Honduras: Andrés Pavón Murillo

Re: Andrés Pavón Murillo

To: Dr. Oscar Alvarez, Minister of Security; Dr. Ramón Ovidio Navarro Duarte, Attorney General

From: Monique Pongracic-Speier, member of LRWC

Date: 2004-06-08

LRWC is gravely concerned for the safety of Andrés Pavón Murillo, President of Comité para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Honduras (“CODEH”). Mr. Murillo has been subject to intimidation for speaking out about the conditions of detention, and deaths in custody, of gang members in Honduras.

According to reliable information received from Amnesty International, Mr. Murillo has received four threatening phone calls – two on his mobile phone and two on his office phone – since May 4th. The callers threatened they would “acabar con los defensores de mareros”.

Further, after Mr. Murillo accused the Honduran Government of negligence, denial of justice and violations of human rights in the deaths of 104 gang members and the serious injury of 27 others at the San Pedro Sula Prison on May 17, 2004, the attacks against Mr. Murillo intensified:

  • On two different occasions in the last week of May, Mr. Murillo’s neighbours reported seeing an unfamiliar car with tinted windows parked outside his weekend home in a small village about 45 minutes from Tegucigalpa.
  • Mr. Murillo has been threatened in the electronic media. A national radio station broadcasted comments by staff and a member of the public that Mr. Murillo should be shot for defending delinquents. Similarly, a national television programme allegedly suggested that Mr. Murillo’s son, or another close family member, should be killed to see if Mr. Murillo would continue his work.

Due to such threats, Mr. Murillo requested precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights on May 29th.

LRWC is aware that gang activity has been a significant public issue in Honduras in recent years, and that media have focused on the role of gangs in public insecurity. However, LRWC reminds Honduras that it has an obligation under international law to protect Mr. Murillo from physical and moral attack, even though his cause may be unpopular. LRWC respectfully reminds you of the fundamental obligation at customary international law to protect the individual’s right to life and security of the person. We also note Honduras’s treaty obligations, and, in particular:

  • the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and especially Article 17, which guarantees protection from interference and unlawful attacks on the “honour and reputation” of a person, and Article 19, which provides for protection of freedom of opinion and expression; and
  • the American Convention on Human Rights, and especially Article 11(2) and (3), concerning the right to freedom from attack on honour and reputation, and Article 13, concerning freedom of thought and expression.

LRWC also reminds you of the principles enunciated in the Declaration on the right and responsibility of individuals, groups and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, and especially Articles 1, 6(b), 9, 12(2) and 12(3), the latter two of which provide:

  • 12(2) “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, . . . against any violence, threats, retaliation . . . pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present declaration” and
  • 12(3) “In this connection, everyone is entitled . . . to be protected under national law in reacting against or opposing, through peaceful means, activities and acts, including those by omission, attributable to States that result in violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms . . .”

In accordance with the applicable international law and standards, LRWC respectfully requests that the Honduran government take all necessary measures to:

  • carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the threats and intimidation against Mr. Murillo. We urge you to make the results public and to bring those responsible for illegal acts to justice;
  • ensure the safety of Mr. Murillo and his family, in accordance with their wishes; and
  • ensure that media are not used as a vehicle to intimidate human rights defenders.

Further, we urge you to investigate the facts surrounding the deaths and injury of inmates in the San Pedro Sula Prison on May 17, 2004, and to determine responsibility for any acts or omissions that contributed to those deaths and injuries.

Please advise LRWC, by mail, e-mail or fax, of the actions that the Government of Honduras is taking in relation to the matters discussed above. LRWC awaits your response.