Honduras: Oppression against economic, social and cultural rights defenders must end

14.09.2015

The specific and increasingly heightened risks facing defenders of economic, social and cultural rights in Honduras should be a priority issue during the country’s forthcoming examination by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ISHR has said in a joint report.

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The specific and increasingly heightened risks facing defenders of economic, social and cultural rights in Honduras should be a priority issue during the country’s forthcoming examination by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ISHR has said in a joint NGO report.

Image of briefing paper on the situation of human rights defenders in HondurasWhile all human rights defenders in Honduras are exposed to a wide range of obstacles and risks, those working on economic, social and cultural rights (land and environmental defenders in particular) are among the most vulnerable, shows the report on the situation of human rights defenders in Honduras. The research has been published jointly by ISHR, the International Platform against Impunity and the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR).

Violence and pressure are used on a regular basis to impede their work and silence them, which includes:

  • Death threats and murders
  • Forced evictions
  • Arbitrary detention and fraudulent charges
  • Administrative restrictions against the right to assembly
  • Public stigmatisation and defamation
  • Enforced disappearances

These attacks carried out in a climate of complete impunity have severely damaged the space for civil society activism regularly deprived of its most vocal representatives and haunted by the fear of reprisals.

The 56th Pre-sessional Working Group of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural will consider the joint submission in developing a list of issues to be posed to Honduras at its next examination. The aim of the review will be to assess Honduras’ progress towards compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Dangers escalate for economic, social and cultural rights defenders

Despite the development of some encouraging laws, policies and actions by the authorities towards better protection of defenders, much more is required to ensure their full implementation while ‘a series of laws still restrict the rights to freedoms of assembly and association,’ says Ben Leather, ISHR Advocacy and Communications Manager.

‘It is clear that this group represents some of the human rights defenders who are most vulnerable in Honduras, given that they face a broad range of threats from a broad range of actors,’ he says. ‘The government must take steps to recognise their important role in ensuring economic development benefits communities and respects human rights, whilst protecting them against any reprisals for their activism.’

The Pre-sessional Working Group of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights must ask Honduras to detail the legal and practical steps it intends to take in order to ensure effective protection of economic, social and cultural rights defenders and combat impunity.  

Lucy McKernan, Geneva Representative for GI-ESCR said: 'We hope the Committee will emphasise that inherent in the economic, social and cultural rights of Honduran citizens are the rights to participate in decisions that affect them, to critique government policy and advocate for changes in relation to those rights, without fear of harassment or reprisals.’

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