Honduras: Increasing Smear Campaign against Human Rights Groups
— Urgent Actions (@AmnestyUA) February 15, 2017
International organization Global Witness, along with Honduran organizations MILPAH, COPINH and CEHPRODEC are facing a smear campaign against them for their work defending land, territory and environmental rights in the country. This increasing campaign puts them at risk of further harassment and physical attacks.
On 31 January, international organization Global Witness launched a new report about the situation of land, territory and environmental defenders in Honduras. The weekend before, a poster began to circulate on social media, accusing members of Honduran organizations (listed below*) , of discrediting the country, being allied with radical groups and of funding smear campaigns against Honduras. On 1 February, Amnesty International called on the Honduran authorities to publicly recognize the legitimate and important work these human rights defenders do.
On 2 February the intensity of the smear campaign against the organizations increased after a member of Global Witness and two members of MILPAH appeared on a morning Honduran TV show. Participants in the show criticizing Global Witness’ report called Indigenous Peoples and organizations who supported the report “liars, opponents of development and enemies of the Honduran people who are looking for jobs and willing to get out of poverty”. Global Witness members told Amnesty International that after the show, several news reporters asked them questions using the same stigmatizing language used throughout the show.
Amnesty International is concerned that the intensity of the smear campaign against human rights defenders, and the silence of the Honduran authorities rejecting statements that stigmatize their activities, facilitates physical attacks against them, in particular MILPAH, COPINH, CEHPRODEC.
*Honduran organizations being targeted: the Independent Lenca Indigenous Movement of La Paz (Movimiento Indígena Lenca Independiente de La Paz, MILPAH), the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development (Centro Hondureño de Promoción para el Desarrollo Comunitario, CEHPRODEC) and the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, COPINH), as well as Global Witness.
Please send tweets, a letter, fax, and/or email in English or Spanish without delay. (Postage is $2.50.)
* Call on the authorities to provide comprehensive protection for the human rights defenders of MILPAH, COPINH, CEHPRODEC.
* Urge them to strongly reject the smear campaigns against defenders of the land, territory and the environment.
* Call on them to publicly recognize the defenders’ legitimate and important role in promoting human rights.
Address your messages to
President of Honduras
Juan Orlando Hernández
Presidente de la República
Casa Presidencial Bulevar Juan Pablo II Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Fax: 011 504 2221 4570
Salutation: Dear President/ Estimado Señor Presidente
Under Secretary for Human Rights and Justice
Norma Allegra Cerrato
Subsecretaria de Derechos Humanos y Justicia
Res. La Hacienda, Calle La Estancia, Bloque A-Lote 8 Edificio Z y M
Fax: 011 504 2232 7800 Ext. 1108
Salutation: Dear Under Secretary/ Estimada Señora Subsecretaria
Óscar Fernando Chinchilla
Fiscal General de la República
Lomas del Guijarro
Fax: 011 504 2221 5660, +504 2217 5661
Salutation: Dear Attorney General/Estimado Señor Fiscal
Please send a copy to
Her Excellency Sofía Lastenia Cerrato Rodríguez
Ambassador for Honduras
151 Slater Street, Suite 805
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5H3
Fax: (613) 232-0193
Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders, especially those working on territory, land and environmental rights issues.
In the early hours of the morning on 2 March 2016, Berta Cáceres, leader and co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, COPINH), was killed in her home in the town of La Esperanza, Intibucá Department. Berta Cáceres and COPINH had campaigned against the construction of the hydroelectric project of Agua Zarca on the Gualcarque River and the Lenca ancestral lands. COPINH has in particular defended their right to free, prior and informed consent. This is not the only project to be developed on the Lenca Indigenous territory, and other organizations such as the Independent Lenca Indigenous Movement of La Paz (Movimiento Indígena Lenca Independiente de la Paz, MILPAH) have also questioned the construction of hydroelectric plants in Intibucá and La Paz arguing that the Lenca communities was not properly consulted. Due to their work on issues related to the rights of Indigenous communities, territory and natural resources, the COPINH and MILPAH have received repeated threats, attempts to criminalize their work and physical attacks and harassment for many years.
On 7 March 2016 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a new precautionary measure of protection in favour of all COPINH members and Berta Cáceres' family on the grounds of the risks posed by their work defending human rights, environment and natural resources and their increased vulnerability following Berta Cáceres’ killing.
However, Amnesty International continues to receive concerning information about several security incidents against organizations or individuals that have accompanied or raised their voice against Berta Cáceres’ murder. For example, individuals twice attempted to murder journalist Felix Molina on 2 May, hours after publishing information about potential intellectual authors of Berta Cáceres’ murder. On 6 July Lesbia Urquía, a sympathizer of COPINH and MILPAH, was murdered.
For more information on the situation of human rights defenders and defenders of land, territory and environmental rights defenders in Honduras, see the reports ‘We are defending the land with our blood’: Defenders of the land, territory and environment in Honduras and Guatemala (http://bit.ly/2fw6zXv ) and Defending human rights in the Americas: Necessary, legitimate and dangerous (http://bit.ly/2kB6lUA ).
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