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“Action needed to stop Honduras turning into a lawless killing zone for human rights defenders”

GENEVA (18 March 2016) – 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.”

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.

Mr. Michel Forst (France) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2014. Michel Forst has extensive experience on human rights issues and particularly on the situation of human rights defenders. In particular, he was the Director General of Amnesty International (France) and Secretary General of the first World Summit on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. For more information, log on to:

Read the Special Rapporteur’s reports on the global threats facing human rights defenders, and on the situation of women human rights defenders: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx

The UN human rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Honduras: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/HNIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact Jamshid Gaziyev (+41 22 9179245 / eandvig@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Mr. Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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