Fighting the criminalisation of defenders in southern Honduras

On September 20 and 21, PBI Honduras facilitated a security and protection workshop for organizations and human rights defenders in southern Honduras. The workshop focused on the exchange of ideas and good practices for the development of protection strategies against the context of criminalization of defenders of land, territory and the environment. The 25 participants have defended the rights of peasant communities against the lack of prior, free and informed consultation on the implementation of economic projects — such as mining, hydroelectric dams, photovoltaic energy fields or large-scale monocultures — in their territories. During the workshop, a mapping of the criminalization context in the area was made. Participants debated the concept of criminalization, the ways in which it occurs — criminal proceedings, arbitrary detentions, stigmatization, police surveillance — and its effects on the work and security of defenders. Then, they identified protection tools to counteract this reality: documentation, networking, physical and digital security measures, visibility of cases, among others.

The vindication of the right to consultation, guaranteed by Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, has led to organizations and defenders of this region of the country have suffered threats, harassment, attacks, defamation, and prosecution. The workshop was a space to share the challenges faced by the defenders and discuss strategies for their safety and protection.

An important part of the workshop was the debate on how international political advocacy can help improve the protection of criminalized defenders. The importance of preparing reports for thematic hearings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and of communications for relevant UN rapporteurs, as well as contact with other relevant actors, was addressed.

The participants valued the workshop in a very positive way to generate a regional space where experiences of criminalization and protection tools were shared, as well as the realization of a practical case documentation exercise. The discussion on experiences was very positive because it allowed identifying successful actions and the importance of working in a network. In addition, the workshop allowed the participants to talk about their fears and frustrations, something important for their mental health and the creation of spaces of solidarity.

PBI Honduras will continue working with defenders of the land, territory, and environment in the development of protection strategies to reduce their risk and face the criminalization they suffer.