Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Thursday, August 7, 2014- People who defend human rights, as well as journalists and justice operators, face a grave situation of risk in Honduras. Both the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations ex-Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggye, have expressed their concern for this distinct type of persistent attacks: among them murders, threats, kidnappings, harassment, raids and robbery occurring in headquarters of organizations, as well as the criminalization of the human rights defenders. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has also seen this context of risk in its judgments in the cases of Kawas Fernández and Luna López vs. Honduras.
Due to this grave situation, the cited bodies of protection and the Human Rights Council (Consejo de Derechos Humanos) recommended through the Universal Periodic Review (Examen Periódico Universal) the State of Honduras to create a mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders, as well as of journalists and social communicators.
In this sense, on June 4, the Congress of the Republic of Honduras approved in first debate the project named “Protection Law for defenders of Human Rights, Journalists, Social Communicators and Operators of Justice,” that looks to comply with the cited recommendations. Unfortunately, however, said project presents a variety of deficiencies that could impede compliance with the pursued objective.
Facing this situation, Protection International (PI) and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) conducted a joint mission to Tegucigalpa from July 28 to August 2. During the mission, the organizations expressed some concerns about the approved project to representatives of the Executive Power and the Honduran Congress. At the same time, they accompanied local organizations in the reflection and elaboration of reform proposals that would strengthen the mentioned mechanism.
“All public policies related to the protection of human rights defenders and journalists should be consulted with civil society and subject to a good technical analysis. If this does not happen, these public policies can be inapplicable, and would therefore not obtain the expected benefits,” stated the President of PI on the issue.
Marcia Aguiluz, CEJIL Program Director for Central America and Mexico noted that, “the State of Honduras is obligated to consider the international standards on the protection of human rights defenders and should also reach an agreement with the various groups that are in a situation of risk about the implementation of mechanisms that respond to their needs in an effective way.”
PI and CEJIL applaud and are thankful for the authorities’ willingness to listen to the suggestions for improvements to the initiative. Likewise, they reiterate the call to consider the contributions of various sectors of civil society so that the mechanism that aims for the protection of human rights defenders, journalists and operators of justice is a product of a broad, inclusive, transparent and participative process.