By Stacy Suh, Member Women’s Rights Coordination Group
As I write, the outcome of the November 24 presidential elections in Honduras is still being contested. There were eight candidates to the presidency, out of which two have been expressing concerns on the official results provided by the Electoral Tribunal and respective complains have been filed. Regardless of the eventual outcome of these legal challenges, Amnesty International is still calling upon the next president to commit to protecting human rights, as outlined in an open letter to all candidates.
The next president of Honduras must address the human rights crisis in the country and protect human rights defenders and journalists.
In particular, the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras – COFADEH) has been a leading human rights organization in Honduras. COFADEH works on a wide range of human rights issues in the country, including impunity for past human rights abuses; threats and harassment of human rights defenders; excessive use of force by police and security forces; land rights issues; and prison conditions.
The COFADEH’s visibility and prominence in defending various human rights issues has made them especially vulnerable to threats and harassment, which has intensified since 2011.
In one instance, Dina Meza, a COFADEH staff member and a well-established journalist, received a series of threats of sexual violence, including surveillance and stalking by unknown individuals. Despite these threats, human rights defenders and journalists like Meza are speaking out in Honduras. Meza noted:
“If I keep quiet, impunity wins…I never imagined that speaking, writing and telling the truth about what was happening could mean walking the line between life and death.”
These brave human rights defenders should be able to advocate for human rights for all without threats or harassment. They deserve basic protection from the Honduran government; the next president of Honduras must commit to protecting human rights.