There are several elements of the current Honduran context that are particularly concerning and directly impact the security of human rights defenders. One of these elements is the recent agreement on Honduras being a safe third country of asylum. This agreement was reached between the United States and Honduran governments, claiming that anyone who transits through Honduras should seek asylum within the country before moving forward with other processes elsewhere. This agreement doesn’t take into account the high levels of violence in the country and puts those who transit through Honduras at risk.
In addition, the narcotic industry in Honduras generates high levels of violence and forced displacement across the country. High-level authorities such as the Honduran President have been accused of links to the drug trade, indicating the insidious nature of corruption in the country.
Hernández’ government has been particularly violent against those who oppose him, in an attempt to eliminate any sign of dissent towards his authorities. This includes continued use of live bullets and poisonous tear gas to disrupt protests against his government. This strategy against dissent includes the crimianlisation of human rights defenders in order to silence their resistance.
Many social leaders have been killed in the past few months, including students who were protesting for the resignation of the current President Hernández. Human rights analysts have compared the number of assassinations with death squad activity in Honduras during the 1980s, where people are killed for their opposition to the current government in directed acts of political violence.
Land and territory defenders are especially at risk, as they often protest against large, powerful economic projects imposed on their territories. Most of these defenders are indigenous people. Since 2013, nine indigenous leaders have been murdered for defending their lands’ natural resources from being exploited, in the form of mining projects, illegal logging or other economic impositions.
This current Honduran context makes it difficult for human rights defenders to carry out their work as their civic space is being threatened and often directly shut down from different angles. This is where PBI comes in and accompanies these defenders to stand in solidarity and let them know that there are people watching and can act on a level beyond the national context to generate pressure on the government and dissuade violence. By accompanying these defenders PBI sheds light on the importance and value of their work and the risks they take to defend human rights.