María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001
Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today publishes the Report "Situation of Human Rights in Honduras", which addresses the situation of human rights violations which result of high rates of violence, citizen insecurity and impunity. The report also provides recommendations in order to assist the State in strengthening its efforts to protect and guarantee human rights.
The report indicates that the homicide rate in Honduras remains one of the highest in the region and the world, although the State reported numbers that indicate a decline in 2014. These levels of violence are a result of several factors, including the increased presence of organized crime and drug traffickers, an inadequate judicial response that fuels impunity, corruption, and high levels of poverty and inequality.
“Violence and insecurity are serious problems that Honduran society faces with a major impact on the enjoyment and effective exercise of human rights in the country,” said Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren, IACHR Rapporteur for Honduras. The report indicates that the high levels of violence faced by Honduran society have a particular impact on human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, women, children, adolescents and youth, LGBT persons, migrants, campesinos from the Bajo Aguán, journalists and media workers, and justice operators. The report also analyzes those still considered to be among the most serious problems that the Honduran prison system is facing.
Official figures released in 2013 indicate that 80% of murders committed in Honduras go unpunished due to a lack of capacity of investigative bodies. During the visit, civil society organizations claimed that the prevailing levels of impunity in Honduras are even higher.
One of the cornerstones in the State response to the serious structural problems of violence has been the intervention of armed forces in multiple areas and functions. The Army actively has a role in citizen security through specialized bodies such as the creation of a military police. The military forces are also involved in providing civic and religious education to children and adolescents deemed to be “at-risk,” through the "Guardians of the Nation” program. The military also has functions in the prison system. Furthermore, they are sent to enforce security functions to areas of such as Bajo Aguán, where there are land conflicts.
In this sense, Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren recalled the Inter-American standards on the subject. "Citizen security should be in the exclusive competence of a duly organized and trained civilian police. Since the armed forces lack the proper training for controlling citizen security, it is up to a civilian police force, one that is efficient and respectful of human rights, to combat insecurity, crime, and violence in the country. The involvement of the Armed Forces in this broad range of State functions presents a risk to the rule of law.”
During the visit, the Commission noted that one of the causes of this insecurity derives from the illegitimate use of force by the same police force, the military police and the army, sometimes in complicity with organized crime.
In addition, violence disproportionately affects those segments of the population who suffer social exclusion. The IACHR confirmed the continued existence of high leveles of inequality and social exclusion affecting large sectors of the population in Honduras. This results in serious difficulties and challenges in their access to cover basic needs, less access to employment opportunities and means of subsistence, obstacles in access to justice, and a reduced quantity and quality in the services offered by the State, such as citizen security and education.
Regarding this matter, the IACHR President, Commissioner James Cavallaro, said: "We are particularly concerned that these violence and insecurity levels are exacerbated by the lack of public policies to address the inequality and social exclusion that affect large segments of the population. Such is the situation of groups that are vulnerable due to historical discrimination, examined in this report, who face persistent obstacles to the full enjoyment of their rights and a lack of access to justice.”
The report emphasizes that the situation of women, indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants are some of the most vulnerable seguments of the population as a result of discrimination and persistent economic and social exclusion, which in turn results into violation of their human rights.
Furthermore, the report analyzes the situation of human rights’ defenders who are targeted by those identified as responsible for human rights’ violations, or by sectors and groups that have opposing interests to the defenders’ causes. Information was received on the criminalization of human rights’ defenders throughout the country, in particular defenders of indigenous communities and peoples in relation to the defense of their territory. LGBT defenders also face a context of violence that worsens due to the stereotypical and discriminatory attitudes against this group.
“Honduras should protect defenders when they encounter risks to their life and personal integrity, by adopting an effective and comprehensive prevention strategy, with the goal of preventing attacks, and should take the necessary measures so that they can carry out their work without hindrance or risk,” said the Rapporteur on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco.
Additionally, the report notes that significant challenges remain in regards of the independence of judges and prosecutors, particularly those derived from the rules and procedures established by the State to regulate processes of selection and discipline. In this regard, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco said that: “justice operators must have reinforced guarantees of tenure so as to ensure that they are able to act independently. Those guarantees mean that justice operators should not be subject to removal as a result of lawful decisions they make in the course of their work.”
The IACHR recognizes in its report the State's efforts to address the human rights situation in the country, like the opening to the international scrutiny in presence of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, and the Mission of Support Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) recently created with support by the Organization of American States; the harmonization of criminal law to international standards, the Public Policy and National Plan of Action on Human Rights which are being implemented, the National Migration Institute and the Task Force of Migrant Children creation and the Law and Protection for Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Communicators Social and Justice Officers, which it will be closely monitored by the Commission during its implementation.
The Commission also recognizes the capacity shown by the Human Rights, Justice, Governance and Decentralization Secretariat for the coordination between institutions. The Committee hopes that the Secretariat be provided with enough financial resources to effectively fulfill its mandate. However, according to information received, important challenges remain in Honduras in order to measures be effective, as well as challenges to adopt further reforms to strengthen the regulatory framework and public policy. Furthermore, the report notes persistent challenges to regain confidence in institutions responsible for the administration of justice, many of which derive from the regulatory framework provided by the state to regulate selection and discipline processes of justice operators.
The report includes recommendations to the Honduran State addressed to guarantee citizen safety. Urgent measures should be adopted in order to decrease the homicide rate, to address structural causes of violence and impunity, as well as to protect the population in this situation. Honduras should expand and intensify the capacity to public servants in charge of law enforcement tasks in topics of protection and respect for human rights. Also it should gradually withdraw Military Forces from citizen security tasks and strengthen the police capacity for this purpose according to international human rights standards, as well as guarantee the conditions for defenders of human rights to freely carry out their activities.
Specifically, the report recommends to encourage judicial investigations in a prompt, diligent and impartial way on all acts of violence against defenders, leaders of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendent communities, union leaders, children and adolescents, journalists and media workers, women, LGBT people and justice operators, and to apply criminal penalties that apply, in order to end impunity and prevent the repetition of similar events.
The Commission hopes that the current report contributes to the efforts of the Honduran State to break the cycle of impunity and to strengthen its efforts to protect and guarantee human rights in the country. The Commission is at the disposal of the State, within the framework of its mandate and functions, to collaborate with Honduras to ensure the effective enjoyment of human rights for all persons under its jurisdiction.
The Commission thanks President Juan Orlando Hernández, his government and the people of Honduras for the invitation to perform the on-site visit, which took place from December 1st to 5th, 2014, which was essential for preparing this report. The Commission recognizes and appreciates the information provided by the government and the openness to establish a constructive dialogue with the Commission. Furthermore, the Commission thanks all actors who met during the visit, civil society, victims and their relatives. It appreciates the information gathered and testimonies received.
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 area. 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.