Press Release

IACHR Condemns Murder of Human Rights Defenders in Honduras

September 28, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of Antonio Trejo Cabrera and Manuel Eduardo Díaz Mazariegos, two human rights defenders in Honduras. The Inter-American Commission urges the Honduran State to deepen and strengthen the investigation, legally clarify these crimes, and punish the perpetrators and masterminds.

According to the information received, on September 24, 2012, the special prosecutor on human rights of the Choluteca Department, Eduardo Díaz Mazariegos, was killed with 11 bullets by two unidentified persons riding on motorcycles, in the vicinty of the headquarters of the Office of the Prosecutor in the city of Choluteca, in the southeast of Honduras.

In addition, the information received indicates that on September 22, 2012, unidentified persons shot Antonio Trejo Cabrera in Tegucigalpa, and that in the previous he had received several death threats, which he had reported to the authorities. The information received further indicates that Antonio Trejo Cabrera was the legal representative of the Movimiento Auténtico Reivindicador Campesino del Aguán (MARCA), and that he worked defending and promoting the rights of the peasant community cooperatives in the region of the Bajo Aguán.

There is a longstanding land conflict in the Bajo Aguan region, Tocoa, that has confronted peasants with businesspersons. According to national and international organizations that follow this situation, 53 persons linked to the peasant organizations of the Bajo Aguán, plus a journalist and his partner, had allegedly been murdered between September 2009 and August 2012 in the context of this agrarian conflict. Furthermore, the whereabouts of a peasant are unknown since May 15, 2011. According to information from the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights, the investigations on these crimes have not been efficient. The Inter-American Commission has repeatedly referred to the situation in the Bajo Aguán, including a section on Honduras in Chapter IV of its Annual Reports 2010 and 2011, and observes that the situation continues to be highly worrisome.

The IACHR calls to mind that it is the State's obligation to investigate such acts of its own accord and to punish those responsible. The Commission also urges the State of Honduras to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, integrity, and security of the human rights defenders in the country.

As the Commission has noted previously, acts of violence and other attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that belong to all human beings; they also undermine the fundamental role human rights defenders play in society and contribute to the vulnerability of all those whose rights they champion. The Commission also recalls that the work of human rights defenders is critical for building a solid and lasting democratic society. Human rights defenders play a leading role in the process of seeking to attain the full rule of law and the strengthening of democracy.

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.

No. 121/12