IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern over Situation in Honduras and Calls on State to Guarantee Rights to Protest and Peaceful Assembly, in Accordance with Inter-American Standards

July 3, 2019

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9000
mrivero@oas.org

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Washington, DC—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has been following up on the demonstrations that have been taking place in Honduras as part of the strike organized by the healthcare and education sectors. The IACHR called for genuine channels of dialogue to guarantee that the ongoing demonstrations and protests can take place.

The IACHR is particularly concerned around the violence that took place between June 19 and 20, 2019, which resulted in three civilians losing their lives and at least 19 more being injured. In at least 18 of these cases, the injuries were caused by firearms. The IACHR was informed by the state that at least 50 police officers were allegedly wounded during the demonstrations.

According to publicly available information, the National Security and Defense Council announced the joint deployment of military and police forces to control the demonstrations. On June 24, during a joint police and military operation at the Autonomous University of Honduras, the excessive use of force allegedly resulted in at least three students being injured by firearms. The IACHR calls on the state to investigate these events with due diligence. It also acknowledges Office of the Pres and the press release from the Human Rights Secretariat calling for an urgent investigation.

The IACHR has also learned that on July 1, students at the Valle de Sula campus of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH-VS) alleged that the military police had fired shots and used tear gas during a demonstration. UNAH-VS authorities condemned these events in an official statement on July 2.

The IACHR condemned these acts of violence that have affected the lives and integrity of those involved and urges the state to adopt the necessary measures to ensure that these events are investigated promptly, thoroughly, and diligently and that those who masterminded and implemented them are identified and punished.

The IACHR insists that firearms should not be among the devices permitted for controlling social protests. The use of firearms is an extreme measure and should only be implemented when police authorities are unable to control or detain people who are threatening the lives and integrity of others through other means. The IACHR also urged all people who take part in demonstrations to avoid resorting to acts of violence. However, the IACHR also noted that the fact that some people or individuals exercise violence during a demonstration does not necessarily mean that the demonstration as a whole is a violent one.

In accordance with inter-American standards, maintaining public order and safety are primarily the mandate of civilian police forces. In any case, inter-American jurisprudence has established that the armed forces must only be involved in maintaining public safety under extraordinary circumstances, such that any intervention involving the armed forces is justified, exceptional, temporary, and limited to the action that is strictly necessary in the circumstances of the case. These interventions should also be subordinate and complementary to civil police forces and should be regulated through legal mechanisms and protocols regarding the use of force, under the principles of exceptionality, proportionality, and absolute necessity, and those involved should receive appropriate training on the matter and be supervised by competent, independent, technically qualified civilian bodies.

In this regard, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, president of the IACHR, said: “We wish to remind the state of Honduras that safeguarding public security falls to the civil police force and that we will continue to monitor the situation.”

Finally, the IACHR called on the state to guarantee the effectiveness and legitimacy of the dialogue tables that have recently been established to address the strike by ensuring broad, representative participation in them. Commissioner Joel Hernández García, rapporteur for Honduras, said: “We are calling once more on the government to ensure that all affected parties are involved in the dialogue process, with a view to reaching a peaceful solution that satisfies the needs of all sectors.”

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 and to defend 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.

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 and to defend 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.

No. 169/19