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News > Latin America

Honduran Activists Unmask Egregious Govt Human Rights Abuses

  • White crosses line the roadside around Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to commemorate victims of violence in 2014.

    White crosses line the roadside around Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to commemorate victims of violence in 2014. | Photo: AFP

Published 7 June 2016

Berta Caceres' murder is just one example of an onslaught of attacks against activists and the "invisibility" of basic human rights in Honduras, a new report finds.

Just over three months after the murder of renowned Indigenous leader Berta Caceres, Honduran human rights organizations and social movements have found in a new report released Monday that the right-wing government’s neoliberal policies violate the economic, cultural, and social rights of Indigenous people, women, campesinos, and other groups in the country, while making political activists and rights defenders vulnerable to criminalization and violence.

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The findings point to an “invisibility of human rights” in Honduras in a context of extreme poverty, widespread malnutrition, and rampant corruption, worsened by the 2009 U.S.-backed military coup that saw a proliferation of human rights abuses and aggressively ramped up militarization.

“There a strong link between high levels of poverty and inequality and high rates of violence and insecurity in the country, which remain among the highest in the world,” the report reads, adding that these are also key factors fueling massive migration to the United States. “The coup d’etat in 2009 meant an imminent reversal of human rights and a serious blow to the country’s institutions.”

The report, compiled by a coalition of 54 organizations in Honduras and released by the international human rights organization FIAN, comes as an alternative to the official state report submitted to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which kicked of its 58th session in Geneva on Monday.

Honduran organizations have previously slammed authorities for blocking the participation of rights defenders in U.N. reviews of states’ human rights compliance. A group of Honduran activists have travelled to Geneva to present the alternative report and meet with international experts to discuss demands for justice in the case of Berta Caceres.

The report details the frequent violation of Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent for all development and resource extraction on their land. Unwanted mining and hydroelectric projects, promoted by the Honduran government’s neoliberal policy approach, often lead to conflicts in communities fighting to defend their livelihoods and ancestral territories and culture.

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It also highlights the recent murder of Berta Caceres, who long resisted unwanted resource extraction on Lenca land, as one egregious example of the violence Honduran activists face for fighting neoliberal policies and proposing local alternatives to extractivism.

“This demonstrates that the mechanisms available in Honduras for their protection do not suffice,” the report says of Caceres’ case. “The overwhelming majority of cases go unpunished.”

Meanwhile, campesino communities also face forced displacement and violation of their rights to food and land in their struggle against corporate land grabs and expanding industrial agriculture. The report points to northern Aguan Valley, home to a heated World Bank-backed land conflict in which activists involved in a more than decade-old movement to recuperate land rights face fierce criminalization and violence, as an emblematic case of the systemic and state-sanctioned abuse of human rights in Honduras.

The findings also reveal structural violence against women, including restriction of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as systematic discrimination against LGBT people, beginning with a lack of education around sexual orientation and gender identity that helps perpetuate homophobia and other heteronormative and patriarchal attitudes.

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