Honduras

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HONDURAS 2021

Human rights defenders continued to face attacks and unfounded criminal proceedings. Authorities blocked access to safe abortions and same-sex marriage. Impunity for excessive use of force by law enforcement persisted.

Background

General elections were held on 28 November and the newly elected president Xiomara Castro was due to take office in January 2022. The creation of Employment and Economic Development Zones, which benefited from tax exemptions and special security arrangements, sparked protests over the lack of free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant communities. Thousands of Hondurans affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota, violence and poverty were forced to leave the country and headed north.

Impunity and excessive use of force

Keyla Martínez died of asphyxia in February in police custody after being arrested for breaking the curfew imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19. There were reports of police repression of the protests over her death.1

Victims of the 2017-2018 crackdown on post-electoral protests faced ongoing criminal proceedings, including Jhony Salgado,2 Edwin Espinal and Raúl Álvarez. However, state agents were not held accountable for the human rights violations committed by security forces during the protests.

Several prosecutors of the Specialized Prosecutorial Unit Against Corruption Networks were subjected to disciplinary and criminal proceedings that could be aimed at hindering their work.

Human rights defenders

Honduras ranked second in the world regarding the number of killings of land and environmental defenders per capita, according to the NGO Global Witness. Nevertheless, Honduras had yet to sign the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (Escazú Agreement).

In July, David Castillo, former manager of the company Desarrollos Energéticos and chief of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, was convicted of being co-author of the killing in 2016 of Berta Cáceres. He was awaiting sentencing at the end of the year.3

The whereabouts of four Indigenous Garifuna members of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) forcibly disappeared in July 2020 remained unknown.4

Defenders of the land, territory and environment continued to face unfounded criminal charges. Eight members of the Municipal Committee for the Defence of Common and Public Assets detained in 2018 and 2019 remained in prison at the end of 2021.5

In October, Congress approved a number of reforms that could restrict the exercise of freedom of assembly and association, human rights defence, guarantees of transparency, access to information and the effective investigation and prosecution of corruption.

Sexual and reproductive rights

In January, Congress passed a constitutional reform making it harder to remove the bans on abortion and same-sex marriage.6 A constitutional action challenging the total ban on abortion was pending before the Supreme Court at the end of the year.

In June, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that Honduras had violated the rights to life and personal integrity of Vicky Hernández, a transgender woman, sex worker and activist killed during the 2009 coup.


  1. “Honduras: Death of Keyla Martínez demands prompt, exhaustive and impartial investigation”, 9 February
  2. “Honduras: Prosecutor Óscar Chinchilla must drop the charges against Jhony Salgado Fuentes”, 9 August
  3. “Honduras: Conviction of David Castillo is a step towards justice, but full truth must be uncovered”, 5 July
  4. Honduras: Further information: Indigenous Activists Still Missing (Index: AMR 37./4671/2021), 2 September
  5. “Honduras: Amnesty International urges authorities to immediately release eight prisoners of conscience”, 9 December
  6. Honduras: Attack on Sexual and Reproductive Rights (Index: AMR 37/3594/2021), 28 January