Human rights lawyer assassinated in Honduras
A worker at a Jesuit-run radio and social action centre in Honduras has been stabbed and killed in what is believed to have been a politically-motivated attack. CAFOD partner Carlos Mejia Orellana (pictured), a 35-year-old lawyer who worked for ERIC-RP was stabbed four times in the chest at his home in El Progreso. The Catholic aid agency vowed yesterday that the struggle for justice that he helped to lead will go on.
Carlos and other colleagues at ERIC-RP had received repeated death threats in response to the organisation's advocacy and communications work, through which they challenge injustice and corruption in the government, police and judicial system. The threats against Carlos were so serious that, for the last five years, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has called on the Honduran government to provide him with special protection measures. Sadly, no such protection was provided.
CAFOD currently supports the work of ERIC-RP in the Atlantic coastal region of Honduras where programmes cover human rights, water, livelihoods and disaster risk reduction. The social action centre is one of the organisations that protested against the recent appointment of Roberto Herrera Caceres as the new Human Rights Ombudsman, asserting his links to the 2009 presidential coup and mining interest groups and his insufficient experience in human rights law.
At a press conference, ERIC-RP's director, Fr Ismael Moreno SJ, rejected rumours implying that Carlos' death was linked to relationship difficulties and insisted that the police carry out a thorough investigation.
CAFOD’s Head of Region for Latin America and the Caribbean, Clare Dixon, said: “ERIC-RP has been one of our partners for more than 20 years, and the loss of Carlos at such a young age is deeply felt by us all. As with so many brave men and women in Latin America who have been cruelly robbed of lives spent fighting for justice, his struggle will go on, with the support of the Catholic community in England and Wales.”
According to UN statistics, Honduras has the world's highest murder rate. Last year, an average of 20 people were murdered every day in Honduras, a country of just eight million inhabitants. El Progreso is close to San Pedro Sula, where the homicide rate is 173 per 100,000 people, reportedly the highest in the world outside a war zone.