Press Release

IACHR Condemns Murder of Indigenous Tolupan Precautionary Measure Beneficiary and his Son in Honduras

March 1, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of Salomón Matute and his son Juan Samael Matute, both Tolupan indigenous persons who belonged to the San Francisco Locomapa tribe and the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ, by its Spanish acronym), in the Yoro department. Salomón Matute was a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR on December 19, 2013, after assessing the risks he and other MADJ members faced. They had been subjected to threats, harassment and other acts of violence in the context of their work as defenders of the environment and of indigenous peoples.

In Resolution 12/2013, the Commission said that several members of MADJ including Salomón Matute were in serious danger. The IACHR therefore asked the State of Honduras to adopt any measures necessary to protect their lives and personal integrity and to investigate the sources of such danger, among other aspects. Once precautionary measures have been granted and the State has been notified of a situation of risk, the State has a special duty to protect beneficiaries. Effective implementation of those measures is a tool to prevent the realization of that risk and a means for the State to avoid being declared internationally responsible for any such events.

According to public reports, Salomón Matute and his son Juan Samael Matute died of gunshot wounds on February 25, 2019. The National Commissioner for Human Rights (CONADEH, by its Spanish acronym) said that the authorities had launched an investigation on their own initiative and that the case was being monitored, while the National Prevention Police had arrested a suspect in this crime.

The Commission has not received concrete information indicating that Salomón Matute enjoyed any protection measures implemented by the State at the time of his murder. In 2018, the Commission summoned the Honduran State during periods of sessions 167 (in Bogotá, Colombia) and 169 (in Boulder, United States) to monitor the implementation of precautionary measures. The Honduran State had informed the Commission that, on October 20, 2017, it had asked the General Director of the Protection System to consider placing precautionary measure beneficiaries under the Protection Mechanism. The State reported that this had been done on March 23, 2018, since beneficiaries were covered by the Act to Protect Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Justice Operators. The Commission immediately asked Honduras for information on the latest events, to find out the State’s position.

The Commission asks the Honduran State to investigate with due diligence the deaths of indigenous leaders, including lines of investigation that assess the hypothesis that the crime may have been motivated by their activities as human rights defenders. The IACHR further urges the State to immediately adopt any measures necessary to protect the rights to life, personal integrity and safety of all other precautionary measure beneficiaries.

The Commission stresses that acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees they are due as human beings. They also impact the fundamental role those defenders play in society. Such attacks harm the people for whom defenders work, increasing their vulnerability and potentially leaving them defenseless. The Commission urges Honduras to take any measures necessary to protect the rights to life, personal integrity and safety of all human rights defenders in the country. In that context, the IACHR urges the State to make any adjustments to the Honduran Protection Mechanism that are necessary to provide defenders with adequate and effective protection.

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 and to defend 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. 053/19