Honduran human rights defender sentenced to 18 months prison for holding peaceful protest


ISHR expresses concern at the apparent criminalisation of respected human rights defender Gladys Lanza Ochoa and calls upon the Honduran government to take steps for her protection and that of activists in the country in general

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ISHR expresses grave concern for Honduran human rights defender, Ms Gladys Lanza Ochoa, who was sentenced on 26 March to 18 months imprisonment after being convicted a month earlier on charges of ‘defamation and slander.’ Her lawyers have lodged an appeal before the Supreme Court.

Front Line Defenders recently reported on Lanza Ochoa’s case (in English, and here in Spanish), showing how it amounts to the arbitrary criminalisation of Lanza Ochoa’s right to freedom of peaceful protest and association, and freedom of expression.

Lanza Ochoa is Coordinator of the Movimiento de Mujeres por la Paz Visitación Padilla (Honduran Women's Committee for Peace - "Visitación Padilla").  The charges against her related to her advocacy in support of a former employee of the Foundation for Development of Urban and Rural Social Housing (FUNDEVI), who claimed in 2011 to have been made redundant after being subjected to an extended period of sexual harassment by the Executive Director of the company.

Visitación Padilla organised a peaceful demonstration outside the offices of FUNDEVI, posted placards and issued press releases about the alleged victim, whose successful sexual harassment claim was overturned on appeal.

The sentence forms part of a long line of attacks against Lanza Ochoa herself and women human rights defenders in the country. ‘Women human rights defenders in Honduras work under extremely dangerous social and political circumstances, and are at risk each time they advocate for fellow Hondurans,’ Front Line Defenders explained.

These developments are worrying in light of the Honduran Congress’ ongoing failure to strengthen and enact a draft law that would protect human rights defenders. In December last year, ISHR urged the Honduran Government to consult closely with civil society on the development and effective implementation of the law, whose passage has since stalled. ISHR had also underlined the additional risks facing women defenders and advised the Honduran government to take steps to end the criminalisation of activists in the country. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, after its visit to Honduras, also stressed that the law needed to be ‘urgently approved.’

Lanza Ochoa’s sentence is also handed down before Honduras’ forthcoming Universal Periodic Review in May 2015. ISHR has published briefing papers in English and Spanish to assist States and other stakeholders to formulate questions and recommendations regarding the protection of human rights defenders in the country.

‘Lanza Ochoa’s sentencing is extremely troubling news and reflects a persistent stifling of civil society space in Honduras, especially for women human rights defenders’ said Ben Leather of ISHR. ‘We call on the Honduran government to guarantee prompt, full and transparent due process for Lanza Ochoa in her Supreme Court appeal.'

For more information, contact ISHR's Ben Leather at b.leather@ishr.ch




  • Latin America and Caribbean
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • Women's rights and WHRD
  • Honduras