GENEVA – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, today urged the Government of Honduras “to take immediate and concrete actions, or risk turning the country into a lawless killing zone for human rights defenders.” His call was joined by Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai, among others.
Mr. Forst’s appeal comes after the killing of yet another outspoken leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations Honduras (COPINH), the organization founded and led by prominent indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, an environmental and women human rights defender slain earlier this month
Nelson García’s killing reportedly occurred on 15 March, shortly after he had witnessed a forced eviction carried out by security forces in the Río Lindo area, South of San Pedro Sula. “This new tragedy points once again to major faults in the protection of rights defenders in the country,” the expert said.
“Amid unrelenting attacks against environmental and indigenous defenders, it is high time the Honduran authorities take concrete steps to ensure safety for all human rights defenders in the country, and their families,” Mr. Forst stressed recalling States’ obligation to guarantee security and protection for all human rights defender or activists within its borders.
“I urge the Hunduran Government to publicly condemn the assassination of Nelson García and ensure an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into his death,” he said. “This cycle of violence will only stop when impunity is addressed and perpetrators of such attacks are put to justice.”
According to numerous reports received by the Special Rapporteur, Honduras has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders, particularly those promoting rights related to environment and land issues.
On 5 March, after the death of Berta Cáceres, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decided to call for precautionary measures for all members of COPINH as they were suffering an escalation of threats and harassment. “However, this has regrettably not prevented Mr. García’s murder,” Mr. Forst concluded.
The statement by Mr. Michel Forst has been endorsed by the Special Rapporteurs on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes Başkut Tuncak: and on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, John Knox.
This press release is also available in Spanish.