A drainage system under construction in a housing development in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo: UNDP Honduras
A drainage system under construction in a housing development in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo: UNDP Honduras

Aug. 22, 2016 – With at least eight human rights defenders killed in Honduras this year, two United Nations and international rights experts said the country is one of the most hostile and dangerous for rights defenders and urged the Government to take urgent steps to ensure their protection.

“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,” Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, and José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Inter-American Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, said today in a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“Violence and attacks against news release 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 added.

In the most recent violence, 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.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), so far this year, at least eight rights defenders have been killed.

Expressing serious concern at the killing of Mr. Ferrera, who also worked to empower citizens to denounce corruption and impunity as well as helped organize recent protests against the proposals for re-election of the current President of the country, Mr. Forst and Mr. Orozco Henríquez urged the Government to conduct an investigation and “bring to account both the material perpetrators and the intellectual authors of the heinous crime.”

“The investigation should be exhaustive, effective, impartial and undertaken with due diligence,” they stressed.

In the news release, the two experts also recalled that a mechanism for protection of human rights defenders and other groups in Honduras in was created in 2015, and acknowledged the country’s efforts to make the mechanism fully functional.

“However, the implementation of the mechanism is yet to be tested,” they noted.

“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,” concluded Mr. Forst and Mr. Orozco.