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Call to End the Repressive Policies of the State of Honduras

MADRE has signed on to this letter to the United Nations from feminist and human rights networks and organizations.

Ms. Navi Pillay
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Ms. Margaret Sekaggya
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

Ms. Rashida Manjoo
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women

People from all over the world, representing national, regional and international organizations and networks have signed this letter to express deep concern for repression and human rights violations suffered by the Honduran people. We denounce, in particular, the attacks on and persecution of human rights organizations and women human rights defenders (WHRD) who work tirelessly to condemn the repressive policies, high rates of violence and impunity that prevail in Honduras.

In the past few months, policies such as the "Municipal Education Law" (a step toward privatizing public education), and the suspension of 2010 salaries for more than 6000 teachers and professors, among other measures, have motivated large-scale mobilization and protest across the country and an ongoing teachers' strike. In a bid to contain the social unrest, the Porfirio Lobo regime declared the strike unlawful and legalized the salary suspensions and the mass firing of those teachers and professors who refused to drop their demands. In addition, the Lobo administration has deployed state security forces to stop, often with brutal violence, the peaceful protests organized by the teachers and diverse social movements:

  • Protesters have been attacked using tear gas and physical violence, leaving many wounded and some with bullet injuries.
  • On March 18th, as a direct result of the violence carried out by the repressive state agents in Tegucigalpa, teacher Ilse Ivania Vel�squez Rodr�guez was killed.
  • On March 24th, the following teachers were detained without charge in Tegucigalpa, and later transferred to a women's prison in T�mara: Ingrid Liseth Sierra, Nuria Evelyn Verduzco, Linda Melina Guill�n Fonseca, Mar�a Auxiliadora Espinoza and Wendy M�ndez. Among them was a professor with a 9 month-old baby from whom she was separated and denied access.

These are not isolated incidents. From the beginning of Mr. Lobo's term, peaceful protests and demonstrations have been suppressed while persecution against feminist and women's organizations has only increased. WHRD who sympathize with and support the national resistance movement are especially at risk. Recent examples include: the chain of threats suffered by Sra. Gladys Lanza and el Movimiento de Mujeres por la Paz "Visitaci�n Padilla" (Women's Movement for Peace) since July 2010; the continuous intimidation of women communicators/women active in the media from la Voz de Zacate Grande; on March 28th, Mirian Miranda (president of the Organizaci�n Fraternal Negra de Honduras) suffered prolonged exposure to tear gas, underwent an arbitrary 12-hour detention and was denied medical treatment; and the assault of members of feminist organization, CESADEH, and the looting of their premises. WHRD also confront an entrenched culture of impunity and violence against women which has left 50+ cases of femicide in 2011 so far.

In 2010, there were five documented WHRD assassinations: two members of the Resistance Front (Claudia Brisuela and Teresa Flores), a member of the la Red de Mujeres J�venes de la Colonia "Cruz Roja" (Jessica G�lvez) and two activists from the LGBT movement (Gamaniel Parson and Neraldys).

Mesoamerican feminists and women's rights activists denounced these attacks before the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2011 where the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders presented a report on the global situation of WHRD. At this event, Honduras pledged to provide security for its people and protect WHRD – a direct contradiction to the ongoing and systematic practice of intimidation, repression and indifference to the assassinations of women who are on the frontline of human rights work.

In light of this urgent situation we call on the United Nations to:

  • Denounce the failure of the State of Honduras to comply with signed human rights treaties and agreements;
  • Apply all measures possible to end the human rights violations of the Honduran people and the political persecution of the defenders of human rights in Honduras.
  • Push the Honduran government for an impartial investigation to identify and prosecute those responsible for the attacks against WHRD in accordance with the human rights obligations of the country.
April 7, 2011  / Latin America and Carribean