At the end of a three-day visit to Honduras, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, underlined “the paramount need to increase protection for human rights defenders in Honduras.”
Gilmour welcomed the strengthened cooperation between the newly established UN Human Rights Office in Tegucigalpa and State institutions.
He said that the goal of the Office is to support the Government in extending the protection of human rights in a highly challenging security environment and with upcoming elections.
In Honduras, Gilmour had meetings with State officials at the highest level, civil society representatives, as well as foreign ambassadors and the UN Country Team.
After seeing the Head of the Organization of American States’ Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), as well as the National Commissioner for Human Rights, Gilmour underlined the essential work they are both doing and their key partnerships with the UN Human Rights Office.
“We are glad that the direct link between corruption and human rights abuses is increasingly recognized – for example, when concessions for land or natural resources are wrongfully granted and without consulting indigenous communities,” he said.
Gilmour welcomed recent steps taken by the Honduran Government such as the creation of a National Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and the announced upgrading of the Vice-Ministry for Human Rights to a full-fledged Ministry.
After meeting NGO leaders, Gilmour said he was particularly troubled by the violence faced by courageous human rights defenders: women, LGBTI, land defenders and indigenous peoples.
“They are doing a tremendous service for the long-term future of Honduras and should never be attacked, punished or stigmatized,” he said.
Widespread impunity, horrific levels of violence, increased militarization of public security, restrictive access to family planning, as well as a disturbing increase in femicide and violence against women, were some of the issues brought to Gilmour’s attention during his visit.
In his meetings, Gilmour reiterated that opening space for dialogue, access to information and meaningful participation in policy-making are key elements of a democratic society. He encouraged State officials to see human rights defenders as allies and useful agents of change.
He also warned against a reliance on harsh penal policies for juveniles and security-only approaches.
“Social investment and rehabilitation options would be far more likely to address the root causes of violence in Honduras,” Gilmour said.
Photo courtesy: OHCHR
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