Persecution and resistance: The experience of human rights defenders in Guatemala and Honduras

Report
August 8, 2007

Persecution and resistance: The experience of human rights defenders in Guatemala and Honduras


Since it was set up in 2003, it has been subject to a pattern of intimidation and attacks. For example, on 12June and 1 July 2006 the Association's offices were raided by unidentified individuals who confiscated documents and destroyed computers and furniture. In December 2006, the then Director of the Association, José Richard Figueroa, was forced to leave Honduras for his own safety. In May2007, the Association moved their office because members felt intimidated by the persistent presence of police patrol cars outside the former offices.

[Caption]
Donny Reyes (centre) with two other members of Arcoiris, December 2006 © Adivima

[Caption]
Above: Supporters of the Association for a More Just Society (ASJ) at the spot where Dionisio Díaz García was killed commemorate his death, February 2007. © AI
Right: Dionisio Díaz García at a press conference, Tegucigalpa, September 2006.© AI



Threats and intimidation

On 17 May 2007, Félix Antonio Cáceres Alvarenga, a lawyer working for the Association for a More Just Society (Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa, ASJ), a Honduran human rights organization, reportedly received a death threat. The text message sent to his mobile phone read: "It would be best for you to leave [a private security company] alone or you'll end up like Dionisio".

The threat referred to Dionisio Díaz García, another ASJ lawyer, who was shot dead on 4 December 2006 as he was driving to the Honduran Supreme Court to prepare for a hearing. At the time of his death he was representing a number of security guards who claimed that they had been unfairly dismissed by a private security company. On 7 December, three days after the killing, the President of the organization, Carlos Hernández, received a text message in English which read: "You are the next because you are the heat [sic -- head]." Other members of the ASJ had received death threats against Dionisio Díaz in the days before his killing and both he and the ASJ Project Director Dina Meza had reported being followed by cars without number plates in the area around the ASJ offices.

Throughout 2006, ASJ members were threatened and put under surveillance, apparently in connection with their work on abuses of labour rights and human rights violations. However, threats against members of the ASJ have intensified since the killing of Dionisio Díaz. Dina Meza has reportedly received threatening voice messages on her mobile phone while other ASJ members have received threats in text messages as well as threatening messages which have been posted on the comments section of an e-magazine issued by the ASJ.