REPORT NO. 43/14
CASE 12.492
MERITS
CARLOS ESCALERAS MEJÍA AND FAMILY
HONDURAS
JULY 17, 2014

I.

SUMMARY

1.
On January 14, 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter “the
Inter-American Commission,” “the Commission,” or “the IACHR”) received a petition lodged by the Team for
Reflection, Investigation, and Communication (Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación, ERIC) and
the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) (hereinafter “the petitioners”) in which they alleged the
international responsibility of the Republic of Honduras (hereinafter “the Honduran State,” “Honduras,” or
“the State”) arising from the murder of the environmental activist Carlos Escaleras Mejía on October 18, 1997,
and from the failure to investigate, prosecute, and punish all the individuals involved therein.
2.
According to the petitioners, the murder of Carlos Escaleras Mejía is part of a systematic
pattern of human rights violations against defenders of the environment in Honduras. They contend that the
investigation of his murder was neither serious nor effective, in that vital committal formalities were not
carried out, not all the witness statements were taken, and the arrest warrants issued were carried out with
excessive delays. They further contend that the fact that a person has been convicted does not exempt the
State from its international responsibility, in that to date the facts of his death have not been cleared up and
not all those involved in the crime have been punished.
3.
The State disputes the petitioners’ contentions. It argues that there is no pattern of human
rights violations against environmental activists that is either tolerated or encouraged by public authorities.
The State claims that a judicial investigation was opened following Mr. Carlos Escaleras Mejía’s death, as a
result of which two of the perpetrators have been punished. It maintains that the duration of the investigation
was due to its inherent complexity, and not to actions for which its authorities can be held responsible. It also
notes that it is continuing to carry out investigations in order to punish all the physical perpetrators of the
crime and the masterminds behind it.
4.
After analyzing the available information, the Commission concludes that the State of
Honduras is responsible for violating the rights to life, to humane treatment, to a fair trial, and to judicial
protection enshrined in Articles 4, 5, 8.1, and 25.1 of the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter
“the American Convention” or “the Convention”), in conjunction with Article 1.1 thereof, with respect to
Carlos Escaleras Mejía and his family, as indicated in each of the corresponding sections of this report.
Moreover, in accordance with the principle of iura novit curia, the IACHR concludes that the State is
responsible for violating the right to freedom of association and to political rights set forth in Articles 16 and
23 of the American Convention, in conjunction with the obligations established in Article 1.1 thereof, with
respect to Carlos Escaleras Mejía. The IACHR finds that the arguments related to the alleged violation of the
right to freedom of thought and expression, established in Article 13 of the American Convention, are covered
by the Commission’s analysis regarding the right to freedom of association and political rights.. Based on
those conclusions, the IACHR formulates a series of recommendations for the Honduran State.
II.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

5.
The Team for Reflection, Investigation, and Communication and the CEJIL presented the
initial petition by means of a communication dated January 14, 2002. Developments taking place between the
presentation of the petition and the adoption of the admissibility decision are set out in Admissibility Report
No. 15/05, adopted on February 24, 2005. 1 In that report the IACHR concluded that the petition was
1

See: IACHR, Report No. 15/05, Petition 59-03, Admissibility, Carlos Escaleras Mejía (Honduras), February 24, 2005.

1

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