Honduras: Human Rights Defenders under attack
Photo Credit: Shawn T. Hawkey
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Violence against human rights defenders who have been monitoring and denouncing the violent repression of protests in the aftermath of the presidential elections has increased. Defenders report a murder, smear campaigns, threats and intimidation against them.
Local non-governmental organizations report that numerous social activists, human rights defenders, and people actively involved in protests occurring throughout Honduras since 29 November 2017 have been subjected to beatings, intimidation, harassment and stigmatization, and that some of their names appear on lists in the hands of security forces. The Coalition against Impunity registered at least 63 attacks against defenders since the post-election crisis started.
One of them, the Broad Movement for Justice and Dignity (Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia, MADJ), reported that security forces brutally repressed a protest in La Masica, Atlántida on 16 December. Security forces beat and later fired taser guns at approximately 10 people, including MADJ member Diego Aguilar López and Wilmer Paredes, a collaborator with MADJ. On 29 December, Wilmer Paredes requested protection from the National Protection System for human rights defenders after he reported vehicles following him. Unknown assailants shot and killed Wilmer Paredes on 1 January 2018. On 14 January, a flyer began circulating on social media accusing MADJ’s leaders, Martín and Víctor Fernández, of being responsible for Wilmer Paredes’ murder.
On 30 December 2017, Father Ismael Moreno Coto, director of the independent radio station Radio Progreso and the Reflection, Investigation, and Communication Team (Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación de la Compañía de Jesús en Honduras, ERIC-SJ) reported a smear campaign against him. His name and picture were included, together with those of social activists Karina Flores and Araminta Pereira and six other defenders in a flyer named “Axis of evil” from El Progreso, accusing them of violence and of being involved in organized crime. In December, the National Protection System denied protection measures to ERIC-SJ’s researcher Joaquín Mejía.
On 12 January 2018, security forces harassed several journalists who were covering a protest in Tegucigalpa, the capital, and violently forced them to leave the area. Two journalists from UNE TV were subsequently injured. According to the NGO C-Libre, another journalist from UNE TV has reported several security incidents since December, including death threats and tear gas thrown into her house at night.
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Address your appeals to:
Señor Óscar Fernando Chinchilla
Lomas del Guijarro Tegucigalpa,
Salutation: Dear Attorney General/
Estimado Señor Fiscal
Minister of Human Rights, Justice, Interior and Decentralization
Señor Héctor Leonel Ayala Alvarenga
Res. La Hacienda, Calle La Estancia
Bloque A-Lote 8, Edificio Z y M.
Salutation: Dear Minister / Estimado Señor Secretario
Please send a copy to:
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
Minister of Foreign Affairs
111 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
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Fax: 1 (613) 996-9607
Her Excellency Sofía Lastenia Cerrato Rodríguez
Ambassador for Honduras
151 Slater Street, Suite 805A
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5H3
Fax: 1 (613) 232-0193
Director of the National Protection System
Señora Nora Urbina
Comayaguela M.D.C. antiguo Local de Academia de Policía
Amnesty International Central America team
Luz Saviñón 519, Col. Del Valle, Del. Benito Juárez,
C. P. 03100 Ciudad de México,
Security forces brutally repressed massive protests that have taken place since 29 November 2017 in several places around Honduras to denounce the lack of transparency around the presidential election on 26 November. On 17 December, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal declared current president Juan Orlando Hernández as the winner, and on 5 January 2018, the Tribunal denied all the appeals lodged by other political parties. The President is scheduled to begin his new term in office on 27 January.
Security forces used excessive force against these protestors, including lethal weapons. According to the Ombudsperson, at least 31 people have been killed, and multiple cases of people injured by firearms or brutally beaten by security forces were reported, as well as cases that could amount to torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Authorities arrested or detained hundreds of people during protests and the 10-day curfew implemented in December.
Honduran human rights organizations and independent media have been monitoring and denouncing the excessive use of force and human rights violations perpetrated in the aftermath of the presidential election.
Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders, especially those working on territory, land and environmental rights issues.
In 2016, MADJ reported several security incidents to the authorities, including surveillance, threats and harassment, in particular against its General Coordinator Martín Fernández. MADJ provides legal representation on several paradigmatic and grave cases of attacks against territory, land and environmental rights defenders in Honduras. Martín Fernández reported new threats and persecution against him in December 2017, and security forces carried out illegal raids into MADJ’s office in La Masica and into the house of MADJ members in Esparta, Atlántida.
Radio Progreso has been covering the elections and the repression that followed from their headquarters located in El Progreso. Radio Progreso’s transmission has been interrupted for almost two weeks since 9 December, when an antenna near Tegucigalpa was damaged by criminal hands. Several members of Radio Progreso are beneficiaries of protection measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), because of the harassment and threats and they received after the coup in 2009.
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