María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Director
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001
Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of Héctor Orlando Martínez, a representative of the Workers Union of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (SITRAUNAH), who was a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR. The Commission urges the State to investigate and shed light on the circumstances in which this act occurred and, where appropriate, identify and punish those responsible.
According to information presented to the IACHR and publicly available information, Héctor Orlando Martínez was killed on June 17, 2015, when he was heading home after work at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. The human rights defender served as President of Branch No. 6 of SITRAUNAH, at the Regional University Center of the Pacific Coast (CURLP-UNAH), in the city of Choluteca, in Choluteca province. According to reports, Héctor Orlando Martínez was attacked by two individuals on motorcycles who fired on his vehicle, shooting him multiple times. This reportedly took place after a human rights investigation committee had proceeded to look into a series of complaints lodged by Héctor Orlando Martínez.
The IACHR granted precautionary measures for Héctor Orlando Martínez and his family on May 19, 2015 (PM-253/14), because he had been a target of threats and acts of harassment as a direct consequence of his activities as a representative of SITRAUNAH. These acts were allegedly designed to get him to leave his job as a union leader. It is worth noting that during its onsite visit to Honduras, the Commission received information concerning the situation of several labor union leaders who reportedly had been criminalized, or they or members of their immediate families had been subject to surveillance and stalking. Moreover, in the context of the mechanism of precautionary measures, the Inter-American Commission has received information concerning alleged conflicts between the authorities at the National Autonomous University of Honduras and members of the Workers Union of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, which reportedly had placed some union leaders at risk, in view of the alleged threats and acts of harassment.
In addition, on May 27, 2015, the IACHR granted precautionary measures for Donatilo Jiménez Euceda, an employee of the Atlantic Regional University Center of the National Autonomous University of Honduras and a former president of the CURLA branch of the Workers Union of the National Autonomous University of Honduras. He was said to have disappeared in circumstances that had not yet been clarified. According to the information received by the IACHR, he had allegedly disappeared while he was seeking help because two co-workers had been injured as a result of an accident aboard a “dump truck.” According to what was reported, Donatilo Jiménez had disappeared in a context of conflicts that had allegedly existed within the National Autonomous University of Honduras since 2008.
The IACHR calls to mind that it is the State’s obligation to investigate such acts of its own accord and punish the perpetrators and masterminds. Specifically, the IACHR urges the State of Honduras to open lines of investigation that look into whether Héctor Orlando Martínez was killed because of his work as a human rights defender. This investigation must be carried out with due diligence and must be thorough, serious, and impartial. The IACHR also urges the State to adopt all measures necessary to guarantee the rights to life, physical integrity, and safety of human rights defenders, especially labor union leaders. Moreover, it is essential for the State to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the rights to life, integrity, and safety of the members of Héctor Orlando Martínez’s family, as stated in the precautionary measure still in effect.
As the Commission has indicated before, acts of violence and other attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that belong to every human being; they also undermine the essential role human rights defenders play in society and leave all those for whom they fight defenseless. The Commission also reiterates that the work of human rights defenders is critical for building a solid and lasting democratic society, and rights defenders play a leading role in the process to fully implement the rule of law and to strengthen democracy. In this regard, the IACHR urges the State of Honduras to take all necessary measures to guarantee that human rights defenders can carry out their work of denunciation, support, and protection, free from attacks or acts of violence that jeopardize their life, their integrity, and their safety.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.