Press Release

IACHR condemns the prevalence of murders and other forms of violence against Garifuna women in Honduras

September 24, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the prevalence of murders and other forms of violence against Garifuna women in Honduras, due to their gender and ethno-racial origin. The IACHR calls on the Honduran State to implement comprehensive strategies to prevent these events, protect Garifuna women at risky situation and fulfill their obligation of due diligence to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible, as well as offer integral reparation to all victims.

According to information in the public domain, during the month of September four murders of Garifuna women have been reported. Mirna Teresa Suazo Martínez, president of an organization of the Community of Masca in Omoa, was murdered on September 8 by unidentified subjects; Gilma Cacho, and her daughter, Fiori Amaya, from the Garifuna municipality of Santa Rosa de Aguán in Colón, were murdered on September 6; and Nayda Reyez Jiménez, who was killed on September 7 in the community of Bajamar, Puerto Cortés. The Commission also warned with concern the murder of Belkis García, which occurred in January of this year. Her body would have been found with signs of sexual violence in the Garifuna Community of Sambo Creek in La Ceiba Atlántida.

“Women human rights defenders continually face the rejection of their participation in public life and their leadership in the defense of human rights, their territories and their traditions,” said Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, President of the IACHR . "Using sexist and racist stereotypes, these people or groups seek to delegitimize their work and prevent the fundamental work they have in their communities," she continued.

“The Garifuna leaders are in a situation of multiple risk due to their gender ethno-racial origin and work,” said Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur on the Rights of Women of the IACHR and on the Rights of People of African Descent "We receive continuous and worrisome information related to various acts of violence against them and these murders are the most extreme sample of violence against women, so they must be duly investigated and punished," she concluded.

The IACHR urges the State of Honduras to take immediate and urgent measures to prevent, investigate, prosecute, punish and repair any murder and act of violence against women, in compliance with its due diligence duty. This entails the adoption of comprehensive prevention and protection measures with a component aimed at eliminating stereotypes and discriminatory patterns against women. In the particular case of Garifuna women, the State must consider all the risk factors that they may encounter because of their ethno-racial origin, as provided in Articles 6 and 9 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence Against Women.

"We are concerned that the attacks against Garifuna and indigenous leaders seek to prevent their activities to defend human rights, particularly in contexts of megaproject development in the country," said Commissioner Joel Hernández, Rapporteur of the IACHR for Honduras. "We recall the duty of the Honduran State to protect defenders and that it is activated when any authority has or should be aware of a risk situation, especially in the case of women defenders," concluded the Rapporteur.

The Commission reiterates the need for all acts of violence against Garifuna women to be investigated promptly and thoroughly, and that during the justice process victims and their families are treated with dignity and respect, in accordance with the inter-American standards in the matter. Likewise, the IACHR urges the State to guarantee access to justice for all women, in conditions of equality and non-discrimination, as well as to grant integral reparations and with a gender perspective to eradicate the structural causes that accentuate discrimination and violence against women, particularly those who belong to Afro-descendant, peasant and indigenous communities, and develop roles of community leadership and defense of human rights.

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. 238/19