The brutal murders of two land rights activists in Honduras last night are the latest tragedies in a seemingly unstoppable wave of deadly attacks turning Honduras into a no-go zone for human rights defenders, said Amnesty International.
José Angel Flores, 64, President of the Movimiento Unificado Campesino, was shot dead by a group of unidentified men in the department of Colón, northern Honduras, in the afternoon of 18 October.
Another community leader, Silmer Dionisio George, was also shot in the incident and died at a local hospital hours later.
“Honduras has turned into a ‘no-go zone’ for anyone daring to campaign for the protection of the environment. How many more activists have to be brutally murdered before the authorities take effective action to protect them, or even be willing to talk about this crisis?” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
José Angel Flores had reported threats in relation to his human rights work. In 2014, he had been granted precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requesting the state to provide him with protection.
José Angel and Silmer´s murders came amid a wave of threats against their community and are the latest in a series of killings of human rights defenders, including that of indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, who was shot dead in March this year.
The lack of exhaustive investigations into the attacks and threats against activists, as well as the unwillingness of the authorities to implement effective mechanisms to protect them, are fuelling the increasing violence.
“Authorities in Honduras must take immediate action to effectively protect those who work to promote and defend the basic human rights of all in the country. Anything less will only put more brave human rights defenders in mortal danger,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.
Last week, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández declined a meeting with Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty to discuss the human rights crisis in the country, including the increasing wave of attacks against human rights activists.