The United Nations human rights chief today called on Honduras to take urgent steps to combat impunity for crimes against lawyers and journalists, stressing that recent killings reflect the “chronic insecurity” that these professions are subject to in the country.
“Sadly, these deplorable killings are far from isolated cases,” the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said. “There is a menacing climate of insecurity and violence in Honduras, and human rights defenders have been targets of threats, harassment, physical assault and murder.
“The impunity that surrounds these violations is unacceptable. When the perpetrators know they are very likely to get off scot-free, there is nothing to deter them from killing off more of the country’s finest human rights defenders.”
Last Saturday, Antonio Trejo-Cabrera, a lawyer prominent for defending the interests of peasant groups in land conflicts in the Lower Aguán Region of Honduras, was shot to death. He had repeatedly reported receiving death threats in the months leading up to his killing, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a news release.
Two days later, Manuel Díaz-Mazariegos, a public prosecutor in the city of Choluteca, who also worked on human rights cases, was gunned down.
“I call on the Government to spare no effort in their investigations into the killings of Mr. Trejo-Cabrera and Mr. Díaz-Mazariegos, and to ensure that attacks or threats against other human rights defenders are taken seriously and promptly investigated,” Ms. Pillay said. “It is essential that the people who commit these crimes are brought to justice. Failure to do so will only exacerbate what is already a dire situation.”
According to the Honduran Bar Association, 74 lawyers have been killed over the past three years, without an adequate response from the authorities. In addition, more than 60 people have been killed in land disputes over the past two years.
“I call on the Government of Honduras to urgently adopt measures to address the vulnerability of human rights defenders, as recommended by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, who visited the country in February this year,” Ms. Pillay said, noting that the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank la Rue, had also expressed alarm at the high rates of violence confronting Honduran journalists.
“I also urge the Government to implement the commitments it made during the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Honduras in 2010, particularly those aimed at strengthening rule of law institutions and the effectiveness of the administration of justice,” she said, reiterating her office’s readiness to assist the Government in its efforts to protect the people of Honduras.