Press Release

IACHR Condemns Murder of Justice Operators in Honduras

November 24, 2014

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of two prosecutors and a public defender in Honduras. It also expresses its concern about continued threats against justice officers in the country. The Commission urges the authorities to act urgently to identify the reasons behind these crimes and implement all the available legal instruments to punish the perpetrators and masterminds of these facts.

In October, the Commission learned of the murder of prosecutor Marlene Banegas, former coordinator of San Pedro Sula prosecutors and coordinator of the Prosecution Office for Crimes against Life, and of the prosecutor Olga Patricia Eufragio, who served in the Prosecution Office of Environment. This took place October 10 in San Pedro Sula when the prosecutors were traveling in a gray vehicle, unshielded, and which was allegedly assigned to the Prosecution Office of Crimes against Life. Prosecutor Banegas, who allegedly had received death threats before, is said to have received 52 gunshot wounds. Publicly available information indicates that prosecutor Banegas had allegedly received protection and have been assigned a shielded vehicle that would be shared with the coordinator of the Prosecution Office against Organized Crime.

Moreover, the Commission received information about an attack against the former judge of peace and current public defender Iris Argueta in Catacamas, Olancho, who was in her vehicle when she was allegedly attacked with firearms by subjects riding motorcycles.  Iris Argueta allegedly died in the hospital after she went through surgery due to bullet wounds. With these events, the killings of lawyers from 2010 to date would add up 86.

Additionally, according to publicly available information, during 2014, at least 20 judges have allegedly received death threats delivered by unidentified people, telephone calls, and other means. Reportedly, criminal judges who are carrying cases related to organized crime have been the main targets. According to available information, the Judicial Council is currently protecting them. In this regard, the Commission notes that if States do not guarantee the security of its judges against all kinds of external pressures, including retaliation aimed directly at attacking his/her person and family, the exercise of the judicial function may be severely affected, frustrating the free development of the judiciary and access to justice for victims of human rights violations.

The Commission takes note of the statement made by the President of the Republic, Juan Orlando Hernández, and by the Attorney General's Office, condemning the killing of the prosecutors and ensuring that the acts would not be left unpunished. In this regard, the IACHR urges the State of Honduras to open lines of investigation that take into account whether these murders were committed in retaliation to the work performed as justice officers. The IACHR urges the State to adopt an effective policy of prevention and protection to guarantee the right to life, integrity and security of justice operators.

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. 139/14