The All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) met with Dina Meza, independent journalist and defender of freedom of expression and of information from Honduras, on 30 January, 2018, to discuss the human rights situation in Honduras.
The main points raised were:
- Further to political turmoil resulting from President Hernández running for re-election despite a constitutional one-term limit and then being sworn in for a second term after a violently disputed election in which his party was accused of electoral fraud, the space for civil society and political dissent continues to shrink and violence against HRDs to increase.
- Since Presidential and legislative elections in late 2017, and mass protests, over 30 people are believed to have lost their lives, most at the hands of the state security forces, and over a thousand detained.
- There is concern about the deterioration of governance due to a lack of legitimacy, and a further increase in violence.
- Power is concentrated in the President, who has co-opted the police and the military, as well as other state institutions including the judiciary. There is no access to justice.
- President Hernandez talks about his commitment to human rights, which many (including the UK) accept as a true statement of his intent. This external support promotes impunity and worsening violence.
- Anti-terrorism laws and Penal Code amendments, criticised by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN, are used to prosecute HRDs and journalists.
- There are also many reports of due process violations, as well as trumped-up charges against political dissidents, activists, journalists and HRDs. These prosecutions are intended to dissuade others from continuing to protest against the elections and Government policies. So far, these trials have not been held in public.
- Two maximum security prisons built with the stated aim of tackling organised crime and nacro-trafficking are now holding protestors charged with terrorist offences. There have been reports of torture and ill-treatment in these prisons. Neither the OAS nor CSOs/HRDs have been able to visit those who are imprisoned.
- HRDs and journalists – particularly those on assignment – are also being attacked and experiencing political persecution. Dina continues to receive death threats and to have her phone tapped; there has been no follow-up by relevant Government authorities.
- A former Colonel has stated that military intelligence groups are identifying those “making trouble”, then monitoring and targeting them. The phones and social media accounts of HRDs and journalists are also being monitored.
- There is almost total impunity for human rights violations, currently it is estimated that 97% of cases are not investigated nor any form of judicial redress provided.
- This month Congress passed a law which would block investigations into alleged corruption by many high-level politicians and officials. Soon after, five Honduran lawmakers accused of diverting public funds were released from detention.
- Security agreements have been signed with Israel and Colombia, and the US is financing the police and military, which increases HRDs’ vulnerability and insecurity.
- The UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs will visit Honduras in May 2018.
- Strong international pressure is needed to improve the situation, involving not only diplomatic communications but stringent monitoring of the Honduran Government’s use of international funds, including those earmarked for human rights protection
The PHRG will continue to monitor the situation Honduras closely, particularly as regards the situation of HRDs, and to raise its concerns with the relevant interlocutors.