Press release | March 15, 2017

Honduran government must counter smear campaign against land and environmental defenders and protect those under threat

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Global Witness is calling on the Honduran state to crack down on an online smear campaign against groups working to protect land and environmental defenders in Honduras, the world’s most dangerous country for this type of activism. The government must guarantee the protection of defenders and investigate fresh attempts to intimidate communities who have taken a stand against the theft and destruction of their land, says the campaign group.

“We don’t yet know who is behind this campaign to silence or discredit those who speak out against the human rights crisis over land and natural resources in Honduras. We do know this is an attempt to deflect attention from the high level corruption and abuses we exposed with our recent investigation into who’s behind shocking numbers of murders and attacks,” said Global Witness campaigner Ben Leather.

”The Honduran government has repeatedly sworn to protect human rights defenders at risk, yet they continue to be killed in record numbers. It is well documented that stigmatising defenders makes them more vulnerable to attack. This makes it all the more critical that the state publicly condemns any attempt to discredit defenders and their international partners,” said Leather.

In January Global Witness published the findings of its two-year investigation into who’s behind the murders of Hondurans protesting against dams, mines, logging or agriculture on their land. The report demonstrates that, with 123 murders since 2009, Honduras is the deadliest country per capita for land and environmental defenders. It also reveals how projects at the heart of conflicts are linked to rich and powerful elites, among them top politicians.

Since this time, members of local rights groups MILPAH and COPINH have been subject to increased levels of harassment, while other defenders have been threatenedwith lawsuits by companies. Global Witness and its international partners including Oxfam and Frontline Defenders have meanwhile been subject to a smear campaign on social media that questions their political independence and the credibility of their work. A series of tweets and videos even accuses the groups of covering up for hitmen and drug traffickers who have carried out attacks.

“Global Witness is an internationally renowned organisation, with over 20 years of reputable reporting. Winner of both the Skoll Award and the Ted Prize in 2014 (links), the organisation is not aligned to any political party or movement and prides itself on its independent investigatory rigour,” said Leather.

“Our report on Honduras was the fruit of a two-year investigation which involved the painstaking collection and corroboration of witness testimony, as well as the gathering of documentary evidence such as government and court records. We do this work because the Honduran state is not doing enough to investigate crimes and prosecute those responsible. The government now has an opportunity to act on the findings of our report, and to prove that its police and judiciary are immune from the corruption that we exposed in our report.” said Leather. 



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