Lawyer defending environmental rights activist killed in Honduras

Association

On 10th April 2018, lawyer Carlos Hernández was murdered in the city of Tela, Atlántida. Hernández supported civic causes and was the legal representative of Arnoldo Chacónis, mayor of the town of Arizona who is facing charges for his efforts to protect the Rio Jilamito from the potential environmental effects of constructing a hydroelectric plant. Front Line Defenders issued a statement on the incident condemning

"...the violence, criminalisation and police harassment against these defenders and all attempts to prevent environmental rights defenders carrying out their legitimate work in Honduras".

On 11th April, two men identified as police officers illegally raided the house of Liliam López, a social leader and coordinator with Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH). The two men entered the house looking for weapons and after the search, took pictures of López's sons, and then left. When the police were contacted about the incident, they stated that there were no search warrants issued. COPINH expressed its concern about the raid and denounced:

"...these irresponsible, illegal and criminalizing actions by members of the repressive forces of the State of Honduras..."

Lazaro Peralta, Diego Ruiz and Bairon Peralta from the Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán (MUCA) were arrested on 14th April for alleged illegal possession of weapons. The trio are part of a farmers' movement seeking for land redistribution in a country where land ownership is concentrated in only a few hands. They were released after eight days in detention. 

Peaceful Assembly

In the southern city of Choluteca, security forces violently repressed a group of citizens protesting against the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez on 27th March. Reports indicate that police shot rubber bullets at the protesters, injuring at least five, including three youth, and seven were arrested.

Expression

According to data from the Ombudsman, since 2001, 75 journalists have been killed in the country; 43 percent of the killings have occurred under the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez, and 92 percent of those cases still remain unsolved. Some recent challenges facing journalists in the country are detailed in the incidents described as follows. 

It was reported that police officers attacked a journalist who was live broadcasting a protest in the city of Choloma. Police ordered Carlos Wayne to turn off his phone, delete all the footage, and remove his safety vest. 

The journalist Luis Almendarez reported that he was a victim of harassment for information he published on his social media account, in relation to a police operation where they evicted workers from the local market in the city of Comayagua. On social media, Almendarez called out Felipe Arias, the local judge who ordered the eviction. On 11th April, he received a subpoena where he was told to remove the information from his Facebook page. No agreement was reached and now Almendarez is requesting protection from the local authorities as he fears for his life.

On 13th April, journalist Wendy Funes reported that the Prosecutor’s Office denied a request for public information regarding a legal process against the country’s former president, Porfirio Lobo, for violent acts of repression against protesters in 2011. The argument given by the Prosecutor’s Office is that Funes is not part of the lawsuit and therefore the information cannot be shared. Funes asserts that she was part of that protest and as a citizen is fully entitled to know the current status of the legal action against Lobo. 

Honduras is currently on the Monitor's Watch List of countries where there is an urgent, immediate and developing threat to civic space.