The homicide rate in Honduras continues to be one of the highest in the region and the world, even though government figures indicate that it has declined since 2014.
These levels of violence are a result of several factors, including the increased presence of organized crime and drug trafficking, an inadequate judicial response that fuels impunity, corruption, and high levels of poverty and inequality.
IACHR Presents Report:
"Situation of Human Rights in Honduras"
This report addresses the violation of rights of the people of Honduras, a situation that results from high rates of violence, citizen insecurity, and high levels of impunity.
It also offers recommendations designed to help Honduras strengthen its efforts to protect and guarantee human rights, in accordance with the international human rights obligations assumed voluntarily by the State.
Honduran State’s Openness to International Scrutiny and Collaboration with International Organizations
The IACHR especially welcomes the State’s invitation to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to have an enhanced presence in the country, and the recent establishment of the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras.
The Commission also recognizes the Public Policy and National Plan of Action on Human Rights, which are in the process of being implemented, and the approval of the Law on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Media Workers, and Justice Operators.
The IACHR recognizes the openness and coordination efforts among institutions shown by the Secretariat of Human Rights, Justice, Interior, and Decentralization, and hopes that this agency is given sufficient funding and human resources to carry out its mandate effectively.
Berta Zúñiga Cáceres (daughter of the murdered human rights defender Berta Cáceres). Photo credit: Daniel Cima for the IACHR
The Rates of Violence and Insecurity in Honduras are of the Highest in the world
Highest homicide rate in the world, 2013
In 2013, the murder rate in Honduras was the highest in the world, with 79 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, according to figures published by the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH).
Drop in Homicides
The State indicated that the homicide rate in Honduras fell to 66.4 in 2014, with the downward trend continuing in 2015. The IACHR welcomes the decrease.
State Agents and Insecurity
The atmosphere of insecurity is said to be partly caused by the police force, military police, and armed forces themselves, through their illegitimate use of force and sometimes in collusion with organized crime.
Militarization of Citizen Security
Influence on Investigations
Civic and Educational Training
The implementation of this program is not a natural function of the army. The role of the armed forces, which is the defense of the country against security threats from abroad, is incompatible with the coordination, supervision, and implementation of civic education programs for children.
States must restrict to the maximum extent the use of armed forces to control domestic disturbances, since they are trained to fight against enemies and not to protect and control civilians, a task that is typical of police forces.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Case of Montero-Aranguren et al. (Detention Center of Catia) v. Venezuela. Judgement of July 5, 2006, Series C No. 150, para. 78.
Honduras is One of the Most Unequal Countries in Latin America
Miskito Indigenous People
The divers descend to great depths for long periods of time to catch the amount of lobster they need, and they go back to the surface at a faster rate than that established by diving standards. All this happens without proper supervision by the State. Consequently, Miskito deep-sea divers die in preventable accidents or end up permanently paralyzed from decompression sickness.
Once the Miskito divers are physically disabled for life, they receive no training, rehabilitation, medical care, or employment alternatives.
The long shifts, in forced postures and doing repetitive tasks, expose the workers to risk factors that in many cases lead to occupational illnesses and job accidents.
The dangerous and demanding environment in which these women work cause them to have serious health problems, both physical and psychological, with high rates of depression and anxiety. Women who work in garment factories have high rates of symptoms indicative of Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders, 62% among employees who work 9-hour days and 66% among those who work up to 12-hour shifts.
Under the maquila system for transnational companies, wages tend to be below the minimum established by law. During the IACHR’s visit in 2014, maquila workers indicated that the Labor Secretariat carries out few or no inspections and that the workers have limited access to justice.
“I have come to depend on my sister and family. I cannot travel in a bus standing up, I always have to be seated. I can’t even carry five oranges. I can’t get dressed alone.”
The maquila worker who offered this testimony to the IACHR has been waiting since 2010 for a review of her working conditions, in response to a ruling issued by the Technical Commission on Disabilities of the Honduran Social Security Institute (IHSS).
Human Rights Defenders
Human rights defenders in Honduras are targets of attacks by those who have been identified as responsible for rights violations or by sectors and groups with interests opposed to their causes.
In particular, human rights defenders who advocate for the protection of natural resources are reportedly being subject to acts of violence, harassment, and death threats because of their work as environmental defenders.
Indigenous Peoples and Land Activism
Development Projects and Mining Concessions
Issue of concern include:
(i) The high levels of insecurity and violence stemming from the imposition of development and investment plans and projects, and concessions to extract natural resources in their ancestral territories;
(ii) Forced evictions through the excessive use of force; and
(iii) The persecution and prosecution of indigenous leaders for reasons related to the defense of their ancestral territories.
The Commission noted with concern the figures submitted by the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) indicating that since 2010 there have been 3,064 prosecutions as a result of the misuse of criminal law to intimidate human rights defenders.
During the visit, civil society organizations presented the Commission with information concerning what they describe as repression and political persecution of human rights defenders throughout the country, particularly of indigenous communities and peoples in connection with the defense of their territory.
Photo credit: Natalie Jeffers, Matters of the Earth
Agrarian Conflict and the Militarization of Bajo Aguán
In the region of Bajo Aguán, Tocoa, there is a longstanding land dispute between peasants and businessmen. In this context, this situation has reportedly worsened with the militarization of the area.
The IACHR found that the situation of violence and impunity continues to be alarming.
Violence against Women: Murders, Domestic and Family Violence, and Sexual Violence
Violence against women occurs because other forms of discrimination are allowed to flourish. To address this violence it is necessary to also address the underlying discrimination factors that give rise to and exacerbate the violence.
The Commission recognizes the National Plan to Combat Violence against Women 2014-2022 as a step forward.
Photo credit: Daniel Cima for the IACHR
Violence against women is systematic and demands a much stronger response from the State.
Interventions that seek to only ameliorate the abuse, and which do not factor in women’s realities, are not challenging the fundamental gender inequalities and discrimination that contribute to the abuse in the first place.
United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, May 2, 2015.
Violence Based on Prejudice: Trans Women and LGBT Persons
Based on laws that protect “morals and good customs,” trans women are particularly at risk of being subjected to abuse and arbitrary detention by the police, whether or not they do sex work.
The State should adopt a gender identity law or similar measures to ensure the full recognition of the identity of trans persons.
State recognition of the identity of trans persons helps to reduce violence and discrimination against them.
The State should adopt a differentiated approach to ensure the rights to life and integrity of LGBT people.
Besides investigating all acts of violence against LGBT people, thoroughly and with all due diligence, Honduras should address the underlying causes of violence based on prejudice toward sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
The Impact of Violence Causes People to Flee Honduras
The socioeconomic, political, environmental, and citizen security situation are “push” factors that lead Honduran citizens to migrate to the United States, Mexico, and other Central American countries.
Worldwide, the number of asylum seekers from Honduras increased by 1,153% from 2012 to 2014.
Children and Adolescents
“The only thing I ask for is justice for my son, who died when he was gunned down at a military roadblock when he was 15. It hasn’t been easy to become one of the 3% of crimes that end up being tried in this country.”
Testimony from the father of a 15-year-old boy who was shot to death after going through a military roadblock on his motorcycle
Children and Adolescents
Torture and Killings
Gangs and Organized Crime
Threats and Pressure
Freedom of Expression: Journalists and Media Workers
Organized crime, with which public officials and agents of State security forces have been found to be involved, is the greatest threat to the life and physical integrity of journalists who cover local news about corruption.
Lack of Equal Access
Impunity, Access to Justice, and Judicial Independence
The high levels of violence have led to increased demands for justice, which have not been met with an effective response from the State, creating a situation of structural impunity.
The effective observance of the rule of law is achieved, to a large extent, by ensuring an administration of justice that does not tolerate impunity.
Society must perceive that the judicial branch applies the law equally and ensures all inhabitants the effective enjoyment of their rights.
Situation of Persons Deprived of Liberty
Mandatory Pretrial Detention
Prison Inmates: Internal Control
Adolescents and Children
Recommendations to Honduras by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Inequality and Social Exclusion
Structural Causes of Insecurity
Independence and Judicial Impartiality
Demilitarize Citizen Security
Land Conflict in Bajo Aguán
Protection of Children and Adolescents
Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Honduras should implement public policies that tackle the socioeconomic marginalization of indigenous peoples, through effective measures that combat poverty and improve education and employment. Any initiative, program, and policy must be in line with indigenous peoples’ needs and concerns and must be consulted with them.