Honduras: Human rights defenders at serious risk
Honduras: Human rights defenders at serious risk despite State efforts
GENEVA / TEGUCIGALPA (11 May 2018) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, has ended a visit to Honduras saying strong, urgent action is needed to ensure protection for those who defend the rights of others.
“Impunity, lack of active participation and collusion between powerful interests are deadly ingredients that have turned Honduras into a dangerous place for human rights defenders,” said Mr. Forst in a statement concluding his 10-day fact-finding mission.
“The creation of a protection mechanism dedicated to human rights defenders, and media and legal professionals was an excellent starting point, but it urgently needs to be strengthened and integrated into a broader approach protecting the defenders of rights in the country,” the UN expert emphasised.
“Too little has been achieved since my predecessor visited the country in 2012. Even worse, environmental and indigenous rights defenders are facing unprecedented risks challenging corruption and collusion between those acting for political gain and companies chasing profit,” he added.
“The lack of access to justice or other remedies sends a message that perpetrators of abuses will not be brought to justice, which fuels more attacks against defenders,” stressed Mr. Forst.
“I am extremely worried by the absence of a safe and enabling environment for all human rights defenders, especially those working on sexual and reproductive rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, journalism, land and indigenous rights, and those advocating on education issues,” he noted.
In the case of land and indigenous rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur said he deeply regretted the lack of meaningful consultation with local communities that could help to prevent social conflicts.
“On repeated occasions, I met communities who did not trust their Government and who felt State authorities favoured business over the interests of the general public,” the Special Rapporteur commented.
“I strongly urge the Government of Honduras to take action to correct mistakes and adopt concrete measures to address the challenges being faced. I also call for the adoption of strong measures such as the development of specific investigative protocols for crimes against human rights defenders, initiatives to publicly recognize the positive role they play, and better coordination between all State institutions,” the Special Rapporteur said.
During his mission, Mr. Forst visited Tegucigalpa, La Paz, la Esperanza, Santa Barbara, San Pedro Sula, la Ceiba, Tela, Tocoa and Choluteca, and he met about 400 human rights defenders, some 40% of whom were women.
The Special Rapporteur has delivered his preliminary conclusions with a set of recommendations to the Honduran authorities and others aimed at providing better protection for human rights defenders and enabling their important work. He has also made himself available to help address the issue of impunity and the protection of defenders in Honduras.
The expert will deliver a report of his final conclusions and recommendations to a forthcoming session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full end-of-mission statement:
Mr. Michel Forst (France) 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 of human rights issues and specifically of the situation of human rights defenders. He was the Director General of Amnesty International (France) and Secretary General of the first World Summit on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. He is a former UN Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Haiti.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.