Press Release

IACHR Condemns Killing of Human Rights Defender in Honduras

May 28, 2014

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing in Honduras of the human rights defender Orlando Orellana, president of the Cerrito Lindo Community Board in the jurisdiction of San Pedro Sula. Mr. Orellana had been a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR in 2005. The Commission urges the State to investigate his killing and to prosecute and punish those responsible.

The information presented to the IACHR, which is also publicly available, indicates that on May 4, 2014, Mr. Orellana, who was 75 years old, was on his way to a neighbor’s home to take care of community-related matters when a taxi approached him and two individuals got out of the taxi and shot him. Mr. Orellana served as president of the Community Board, a position he had assumed after the former president, Orfilia Figueroa, was killed on March 26, 2012. According to the information that gave rise to the precautionary measure, the residents of the Cerrito Lindo community are involved in a dispute over the ownership of parcels of land they had reportedly purchased from a local company. When they discovered that the sale was illegal, they reportedly engaged in legal actions and protests with the aim of settling the property dispute. As a result of these actions, several of the community’s residents have allegedly been victims of various acts of violence such as violent evictions, death threats, and killings linked to the demands for their rights.

The IACHR granted precautionary measures for the residents of Cerrito Lindo on April 20, 2005, and reiterated the validity of the measures on April 26, 2012. Nevertheless, according to the information the Commission has received, since 2005 four residents of the community have been killed—all of them beneficiaries of the precautionary measures—and these incidents have not yet been cleared up.

The Commission is alarmed over the continuing threats and attacks against members of the community, particularly the members of the Community Board of Directors, and over the alleged lack of effective implementation of the precautionary measures. The IACHR reminds the State that it is obliged to conduct an ex officio investigation in a timely manner, aimed to clarify the circumstances in which the death of Mr. Orellana occurred and, if appropriate, to identify and punish those responsible. Such investigation should be undertaken with due diligence in an exhaustive and impartial way. 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 other members of the Cerrito Lindo community, as laid out in the precautionary measure still in effect.

As the Commission has stated previously, acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees of every human being, but undermine the fundamental role that human rights defenders play in society and leave all those for whom they fight defenseless. The Commission also calls to mind that the work of human rights defenders is essential for the construction of a solid, lasting democratic society, and rights defenders play a leading role in the process of pursuing the full attainment of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy. In this sense, the IACHR urges the State to take all necessary measures to ensure that human rights defenders can carry out their activities of denunciation, accompaniment, and protection, free from attacks or acts of violence that endanger their life, integrity, and 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 matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 62/14