Honduras: one of the worst places to be a human rights defender

June 5, 2015

On 25 May 2015 the inaugural PEN Canada/Honduras Award for investigative journalism, ‘Escribir sin Miedo’, was presented in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to the journalist and documentary filmmaker Fred Alvarado for his essay “HONDURAS: the Process of American Remilitarization and the Failure of the War on Drugs”.

Escribir sin Miedo was organized and launched by the newly established PEN Honduras centre, in partnership with PEN Canada, with funding from the British embassy in Guatemala. “Investigative journalism has never been more important in this country,” said Dina Meza, president of PEN Honduras, “and awards like this recognize the importance of creating a culture in which writers and human rights defenders can address sensitive issues without fearing for their lives.”

And the problems are grave:

– At least 30 journalists have been killed since the country’s 2010 Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations, and at least 48 since 2003. Several were killed even after receiving protection measures, including “precautionary measures” granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). To date the government has obtained convictions in just four of these cases, with the remaining 44 unresolved – an impunity rate of over 90 per cent.

– Frontline reports that Honduran human rights defender, Ms Gladys Lanza Ochoa, continues to face intimidation and harassment following her sentencing to 18-months imprisonment on 26 March 2015. An appeal against the sentencing has been lodged before the Supreme Court of Honduras.  [Gladys Lanza Ochoa is Coordinator of the Movimiento de Mujeres por la Paz Visitación Padilla (Honduran Women’s Committee for Peace “Visitación Padilla”), a collective of women human rights defenders from across Honduras who work on issues such as gender violence and women’s participation in public life, in addition to advocating for democracy and human rights in Honduras. Over the last years, Gladys Lanza Ochoa, as well as other members of Visitación Padilla have been regularly victims of threats, intimidation and surveillance in connection with their human rights work (https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/19743Most recently, on 14 May 2015, the human rights defender was followed by unidentified persons riding motorcycles and driving a car that did not bear registration plates. This intimidation occurs right after Gladys Lanza Ochoa’s lawyer launched her appeal before the Supreme Court against her sentence to 18 months in prison https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/28385.

– On 25 May 2015 Telesur published a lengthy “Analysis From Reagan to Obama: Forced Disappearances in Honduras” which provides many details on 30 years of horror: “Hondurans today suffer not just from the terror of death squads but from the ravages of three decades of the implementation of neoliberal policy made possible by death squads, which makes them that much more vulnerable.” 

– Bertha Oliva, director of COFADEH and winner of the Tulip award, lost her husband Tomas Nativi to forced disappearance by Battalion 316. Nativi was taken from their home by masked agents in 1981 and has never been seen again. Over the years after Nativi’s disappearance, Oliva came to realize that she was not alone, and others had similar experiences of family members being disappeared. In 1982, 12 of these families came together to form COFADEH with the objective of bringing back alive family members who had been disappeared. In the majority of cases throughout the 1980s while Battalion 316 was operating, COFADEH did not succeed in their goal. After the 1980s, COFADEH broadened its scope as an organization not only committed to seeking justice for the families of the disappeared and truth for Honduran society, but also representing and defending victims of human rights abuses, documenting cases, and providing training to raise awareness about human rights. The creation of COFADEH was, in its own words, a “concrete action” in the face of the inactivity of the state to ensure “the right of victims to live and to have due process, among other rights that have been violated.” COFADEH has continued to play a key role in documenting and denouncing human rights abuses and demanding justice, particularly once again in the years since the coup.

for more on Honduras: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/honduras/

Canadian and Honduran PEN centres award inaugural prize for investigative/public interest journalism – MarketWatch.

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/analysis/From-Reagan-to-Obama-Forced-Disappearances-in-Honduras-20150522-0027.html

2 Responses to “Honduras: one of the worst places to be a human rights defender”


  1. […] see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/honduras-one-of-the-worst-places-to-be-a-human-rights-def… […]


  2. […] On 20 September 2016 Gladys Lanza (#GladysLanza), one of Honduras most outstanding human rights defenders, passed away. With this video Front Line wants to help her struggle to continue. Honduras remains in the top list of places where human rights defenders are persecuted and attacked. See: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/honduras-one-of-the-worst-places-to-be-a-human-rights-defen… […]


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