Press Release

IACHR Brings Honduras Case before IA Court

October 11, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - On May 24, 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over the case of Opario Lemoth Morris and others (Miskito divers), concerning Honduras.

The case entails impacts on multiple human rights to the detriment of a group of individuals belonging to the Miskito indigenous people living in Gracias a Dios department, Honduras. In its Merits Reports, the IACHR concluded that the state violated the rights to personal integrity of 34 Miskito divers who met with accidents due to the deep dives they were making which led them to suffer decompression sickness. The IACHR also deemed that the state violated the right to life of 12 Miskito divers who died immediately after these accidents. The state’s ignorance of and indifference toward the problem of labor exploitation by fishing companies and the prevalence of diving in dangerous conditions, which led to these accidents, was manifested in the lack of appropriate monitoring and oversight.

Furthermore, the IACHR deemed that although the state of Honduras was aware of the divers’ situation and the perversity of their labor relations, it did not take deliberate, concrete measures to ensure they could exercise their right to work in fair, equitable, appropriate conditions, nor could they access healthcare and social security coverage. Furthermore, given the victims’ multiple vulnerability factors, including the fact that they belong to an indigenous people that has been marginalized historically and lives in extreme poverty and that many of them are people with disabilities, the IACHR deemed that the state is also responsible for violating the principle of equality and nondiscrimination.

In its Merits Reports, the IACHR made recommendations to the state of Honduras that included the following: i) take measures to provide economic compensation and redress for victims and their families; ii) make physical and mental health care services available to surviving victims; iii) investigate the case thoroughly to fully clarify events and impose the appropriate sanctions; iv) adopt any legislative, administrative, or other type of measure necessary to prevent similar incidents from occurring again in the future; and v) implement appropriate outreach campaigns on workers’ rights in terms of security and occupational health.

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. 257/19