WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
9 Feb 2011 | News

Honduran Civil Society Group Threatened

The Washington Office on Latin America condemns the ongoing threats against the Grupo de la Sociedad Civil de Honduras (GSC – Honduran Civil Society Group) and demands that the Honduran Government guarantee a full investigation and the safety of GSC employees.    

The death threats and harassment of GSC began last summer when Director Hector Soto received a telephone call threatening to kill him. These threats have been repeated against Mr. Soto, as recently as January 13, because he has continued to promote economic stability, poverty reduction and democracy in Honduras.  Along with the threats via cell phones or text messages, the GSC offices have been watched by unknown people (some in police uniform), and employees have been photographed while arriving and leaving at the office.  The latest threat was received by a work colleague of Mr. Soto’s last Saturday, February 5.  The caller warned the colleague to cease work activities if he wanted to survive long enough to see his next birthday.

WOLA is very concerned for the physical safety of Mr. Soto and GSC employees. The Honduran government’s negligence in investigating this and other human rights cases is unacceptable.  Since the attacks against GSC began, WOLA has contacted human rights officials in the Honduran Government, the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, and the State Department calling for an investigation into the threats and for the Honduran government to protect the lives of GSC employees.  Similarly, Mr. Soto has presented the GSC’s case to the Committee of the Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, among others.  Despite these collective actions, there has been no progress in the investigation and the threats continue. 

Honduras’ reinstatement into the Organization of American States (OAS), which may be decided this June, is partly contingent on the government’s ability to demonstrate progress in investigating and prosecuting the murders and human rights violations that have occurred since the 2009 coup.    “Sadly, Hector’s case is not atypical,” states Vicki Gass, WOLA Senior Associate.  “Investigations have been very weak and the perpetrators know that they can act with impunity; the Honduran government can change this by actively investigating and prosecuting those responsible for these crimes. “   In December, Human Rights Watch reported 47 cases of threats or attacks against journalists, human rights defenders, and political activists, including 18 killings, since President Lobo was inaugurated in January 2010.  The Honduran government’s failure to move forward with these cases stands in stark contrast to the tenants of the American Convention on Human Rights, and their inability to demonstrate progress could preclude their reentry into the OAS.