Human Rights Delegation to Honduras
November 27 – December 4, 2010
What is fundamental is our humanity, for those of us who still have humanity.
Representative of Feminists in Resistance
Below is a summary of the findings of a Friendship Office of the Americas human rights delegation to Honduras from November 27 – December 4, 2010. The delegates spent one week in the country and met with representatives of five major human rights organizations and heard direct testimony from people in three local communities.
It is clear that nearly one and a half years since the coup of June 28, 2009, the human rights situation for Hondurans has not improved, and in many ways has deteriorated significantly. The delegates were struck by the uniformity of testimony heard from diverse communities. Every group and community met with described an increase in the following violations:
· politically motivated extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances
· increased para-military style intimidation
· impunity for human rights violators, including in cases of assassination, rape and sexual assault
· coordinated dis-information campaigns targeting human rights organizing
· a lack of freedom of expression, including assassinations of journalists, closing down of radio stations and media blackouts or incorrect reporting in the national media
· a lack of access to justice, including an increase in false arrests, inadequate criminal defense and a systematic disrespect for the principles of legality and the rule of law
· a drastic increase in militarization, including increased U.S. military presence and the adoption of war rhetoric by public officials
· rampant privatization of natural resources and public utilities without public consultation
· harassment, disappearance and assassination of activists and human rights defenders
· enacting of repressive national legislation aimed at silencing political opposition under the guise of fighting terrorism and/or drug trafficking
Of particular concern to the delegation are violations reported by these groups:
Women: Women’s groups described a huge step backwards for the status of women in Honduras since the coup, especially with regard to gender equality and sexual and reproductive health. In particular, women are experiencing an increase in violence against women, new restrictions on contraception, reduced access to government agencies, an increase in femicide and increased impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations against women, combined with a decrease in complaints to the authorities due to lack of confidence in them. The country-wide decrease in social services has a disparate impact on women. Victims of ill-treatment, torture and sexual abuse who decided to file official complaints have reportedly received death threats and intimidation by police and military officials or have been further victimized by a non-functional and hostile legal system.
Indigenous Communities: Indigenous communities in Honduras are facing serious set-backs, particularly in regard to land reform and natural resource management. Indigenous organizers have been targeted for assassinations, harassment, dis-information and other repression by authorities.
Farmers: The situation of campesino farmers in Honduras has worsened since the coup. In particular, the delegation heard numerous reports of land re-distribution being suspended, legal proceedings being obstructed and campesinos who are legally occupying land to produce food being targeted for assassinations, intimidation and illegal evictions at the hands of large landowners.
Human Rights Defenders: Human rights defenders continue to play a critical role in Honduras, documenting violations, providing essential support to victims of abuses, working to prevent torture, ill-treatment and disappearances and raising the visibility of these violations among the international community. The delegation received disturbing reports from human rights defenders describing a sense of extreme vulnerability due to the normalization of lawlessness and impunity in the country at this time. They are literally afraid for their lives and are urgently requesting an increased presence of international human rights observers in the country.
Organized Labor: The rights of workers have been drastically curtailed since the coup. Unions and workers’ groups that were active in popular demonstrations in opposition to the coup have experienced a harsh backlash and have reported being targeted for assassinations, forced disappearances and harassment. In addition, there has been a wave of legislation aimed at reducing workers’ rights, including wages and job security.
The delegation also heard credible and consistent reports of severe human rights violations targeting the following communities:
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Community: The increase in violence since the coup is disproportionately impacting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities in Honduras, who report 18 people murdered in the first six months following the coup – eight of whom were human rights activists.
Journalists: Journalists in Honduras operate in an environment of extreme danger and fear, with nine journalists killed so far this year. The watchdog group Reporters Sans Frontieres rates Honduras (together with Mexico) as the most dangerous countries in the western hemisphere for media professionals, citing murders, physical attacks, intimidation, censorship and impunity for these violations.
We call on the Government of the United States to:
· Make U.S. policy towards Honduras consistent with its own findings that the June 2009, coup d’état was illegal and unconstitutional.
· Hold the Honduran government responsible for continuing violence and intimidation directed against those who peacefully express opposition to the illegal coup d’état.
· Publicly denounce the systemic violation of human rights in Honduras by state security forces.
· Secure an indefinite suspension of all military and police aid to Honduras until human rights abuses are halted and accountability is secured for past and current abuses under the Lobo regime.
*The complete delegation report will be posted when completed.