PBI-Honduras raises concerns about the criminalization of land, territory and environmental defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On February 17, the Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project posted on its Facebook page their article that highlights “PBI accompanies human rights defenders in different parts of the world who push for social justice and respect for the rule of law.”

“This work often implies considerable risk. PBI supports many defenders who have been criminalized for the work they carry out, meaning the legal system is used against them in order to stop their resistance.”

“In Honduras, but also in Mexico and Guatemala, this trend has been particularly prevalent with regards to land, territory and environmental defenders.”

“The misuse of criminal law to criminalise, paralyse and delegitimise the work of human rights defenders continues to be a systematic practice in Honduras, with emphasis on women defenders. Between 2013 and June 2018, 650 women defenders faced criminal prosecution of which a large percentage were related to the defence of Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights.”

“The woman human rights defender Lilian Borjas, of the Regional Board of the National Centre for Fieldworkers (CNTC) in the Yoro department, is one of thousands of criminalised human rights defenders in the country.”

“In March 2013, her smallholder group initiated a process of land recuperation, taking possession of 62 hectares. The National Agrarian Institute (INA) has confirmed that the lands are municipal property. Nevertheless, alleged owners have come forward claiming to possess a title to the land from the Institute of Property (IP).”

“During the months prior to the land recuperation, the smallholder group suffered various attacks, and was violently evicted by twelve armed individuals. The armed group arrived in the area, forced the families who were present into a line, threatened them with weapons and burned their belongings. On June 17, 2013, Lilian was arrested along with two associates and accused of land usurpation.”

“In Civil Court, she was given alternative measures pending her trial date. As of 2019, Lilian has spent more than six years with alternative measures, under which she must periodically sign-in at a courthouse or risk imprisonment.”

PBI-Honduras has accompanied the CNTC since May 2018.

The full PBI-Honduras article can be read here. For more information, please read the PBI-Honduras report ‘Defending the land has a woman’s name’.

On May 8, 2020, Honduras will undergo its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland. The UPR is a process that involves a review of the human rights records of all United Nations member states under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council. It provides an opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve their human rights situation.

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