Status: adopted national law or policy

On 15 May 2015, the National Congress of Honduras passed the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Justice Operators. With this, it became the second State in the Americas with such a law (after Mexico in 2012).

This law was the result of a long process of concerns, demands and pressure from Honduran civil society regarding the need for protection and criticism of the Human Rights Unit of the Security Secretariat, which materialised in recommendations received by Honduras in the Universal Periodic Review of 2010 and the recommendations of the IACHR, the Human Rights Council and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, among others.

But it was the judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Lopez Luna et al VS Honduras (the case for which PI carried out the technical expertise), which led the Honduran government’s Secretariat of Justice and Human Rights (SJDH) to generate, at the end of 2012, a draft bill which, after being subject to some consultations and being paralysed for a while, was finally approved in 2015.

Ranked as the most dangerous country in the world for the defence of the environment according to the international organisation Global Witness in its 2017 report, the 2015 law, from which the creation of the National Protection Mechanism derives, represents a normative advance and has the potential for the protection of human rights defenders in Honduras. On the positive side, it incorporates key elements of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and demonstrates the recognition of human rights defenders, the risks they face and the importance of their work. But it also brings with it great challenges, mainly to reverse the climate of stigmatisation against defenders, to have sufficient resources and to guarantee its implementation with a focus on gender and intersectionality.

The last visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders took place in May 2018. Following the visit, Michel Forst stressed that strong and urgent action is needed to ensure the protection of those who defend the rights of others.

Regarding the Mechanism, the Rapporteur stated: “The creation of a protection mechanism dedicated to human rights defenders, media and legal professionals was an excellent starting point, but it is urgent to strengthen it and integrate it into a broader approach to protect human rights defenders in the country”, underlined the UN expert. (See the Special Rapporteur’s full end-of-mission statement).

Likewise, the compilation on Honduras of the 2020 Universal Periodic Review Working Group cites how the UN Country Team considered it urgent that the national mechanism for the protection of defenders be provided with sufficient resources, while noting “that the Council of the National Mechanism remained weak, mainly due to the modest commitment of some of its member institutions, and noted deficiencies in the implementation of protection measures”[1] .

Precisely with the aim of contributing to the strengthening of the National Protection System in Honduras, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published in August 2022 a Diagnosis of the National Protection System in Honduras, including a total of 125 recommendations whose materialisation could guide the creation of an effective public policy for the protection of human rights defenders.

From 24 to 28 April 2023, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted an on-site visit to the country.  In its report of preliminary observations, it highlights how “Honduras continues to be one of the most dangerous countries in the Americas and in the world for the defence of human rights”.

Regarding the situation of the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Communicators and Justice Operators, the IACHR received worrying information on the deepening technical, administrative and financial problems that have eroded the institution and undermine its capacity to respond promptly and effectively to applicants and beneficiaries. The report also shows concern about the fact that “85% of the budget is being allocated to the protection of six beneficiaries, while the remaining 179 active cases receive only 15% of the financial resources”. Regarding the implementation of protection measures, the report mentions deficiencies in the analysis and evaluation of risks and the lack of coordination of the state’s response.

In October 2023, Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, stated after a visit to Honduras that the Protection Mechanism has failed to ensure justice and accountability for crimes and threats against defenders, journalists and social communicators. “Intimidation has reached such a high level and the measures offered by the Protection Mechanism are so inadequate that they feel obliged to censor themselves in order to protect themselves and their families,” said the expert, who also called for a thorough review of the institution.

These concerns were raised by Honduran civil society in November 2023 at a public hearing at the IACHR, where they demanded, among other improvements, the participation of high-level representatives with decision-making power in the meetings of the National Protection Council, a stable funding model and a public apology for the ineffective protection of defenders.

Honduras is listed with the status “Restricted” in the Civicus Civic Space Monitor.

For a more detailed description of the situation in Honduras regarding the following enabling environment factors:

– General protection, promotion, and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms
– Freedom of expression and opinion
– Freedom of association and assembly
– Participation in public affairs
– Liberty and security of the person

Please use this link to the report on Honduras from the Right to Defend Rights monitoring tool by the Danish Institute For Human Rights.


[1]A/HRC/40/3/Add.2, para. 59, and A/HRC/37/3/Add.2, para. 47. See also A/HRC/40/60/Add.2, para. 58, and CERD/C/HND/CO/6-8/Add.1, paras.18-27.

Updated 05/2024

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