NGOs sent an open letter to the National Congress with concerns about the draft Law to protect Human Rights Defenders in Honduras
is currently before Congress in Honduras. The bill allows for the creation of a protection mechanism and a National Protection Council made up of government and civil society representatives that will implement various protection measures tailored to the needs of the beneficiaries.
On April 14th, Protection International, the Centre for Justice and International Law (CEJIL ), ISHR, JASS Associates and the National network for Women Defenders in Honduras signed a joint letter to the President of Congress voicing their concerns about the proposed draft Law to protect Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Legal Practitioners. While the organizations praise the Honduran Congress for taking the initiative to integrate international standards for human rights defenders into national legislation, there are several points of concern in the draft law that first need to be addressed before the law should be passed in Congress.
The main remarks of the open letter (below) are:
– The National System for the Protection of HRDs in the current draft lacks the functional autonomy necessary for this type of mechanism. To this end, Article 20 of the draft law needs to be reviewed to make the system in question a separate and independent entity from the Ministry of Human Rights, Justice, Governance and Decentralization.
– The National Protection Council proposed in the draft law has areas of concern. Particularly, the involvement of the Ministry of Defense should be reconsidered as well as the reduction in the number of civil society representatives in this Council. To this end, Article 22 needs to be more specific in guaranteeing the participation of representatives from all Judge and Magistrate Associations in Honduras.
– Last but not least, the participation of civil society must be considered essential in this protection mechanism. The current draft law only counts 2 civil society representatives in the National Protection Council – these needing to be ‘accredited’ by the CONADEH – while none of the law’s past drafts included less than 5 representatives and had no such accreditation clause.
Accompanying Honduran civil society in their demands for change since 2014
Protection International also believes it is important to highlight the rising violence, impunity, and fear towards HRDS and journalists in Honduras. Towards this end, PI carried out a joint mission in Tegucigalpa, Honduras with CEJIL in 2014 voicing their concerns about the proposed draft Law to protect Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators, and Legal Practitioners to representatives of the Honduran Executive Government and Congress while at the same time sitting with local organizations to reflect upon and develop reform proposals that could strengthen the mechanism in question.