OPEN LETTER / Repression and criminalization worsens against social movements and women human rights defenders in Honduras



Mesoamerica, October 5th, 2017Nineteen months after the unpunished murder of Berta Cáceres, we, the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative (IM-Defensoras) – representing more than 800 defenders in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua – the National Women Human Rights Defenders Network in Honduras, and the 179 signed organizations, express our concern over the grave situation of repression and criminalization faced by social movements, human rights organizations and, particularly, women human rights defenders.

The events that took place on September 8, 2017 exemplify our collective concern. Honduran security forces violently repressed and arrested 16 members of the University Student Movement peacefully protesting on the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) campus, and then attacked human rights defenders who were observing and documenting the situation. Police then intercepted a bus, provided by the National Commissioner of Human Rights (CONADH), and using a tow truck rocked it back and forth, while spraying teargas inside the bus. Those inside the bus included Hedme Castro, Director of the Association for a Participatory Citizenry (Aci-Participa) and Tommy Morales, a communicator and member of the Association for Democracy and Human Rights in Honduras and the National Women Human Rights Defenders Network in Honduras. Both women human rights defenders were hospitalized and Tommy Morales now faces criminal charges.

Direct attacks against human rights defenders represents the closure of civil society space, regression to authoritarian practices, and flagrant non-compliance with international human rights treaties signed by the government of Honduras. Such attacks are aimed at obstructing and deterring social protest and the work of defending human rights, and are paving the way for new and more serious acts of repression.

It is important to note that this latest attack is not an isolated incident, but instead, signifies an ongoing increase of violence and repression against women human rights defenders in Honduras, which leaves citizens extremely vulnerable. In a three month period since June 2017, IM-Defensoras has issued 14 Urgent Action Alerts about attacks suffered by women defenders, their organizations, and their communities.

Student Movement of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH):

Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH):

Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ):

Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH):

Other territorial defenders:

State agents have perpetrated most of these attacks – concretely, security forces – and the majority involve excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, and/or judicial prosecution. In the cases in which the aggressors were not State agents, the corresponding authorities did absolutely nothing to guarantee security and access to justice to the women defenders affected, despite their obligation to enforce the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Administrators of Justice. Of special concern are the attacks against women defenders who have faced repeated attacks, such as Miriam Miranda (Coordinator) and Madeline Martina David of OFRANEH. It is important to note that Berta Cáceres’ assassination was preceded by a series of attacks similar in profile or pattern from those faced by Miriam Miranda, who despite having received international recognition, continues to be targeted in an attempt to restrict her work as a human rights defender.

The outlook is concerning. In spite of repeated calls by the international community to respect human rights in Honduras, a policy of systematic persecution and repression against social movements and human rights defenders triggered after the 2009 coup d’état persist. This same policy has often placed public security and justice institutions at the service of large landholders and national or transnational private businesses to protect their economic interests at the expense of the collective and individual rights of the Honduran people.

For women human rights defenders, the prospect is of even greater concern. Discrimination and gender violence pose additional risks for women activists, who are playing an increasingly greater and more visible role within different social movements or on the frontlines of struggles to defend land and territory. Women defenders work in a context of misogyny and gender discrimination as seen by increasing femicide rates and cases of violence against women, and in public policies that restrict a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body and sexuality. Between 2012 and 2016, IM-Defensoras has documented 1,128 attacks and 13 assassinations of women human rights defenders in Honduras.

In this situation, IM-Defensoras, the National Women Human Rights Defenders Network in Honduras and the signed coalitions and organizations, call on the general public and international human rights organizations to remain vigilant and continue placing a spotlight on the situation in Honduras, while demanding that the State comply with its obligation to guarantee the right to defend human rights and to assure the security of those who do so.

To this end, it is crucial that the Honduran government:

  • put an end to impunity in the murders of women defenders
  • assure access to justice for victims of attacks
  • abstain from slandering and criminalizing women defenders, and
  • provide the conditions necessary for women’s political participation and contributions to justice and equality.


IM-DEFENSORAS: AWID, JASS, Consorcio Oaxaca, Colectiva Feminista para el Desarrollo Local de El Salvador, UDEFEGUA, Red Nacional de Defensoras de Guatemala, Red Nacional de Defensoras de DDHH en Honduras, Red Nacional de Defensoras de DDHH en México, Red Salvadoreña de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos and Iniciativa Nicaragüense de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
Center for Constitutional Rights
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
CIP Americas Program
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
CORE Coalition, UK
Cultural Survival
Federación Internacional de Mujeres de Carreras Jurídicas
FIDH, en el marco del Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos
Fondo Acción Urgente - América Latina y El Caribe
Fondo Lunaria – Colombia
Front Line Defenders
Fuerza Mundial
Global Exchange
Global Fund for Women
Global Witness
Int'l Centre for Women Empowerment &Child Dev (ICWECD)
International Labor Rights Forum
KULU-Women and Development, Denmark
Latin America Mining Monitoring Programme (LAMMP)
MiningWatch Canada
Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo extractivo Minero -M4-
Observatorio Etico Internacional – OBETI
Organización Mundial contra la Tortura (OMCT), en el marco del Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos
"PACWIN" Pacific Womens Indigenous Networks
Plataforma Internacional Contra la Impunidad
Protection International
Red de Salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe - RSMLAC
Red Latinoamericana de Mujeres defensoras de Derechos Sociales y Ambientales
Regional Centre for International Development Cooperation (RCIDC)
Regional Latinoamericana de la UITA (Rel-UITA)
Right Here Right Now Platform
Uganda Youth Alliance For Family Planning and Adolescents Health -UYAFPAH
War on Want
WHRD IC - Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition
WHRD MENA Coalition
Womankind Worldwide
Wretched of The Earth
Youth Association for Development
Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (ASTM), Luxemburgo
Agrupación Ciudadana para la Despenalización del Aborto terapéutico, ético y eugenésico
AIETI (Asociación de Investigación y Especialización Sobre Temas Iberoamericanos)
Alba Sud
Alianza Política Sector de Mujeres
AMICODE (Amigas en Consejos Comunitarios de Desarrollo)
Amigos da Terra Brasil
Asociación Cooperativa Leidibella
Asociación Custodios del Bosque de Jalapa
Asociacion de Desarrollo Economico Social Santa Marta
Asociación del Movimiento de Victimas para El Desarrollo Integral del Norte de Quiche – ASOMOVIDINQ
Asociación de Mujeres de Petén Ixkik
Asociación de Mujeres Indígenas de Santa María Xalapan Jalapa – AMISMAXAJ
Asociación de Mujeres Las Crisálidas
Asociación Feminista La Cuerda
Asociación Grupo Venancia, Matagalpa, Nicaragua
Asociación para la Promoción y el Desarrollo de la Comunidad "CEIBA"
Asociación Para Una Vida Mejor de Honduras (APUVIMEH)
Balance AC – México
Batay Ouvriye
Calala Fondo de Mujeres
Campaña 28 de Setiembre por la Despenalización del Aborto en América Latina y el Caribe - Punto Focal Nicaragua
CEAMUJER, Nicaragua
Centro de Derechos de Mujeres
Centro de Desarrollo Humano CDH
Centro de Direitos Humanos e Cidadania do Imigrante, CDHIC
Centro de Documentación y Solidaridad con América Latina y África (CEDSALA), Valencia (Estado Español)
Centro de Investigación Para la Acción Femenina CIPAF RD
Centro de la Mujer "Acción Ya"
Centro Martin Luther King
Colectivo Ansur
Colectivo Miradas Críticas del Territorio desde el Feminismo
Colectivo de Mujeres 8 de Marzo, Managua, Nicaragua
Colectivo de Mujeres de Matagalpa
Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de las Mujeres (CLADEM)
CLADEM Nicaragua
Colectiva de Mujeres de Masaya
Colectiva Feminista de Izquierda
Colectiva Mujer y Salud
Colectiva Actoras de Cambio
Colectiva AMORALES
Colectivo CEAAL Costa Rica
Colectivo de Refugio Colombiano Luciano Romero Molina, Asturias
Colectivo Voces Ecológicas COVEC – Panamá
Comité Campesino del Altiplano – CCDA
Comité de Solidaridad con América Latina (COSAL) Asturias – España
Comité Monseñor Óscar Romero de Madrid
Comisión de Derechos Humanos Hispano Guatemalteca
Comissió Agenda Llatinoamericana
Comunicando y Capacitando a Mujeres TRANS- COMCAVI TRANS
Comunidad Hondureña en Madrid
Comunidad Soto Zen – Nicaragua
Comunidad Xinka
Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CC.OO.)
Consejo de Mujeres Cristianas – CMC
Consejo Maya K'iche' de Quetzaltenango
Coordinadora de Organizaciones Populares del Aguan (COPA)
Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos – Perú
Coordinadora Ni Una Sola Mina - Costa Rica
Ddeser – Red por los derechos sexuales y reproductivos en México
Diakonia de Suecia, Programa Honduras
Diálogo 2000 - Jubileo Sur Argentina
Ecologistas en Acción
Enlace Regional Izabal
Equidad de Género, Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia – México
Equipo GUAM
Fondo Apthapi Jopueti
Fundacion Etica Visionaria, Costa Rica
Fundacion Hijos del Maiz
Fundación para la Comunicación Social Luciérnaga – Nicaragua
Fundación para el Estudio y Aplicación del Derecho - FESPAD
Fundación POPOLNA
FUNDECOM Nicaragua
Grito de los Excluidos/as Continental
Grupo de Mujeres Dejando Huellas
Grupo Oscar Arnulfo Romero – CUBA
ICID (Iniciativas de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo)
Instituto Nicaragüense en Sexología InSex
Instituto para el Rescate Ancestral Indígena Salvadoreño
Jóvenes Voceros y Voceras por los Derechos Sexuales y Derechos Reproductivos
Joxemi Zumalabe Fundazioa (País Vasco)
Jubileo Sur America
Kolectivo Antimilitarista de Medellín
Mary Bolt G
Mildam (Mujeres Jóvenas de Izabal)
Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres de Nicaragua
Movimiento Político y Social Marcha Patriótica-Colombia
Mujeral en Acción-León
Nachrichtenpool Lateinamerika e.V. NPLA (Alemania, Berlin)
Ojo de Tigre/Comunicación Comunitaria (Guerrero, México)
Otros Mundos AC Chiapas
Organizaciones de Mujeres de Izabal
Pañuelos en Rebeldia
Paz con Dignidad
Perifèries del Món
Plataforma de Solidaridad con Guatemala de Barcelona
Plataforma per la Sobirania Alimentària del País Valencià
Procesos Integrales para la Autogestión de los Pueblos, AC - México
ProLegal & SAMU
Proyecto sobre Organización, Desarrollo, Educación e Investigación (PODER)
Puntos de Encuentro
Reacción Climática – Bolivia
Red Chilena contra la Violencia hacia las Mujeres
Red DDH El Salvador
Red de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos de Izabal
Red de Educación Popular Entre Mujeres REPEM América Latina y el Caribe
Red de Educación Popular Entre Mujeres REPEM Colombia
Red de mujeres de Feminismo Comunitario en Defensa del Territorio Cuerpo-Tierra
Red de Mujeres de Matagalpa, Nicaragua
Semillero de Investigacion en Desarrollo Rural Universidad Nacional de Colombia SINDER-UN
Servicios Integrales para la Mujer - SI Mujer
Sindicato de Trabajadores Organizados del Puerto Quetzal – STOPQ
SoldePaz – Pachakuti
Tutela Legal María Julia Hernández
Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas - UNAMG
Voces Caribeñas Nicaragua

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