Defending the Human Rights of Indigenous People in Honduras

Indigenous People in Honduras are all too familiar with injustice. In the face of an oppressive government, they’re experiencing an uphill battle to secure access to land and resources.

A few weeks ago, from May 16-27, representatives from Indigenous People’s organizations, including several AJWS grantees from Latin America, convened at the 10th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Some history on the Forum itself: Founded by the UN a decade ago, the Forum has become an important body for advancing the rights of Indigenous People around the world. The Forum gives Indigenous People a place to assert their rights, using internationally-recognized mechanisms such as the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, ratified in 2007, as well as the International Labor Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal People’s Convention (ILO No. 169) adopted in 1989.

At this year’s Forum, Honduras was strongly represented. AJWS grantees used this important space to talk about the systematic human rights violations in Honduras against Indigenous and Afro-descendant people under the current de facto government, which is characterized as a repressive regime.

Why is this happening? Following the coup of 2009, Indigenous People in Honduras have become increasingly vulnerable. Acting in concert with and in the interests of the de facto government, multinational corporations continue to encroach upon the land and livelihoods of Indigenous People.

During one of the Forum sessions, Berta Cáceres from Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH) charged the Honduran authorities of systematically criminalizing the Indigenous and Afro-descendant movement, and their struggle for a multicultural, multilingual and inclusive democracy. COPINH has condemned the ongoing impunity and worked tirelessly to call attention to human rights violations committed under the coup-backed government. In partnership with the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People, COPINH made the following recommendations:

  • A UN office for Indigenous and Afro descendant people in Honduras
  • A visit to Honduras by the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People
  • Recognition by the Forum of structural causes that lead to the policies and practices that have led to the crisis Indigenous Peoples face.

The struggle for recognition of Indigenous People’s rights has been long, and will continue to be fraught with many obstacles. Where racism and discrimination is exacerbated by repressive regimes, like in Honduras, the challenge is even greater.