violence or murder,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on rights defenders, Michel Forst, and the Inter-American Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez.
The experts’ urgent appeal to the Honduran authorities comes after the killing of Kevin Ferrera, a lawyer and outspoken youth leader of Juventud Liberal (Liberal Youth, a section of the Liberal Party of Honduras) and founding member of the organization Oposicion Indignada (Indignant Opposition), on 9 August 2016. Mr. Ferrera worked to empower citizens to denounce corruption and impunity, and helped to organise recent protests against the proposals for re-election of the current President of Honduras.
“We are seriously concerned that this murder was linked to Mr. Ferrera’s legitimate work in defence of human rights, and urge the Government to conduct an investigation to bring to account both the material perpetrators and the intellectual authors of the heinous crime,” the experts stressed. “The investigation should be exhaustive, effective, impartial and undertaken with due diligence.”
“Violence and attacks against human rights defenders not only affect the basic guarantees owed to every individual. They also undermine the fundamental role that human rights defenders play in building a society that is more equal, just and democratic,” they said.
Mr. Forst and Mr. Orozco Henríquez recalled the creation of a protection mechanism for human rights defenders and other groups in Honduras in 2015, and acknowledged the State’s efforts to make the mechanism fully functional. “However,” they noted, “the implementation of the mechanism is yet to be tested”.
“Crimes against human rights defenders, especially cold-blooded assassinations, must not go unpunished. Impunity is the enemy – and the undoing – of any protection scheme in place, no matter how comprehensive it may be,” they concluded.
Mr. Michel Forst was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2014. Mr. Forst has extensive experience on human rights issues and particularly on the situation of human rights defenders. In particular, he was the Director General of Amnesty International (France) and Secretary General of the first World Summit on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. For more information, log on to:
Mr. José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez undertook the responsibility of leading the IACHR’s Unit for Human Rights Defenders and stayed as Rapporteur when the IACHR decided to convert the Unit into a Rapporteurship in 2011. Mr. Orozco is a researcher on human rights law and other areas at the Legal Research Institute of the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and he formerly served for 16 years as a Magistrate on Mexico’s highest electoral courts. Learn more, visit:http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/defenders/mandate/composition.asp
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