Honduras
Head of state and government
Porfirio Lobo Sosa

Human rights defenders continued to be threatened, attacked and killed. Prison conditions remained a concern following the deaths of 360 prisoners in a fire at Comayagua Prison. There were fears that legislation might be introduced criminalizing access to contraception. The independence of the judiciary came under the spotlight after the sacking of members of the Supreme Court.

Background

Levels of violent crime remained high and continued to dominate the political agenda. Attempts were made by the government to purge the police in response to allegations of abuses and corruption, such as police involvement and complicity in killings, such as those of two university students in 2011.

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Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders continued to be subjected to intimidation, physical attack and were even killed because of their work.

Campesino community leaders and human rights defenders involved in representing campesino communities in the context of the continuing land disputes in Bajo Aguán were subjected to threats and attacks.

  • In September, human rights lawyer Antonio Trejo Cabrera died after being shot five times by gunmen in the capital, Tegucigalpa. Antonio Trejo had been representing three peasant co-operatives and had helped farmers to regain legal rights to land. He had been scheduled to travel to the USA to take part in hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights about the ongoing land dispute. He reported receiving death threats during the year. By the end of 2012 no one had been held to account for his killing.

The government failed to undertake effective measures to prevent and punish human rights violations against defenders. In February, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders expressed concern at the absence of a programme of specialized protection for human rights defenders. In November, the Vice-Minister of Justice and Human Rights announced the development of a draft bill that would establish protection measures for human rights defenders, media workers and those working in the justice system. The draft bill had not been finalized by the end of the year.

  • Bertha Oliva and Nohemí Pérez of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras, COFADEH) received verbal threats in March and April.
  • In February, Dina Meza, also a COFADEH worker, received text and telephone threats, including one which said, “We’ll burn your pussy with lime until you scream and the whole squad will enjoy it... CAM”. The name of the group (CAM, Comando Álvarez Martinez) refers to a general in the Honduran armed forces (1982-1984) who has been linked by human rights groups to paramilitary death squads at a time of grave human rights abuses.
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Sexual and reproductive rights

In February, the Supreme Court of Justice ruled that it was constitutional to ban the emergency contraceptive pill, despite serious concerns that banning it would breach international and national legal obligations to protect the human rights of women and girls. Should the National Congress decide to enforce the Supreme Court ruling, Honduras would become the first country in the world to criminalize a contraceptive method.

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Prison conditions

More than 360 prisoners were killed and scores seriously injured in a prison fire in Comayagua Prison. The authorities accepted responsibility for the deaths, and made commitments to carry out far-reaching reforms to the prison system and alleviate the dire conditions, as well as addressing the circumstances that led to the fire.

The establishment of the National Monitoring Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture, required under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, was a positive step. However, there were concerns that the necessary resources and personnel had not been put in place to ensure the Mechanism’s effectiveness.

In December, the Law on the Prison System was passed. However, overcrowding and poor prison conditions persisted, putting those in detention at heightened risk of abuses.

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Justice system

In December, the National Congress voted to remove four of the five Supreme Court judges who comprise the Constitutional Section of the Supreme Court. The judges had earlier set down a judgement that blocked a law proposed by Congress intended to facilitate a clean-up of the police force. The judges found some aspects of the law to be unconstitutional. The controversial dismissal of the judges was criticized by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which urged the government to respect and guarantee the independence of the judiciary.

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