The Law Society of Upper Canada Expresses Grave Concerns about the Murder of Human Rights Lawyer Antonio Trejo Cabrera

The Law Society of Upper Canada is gravely concerned about the murder of human rights lawyer Antonio Trejo Cabrera in Honduras.

Reliable reports indicate that on September 22, 2012, Trejo Cabrera was shot five times after leaving a wedding ceremony at a church near Tegucigalpa.  Trejo Cabrera was a prominent human rights lawyer who represented a number of Honduran agrarian groups in disputes with large landowners. Trejo Cabrera represented three peasant cooperatives in the Bajo Aguan, a fertile valley in the north of the country. He had recently assisted farmers to gain legal rights to the land in the valley and was scheduled to travel to Washington, DC in October to participate in hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the ongoing land dispute. 

According to the reports, hours before he was killed, Trejo Cabrera participated in a televised debate, during which he discussed charges of treason he and other lawyers had filed against congressional representatives who had signed a law that cedes portions of national territory to be autonomously governed for indefinite amounts of time by foreign governments or corporations. Trejo Cabrera had previously reported a number of death threats. 

The Law Society is deeply concerned about situations where lawyers who work for the protection and respect of human rights are themselves targeted for exercising their freedoms and rights under international law and are subject to threats and, in some instances, disappearances, assassinations and attempted assassinations. Article 16 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states that 'governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely; and shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.'

Therefore, the Law Society of Upper Canada calls on the government of Honduras to,

  1. thoroughly investigate the death of Antonio Trejo Cabrera and other similar cases and ensure that the perpetrators of these acts of violence are tried fairly and are brought to justice;
  2. ensure that all lawyers can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of physical violence or other human rights violations;
  3. put an end to all acts of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Honduras; and
  4. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Honduras.

 The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for some 44,700 lawyers and 4,700 paralegals in the Province of Ontario, Canada and the Treasurer is the head of the Law Society.  The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

The Law Society urges the legal community to intervene in support of members of the legal profession in Honduras in their effort to advance the respect of human rights and to promote the rule of law.