By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Unknown gunmen killed a second human rights lawyer in as many days last week, according to a progressive blog on human rights abuses.
World War 4 Report reported that gunmen shot and killed Eduardo Manuel Diaz Mazariegos, who was a Honduran Public Ministry prosecutor in the country’s southern department of Choluteca. The blog reported Mazariegos’s background included criminal and human rights cases.
Mazariegos’s killing on Sept. 24 came two days after another lawyer was killed at a wedding near the capital of Tegucigalpa. Antonio Trejo Cabrera, whom the BBC described as “a prominent lawyer who represented peasants in disputes with large land owners,” was shot and killed after he stepped outside the church to answer a phone call.
“We asked the police and the prosecutor’s office for protection, and they never responded,” said Enrique Flores Lanza of the Honduran Bar Association.
Cabrera’s family said he had asked for government protection because of safety concerns, including various threats.
“Nobody cared,” his brother, Rigoberto, told the Associated Press.
Cabrera had said before his death that if he were killed, billionaire Miguel Facusse—one of Honduras’s richest men—would be responsible, according to the AP. Facusse owns Dinant Corporation, one of the landowners in disputes with peasant cooperatives represented by Cabrera.
“Even though we had differences with [Cabrera], we mourn his death,” said Dinant Executive Director Roger Pineda, who denied that Facusse was behind Cabrera’s death.
The AP also reported that the U.S. Embassy was helping Honduran investigators piece together what happened. According to an anonymous source, the help included “a U.S. law enforcement advisor already embedded with a specially vetted unit of Honduran police.”
The two murders brought the total number of prosecutors killed since 1994 to seven, according to World War 4 Report. But statistics from the Honduran Bar Association showed 74 lawyers have been killed in a little more than the past three years, with little response from authorities.
United Nations special rapporteurs called the attacks on human rights defenders “totally unacceptable.”
“It is imperative that the government establishes a national protection program for human rights defenders as soon as possible,” said UN Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya, who met with Cabrera during a visit to Honduras in February. Sekaggya said Cabrera, who was active in the media denouncing abuses by landowners and politicians, repeatedly received death threats because of his work.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called on Honduras to combat impunity for crimes against lawyers and journalists, which she said is thriving in a “menacing climate of insecurity and violence in Honduras.”
“It is essential that the people who commit these crimes are brought to justice,” she said. “Failure to do so will only exacerbate what is already a dire situation.”
For further information, please see:
United Nations News Centre — UN Experts Voice Shock at Killing of Prominent Rights Defender in Honduras — 1 October 2012
World War 4 Report — Honduras: Second Human Rights Attorney Murdered — 1 October 2012
United Nations News Centre — Honduras: UN Official Urges Action to Tackle Chronic Insecurity for Lawyers, Journalists — 26 September 2012
The Washington Post — US Aiding Honduran Authorities in Assassination of Prominent Human Rights Lawyer — 24 September 2012
BBC News — Antonio Trejo, Honduras Rights Lawyer, Killed at Wedding — 23 September 2012