Law Library Stacks

Back to Index of Protection of Environmental Defenders

Honduras has not signed the UN Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, its Protection Law for Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Justice Operators includes defenders of the environment and conservationists among the defenders of human rights that it aims to protect.  Any individual or legal entity covered by the Law may request protection before the General Directorate of the Protection System. The Technical Committee of the Protection Mechanism carries out risk analyses for persons requesting protection and issues technical opinions recommending protective measures so that the General Directorate proceeds to their implementation.  These bodies are not limited in the types of protective, preventive, or collective measures they may take to guarantee the life, integrity, freedom, and security of those at risk and their families.  

I. Safety of Environmental Defenders

A. Protection Law

While Honduras has not signed the UN Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean,[1] it has enacted the Protection Law for Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Justice Operators,[2] which recognizes, promotes, and protects those human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Honduran Constitution and international law instruments to any individual or legal entity dedicated to the promotion and defense of human rights, freedom of expression, and the work of the judiciary when those individuals or entities are placed at risk because of such activity.

The Protection Law expressly includes defenders of the environment and conservationists among the defenders of human rights that it aims to protect.  These are defined as any person who exercises the right, individually or collectively, to promote and ensure the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms within the framework of national and international law.[3]  The Law obligates the state to respect the human rights of defenders and to reasonably prevent threats, harassment, and acts of aggression against them, regardless of whether they are state or private actors.[4]

B. Responsible Agencies

The Protection Law also created the National System for Human Rights Defenders (el Sistema Nacional de Proteccción para Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos) whose function is to lay the foundations for coordination with other public institutions and with society in general for the effective protection of defenders within the framework of public policy and the national human rights plan.  The National System for Human Rights Defenders is made up of several institutions, among them, the General Directorate of the Protection System (la Dirección General del Sistema de Protección) and the Technical Committee of the Protection Mechanism (el Comité Técnico del Mecanismo de Protección).[5]

The Protection Law gives the General Directorate of the Protection System the following functions, among others:

1)    Receive all protection requests and process them in accordance with the Law;
. . .
3)    Process the application of  security measures sua sponte when any person covered by the Law faces a situation of risk that merits urgent measures;
. . .
9)    Provide support to the petitioners for or beneficiaries of protective measures regarding procedures, complaints, or notices for the investigation of the origins of the risks they face[.][6]

C. Civil Society Participation

The National Protection Council for Human Rights Defenders acts as an advisory, deliberative, and consultative body of the National System of Protection of Human Rights Defenders to guarantee the rights set forth in the Protection Law.[7]  The Council is made up of government agencies, representatives of the judiciary, representatives of human rights organizations, and members of civil society, among others. [8]  The Council must facilitate the attendance of guest individuals or organizations that can temporarily or permanently support the work of the Council and act as advisors, due to their profile and experience. The Council may decide to meet in places other than the capital city, such as in affected communities or places. These sessions must be held at least four times a year outside of the Council’s headquarters.[9]

Back to Top

II. Implementation of Protective Measures

A. Process for Requesting Assistance

Any beneficiary of the Protection Law, whether an individual or legal entity, may personally request protection before the General Directorate of the Protection System without the need of legal representation.  The request may be verbal or in writing, using any means of communication, and may be submitted at any time, during or after business hours.  A request may be submitted on the at-risk person or entity’s behalf by a third party, organization, or other authority that is aware of the risk situation if serious or exceptional causes prevent direct submission by the affected person or entity.  In any case, the request must be formalized in writing as soon as possible.[10]

B. Risk Assessment and Possible Measures

The Technical Committee of the Protection Mechanism is responsible for carrying out a risk analysis and reaching a decision regarding the person who requested protection.  The Technical Committee is also responsible for issuing technical opinions; recommending, suspending, and/or canceling protective measures; and dictating new protective or preventive measures, whether routine or urgent, that will guarantee the life, integrity, freedom, and security of the person at risk. 

The General Directorate of the Protection System is responsible for implementing, by itself or in coordination with other relevant institutions, the protective measures recommended by the Technical Committee.[11]  Those protective measures must be implemented within forty-eight hours after receipt of the Committee’s resolution decreeing the respective measure.[12]

The Regulation of the Protection Law provides that the Technical Committee and the General Directorate will maintain lists of suitable measures for the prevention and protection of the Law’s beneficiaries.  These lists, which are nonrestrictive and nonlimiting, are to include, among possible other measures, the following:

1. Protective Measures.  These include, among others:

a. Evacuation;

b. Temporary relocation of the beneficiary person or his/her immediate family for up to six (6) months;

c. Escorts by specialized bodies or individuals;

d. [Real] property protection;

e. Delivery of cellular equipment, radio or satellite telephony, panic buttons, or applications with similar functionality;

f. Installation of cameras, locks, lights, or other security measures in the facilities, group house, or [individual] house of a person;  

g. Bulletproof vests;

h. Metal detectors;

i. Armored cars; and

j. Other [measures]  as required.

2. Preventive Measures.  These include, among others: 

a. Instructions and manuals for protection and self-defense;

b. Both individual and group self-defense courses;

c. Recognition by national, departmental, or municipal authorities of the work that [the Law’s beneficiaries] perform;

d. The accompaniment of human rights observers and journalists;

e. Call to the authorities representing the state to refrain from obstructing the work of the beneficiary, recognize his/her actions, and avoid pointing out or [engaging in] stigmatization campaigns made by public or private actors;

f. Other [measures] as required.

3. Collective Protective Measures.  The Risk Analysis Unit must design a specific protocol for the implementation of these types of measures, based on the context, social realities, and needs of the beneficiary persons.[13]

The Regulation does not appear to directly address relocation and security services during trial although, as noted above, it provides for the temporary relocation of the beneficiary or his/her immediate family for up to six months. Similarly, the Regulation provides for escorts by specialized bodies or individuals. [14] 

Back to Top

III. Financial Resources

The Protection Law directs the Secretariat of Finances to assign sufficient and necessary resources of the General Budget of the Republic for the effective fulfillment of the Law.[15]  The Law created the Special Fund for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Justice Operators.[16]

Back to Top

IV. Emergency Applications

If the situation presents the imminent risk of threats or aggression within the next twenty-four to seventy-two hours that could seriously affect the life, physical integrity, or personal freedom of the petitioner, the General Directorate must urgently order protective measures for the requesting person and instruct the appropriate state security agency to implement such measures within eight hours after receipt of the Resolution decreeing such  measures.[17]

Back to Top

V. Secrecy

The Protection Law generally mandates that the information regarding the protection of beneficiaries and their family members must be kept strictly confidential,[18] and also specifically directs the members of the Technical Committee to maintain strict confidentiality concerning protective procedures and their analysis of cases under their consideration.[19] The Regulation of the Law reiterates these confidentiality requirements.[20] 

Back to Top

VI. Dialogue

The Protection Law does not appear to address dialogues between mining companies, investors, public officials, and communities.

Back to Top

Prepared by Norma C. Gutiérrez
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
November 2019


[1] Regional Agreement, Status as at: 08-11-2019 05:00:38 EDT, UNTC, https://perma.cc/2THW-SS73.

[2] Decreto No. 34-2015, Ley de Protección para las y los Defensores de Derechos Humanos, Periodistas, Comunicadores Sociales y Operadores de Justicia (Ley de Protección) art. 2, La Gaceta [L.G.], May 15, 2015, https://perma.cc/U9CE-232D.

[3] Id. art. 5(1). 

[4] Id. art. 6.

[5] Id. art. 19.

[6] Id. art. 29 (translation by author). 

[7] Id. art. 20.

[8] Id. art. 21.

[9] Acuerdo Ejecutivo No. 59-2016, Reglamento General de la Ley de Protección para las y los Defensores de Derechos Humanos, Periodistas, Comunicadores Sociales y Operadores de Justicia (Reglamento General de la Ley de Protección) art. 6(4), (5), L.G., Aug. 20, 2016, https://perma.cc/WW4T-B2RA.

[10] Ley de Protección art. 41.

[11] Id. art. 32(2).

[12] Id. art. 48. 

[13] Reglamento General de la Ley de Protección art. 54 (translation by author).  

[14] Id.

[15] Ley de Protección art. 65.

[16] Id. art. 66.

[17] Id. art. 45.

[18] Id. art. 3(15). 

[19] Id. art. 31.

[20] Reglamento General de la Ley de Protección art. 2(17).

Back to Top

Last Updated: 12/30/2020