UN Special Rapporteur urges the Honduran Government to protect human rights defenders

From the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The full end-of-mission statement in English and Spanish can be found here.

TEGUCIGALPA (14 February 2012) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya said* today that human rights defenders in Honduras continue to suffer extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, death threats, attacks, harassment and stigmatization, and called on the Honduran Government to urgently establish a protection programme.

“Honduras faces serious challenges in combating violence and insecurity,” Ms. Sekaggya said the independent expert charged with monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights defenders at the end of her mission to the country. “The pervasive impunity and absence of effective investigations of human rights violations undermine the administration of justice and damage the public’s trust in authorities.”

“I have observed that certain categories of human rights defenders are at particular risk, including journalists, staff of the National Human Rights Commission, lawyers, prosecutors and judges. Defenders working in favour of the rights of women, children, the LGBTI community, the indigenous and Afro-Honduran communities are also targeted, as well as those working on environmental and land rights issues,” the expert said.

The Special Rapporteur noted that the lack of protection for human rights defenders at risk increases their vulnerability and obstructs the ability of authorities to undertake investigations of alleged human rights violations. In her view, this contributes to the cycle of impunity and negatively affects the population’s confidence in the rule of law and justice. “I was repeatedly informed by human rights defenders that due to their fear of the police, they abstain from seeking protection as they consider that contact with the police exposes them to increased security risks,” she said.

“The Government should establish a clear State policy which recognises the indispensible work of human rights defenders and ensure their protection,” Ms. Sekaggya stated among other recommendations. She welcomed President Porfirio Lobo Sosa’s public commitment to implement her recommendations, noting that “the President should promote and lead dialogue between authorities and civil society in order to create a favourable environment for human rights defenders.”

The UN independent expert also called for the urgent establishment of an adequately resourced protection programme and the development of an inter-institutional framework to assume responsibility for its coordination and regular and transparent review, “as a crucial measure to overcome the distrust of authorities among human rights defenders.”

Ms. Sekaggya will present her final recommendations stemming from the visit in her report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2013.

During her eight-day mission to Honduras, the Special Rapporteur visited Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba, where she met with President Lobo Sosa, Government officials, representatives of the legislative and judicial branches, a broad range of civil society actors, the United Nations and diplomatic delegations.

Mrs. Sekaggya, a lawyer from Uganda, was appointed Special Rapporteur by the Human Rights Council in March 2008. She is independent from any Government and serves in her individual capacity.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11830&LangID=E

For more information about the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/defenders/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Honduras: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/HNIndex.aspx

For further information and media enquiries, please contact:

In Geneva: Mr. Kim Smeby (+41 22 91 79172 / ksmeby@ohchr.org).

In Tegucigalpa: Mr. Antonio Maldonado (+504 2220 1100 / antonio.maldonado@undp.org).