Wednesday, February 15, 2012

From the Net: 'Statement of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, on the conclusion of her official visit to Honduras' (UNHR)

From the 7 to 14 February 2012, I visited Honduras and travelled to Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba. During my visit, I met with the President; the Minister of Justice and Human Rights; the Minister of the Indigenous and Afro-Honduran people; the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs; the Vice-Minister for Defense; the Vice-Minister of Internal Affairs; the Vice-Minister of Security; the Director of the National Agrarian Institute; the President of the Human Rights Commission within the National Congress; the President of the Supreme Court of Justice; the Special Prosecutor Office for Human Rights, the Human Rights Commissioner. However, I regret not having met the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Security, Defense, Interior and Populations. I met as well with members of the diplomatic community (G16) and the United Nations agencies, including the Resident Coordinator.


Honduras faces serious challenges in combating violence and insecurity. The pervasive impunity and absence of effective investigations of human rights violations undermine the administration of justice and damages the public’s trust in authorities. The 2009 coup d’état aggravated institutional weaknesses, increased the vulnerability of human rights defenders and provoked a major polarisation in society. Due to the exposed nature of their activities, human rights defenders continue to suffer extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, death threats, attacks, harassment and stigmatisation.

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, as well as defenders working on the rights of women, children, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex community, the indigenous and Afro-Honduran communities as well as those working on environmental and land rights issues.

I am concerned that public officials, including high-ranking authorities, have made public statements which stigmatise human rights defenders. In particular, I have received information indicating that human rights defenders working on the protection of the rights of LGBTI have been threatened and persecuted because their work is perceived to defend immoral behaviour. Defenders working on children’s rights have been harassed, particularly those denouncing social cleansing of children and youth at the hands of public and private actors. Women’s organisations raised concerns that, due to pervasive gender discrimination, their complaints of violations against their integrity and work are dismissed and that they suffer intimidation by the authorities, in particular members of the police force.


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