Brutal killing of Lesbia Janeth Urquía underscores the deeply troubling pattern of violence against human rights defenders in Honduras
Washington, DC—On Wednesday July 6, Honduran authorities confirmed the death of Lesbia Janeth Urquía, an environmental activist and member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico del Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, COPINH), the organization founded and led by Berta Cáceres. In the context of yet another murder of a human rights defender in the country, Honduran authorities must conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation into this crime, and convict all those responsible.
“The horrific murder of Lesbia Urquía reveals the alarming situation of those who stand up for human rights in Honduras,” said Adriana Beltrán, WOLA Senior Associate for Citizen Security. “It is absolutely necessary that Honduran authorities carry out an immediate and complete investigation into the crime and ensure that both the material and intellectual authors are brought to justice.”
Urquía was an indigenous leader and vocal activist in opposition to hydroelectric dam projects in western Honduras. Her murder comes just four months after the killing of renowned environmental activist Berta Cáceres brought international attention to the perilous situation of human rights defenders in Honduras. Two weeks after Cáceres’ death in March, Nelson Garcia, another member of COPINH, was murdered, and just last month, René Martínez, a prominent human rights defender of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) persons in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, was also killed.
According to reports, Urquía disappeared the morning of Tuesday, July 5 and her body was found the following day near a garbage dump in the Marcala municipality in the department of La Paz. She had suffered severe head trauma, and from initial reports, her body revealed signs of possible torture. In a statement made Thursday, Honduras’ Public Ministry announced it has formed a special commission to investigate the crime.
“We are at a time when U.S. aid to Honduras is under review. It will be very difficult to justify assistance to Honduran authorities unless the government resolves this case and takes meaningful and serious steps to address what appears to be a pattern of repression against human rights defenders,” said Beltrán.
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