IACHR Expresses Concern over Violent Deaths of Children, Adolescents, and Youths in a Context of Citizen Insecurity in Honduras
May 14, 2014
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses is deeply concerned about the deaths of children, adolescents, and youths that recently occurred in Honduras, within the context of widespread violence and citizen insecurity.
According to publicly available information, on May 4th a violent incident occurred at the Centro Pedagógico de Rehabilitación El Carmen (El Carmen Pedagogical Center for Rehabilitation), in San Pedro Sula, in which five adolescents purportedly associated with the gang known as the “Mara 18” were killed; after been shot by high-caliber firearms. The circumstances in which these weapons entered the prison, as well as the identity of the assailants and their possible affiliation with a rival gang, are under investigation. In addition, according to information received previously by the IACHR, on October 2, 2013, there was another attack with firearms at the same prison against detained adolescents who were associated with the “Mara 18” in which no one was killed. According to the authorities, this incident was also caused by members of a rival gang.
At the same time children and adolescents are also at risk in their communities. On May 4, 2014, four children between the ages of 2 and 13 years were stabbed to death in their home in the municipality of Limón, in the northeastern part of the country, in circumstances that are still under investigation.
In addition, on May 5, 2014, the corpses were found of two school-age children who were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered, where found in the La Pradera neighborhood, also located in San Pedro Sula. According to information that is a matter of public knowledge eight children have previously been kidnapped and assassinated in this neighborhood under similar circumstances. The authorities and the local residents attribute responsibility for these crimes to gang activity and the vulnerable situation in which they live due to citizen insecurity.
The Inter-American Commission emphasizes that these acts have taken place in a context of widespread violence and citizen insecurity that places children and adolescents in a particularly vulnerable position. The IACHR observes that according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) Honduras has the highest homicide rate of any country (90.4 per 100,000 population). According to the National Commissioner on Human Rights (National Ombudsperson) of Honduras, from 2010 to 2013 at least 458 children under 14 years of age died in violent circumstances in Honduras; and according to information from the organization Casa Alianza, in the first three months of this year 271 children and youths under 23 years of age have been assassinated.
Public policies on citizen security should have the purpose of establishing or consolidating a national institutional framework that provides effective and efficient responses to the demands of a democratic society in this area, above all on priority issues such as services for victims of violence and crime. This duty to protect is all the greater in the case of persons under 18 years of age, who in addition are protected specifically by binding provisions that require all States to grant a special level of protection. This is especially so when they are under the custody of the State, in which case it must assume its special position of guarantor with greater care and responsibility.
The Inter-American Commission condemns the assassination of children and adolescents in Honduras and considers that this serious problem must be taken on by the State as a priority. In this regard, the IACHR underscores the importance of investigating these facts promptly, diligently, and impartially, and applying the corresponding criminal sanctions so as to prevent impunity and the repetition of similar events. In addition, urgent measures should be adopted as necessary to prevent the occurrence of similar events, and to protect in particular those persons who are in a special situation of vulnerability, including those human rights defenders who are working in this area. The lack of efficient and effective interventions by the State in the face of the challenges of citizen security gives rise to a sense of frustration and lack of protection in large sectors of the population, which has a serious negative impact on comity in a democratic society under the rule of law.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.