IACHR Condemns Violence in Several Cities in Honduras

July 20, 2023

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has condemned the acts of violence in several cities in Honduras that resulted in the deaths of at least 21 people in the last week of June. The IACHR called on the State to investigate these events in a serious, impartial, effective manner to identify those who were responsible for masterminding the crimes and carrying them out. It also urged the State to create a public policy on citizen security that focuses on protecting individuals.

According to the information the IACHR has received, on June 24, 2023, at least 13 people were murdered in a pool hall in Choloma. At almost exactly the same time, at least 8 more violent deaths took place in different areas of the country. The Honduran authorities claimed that these events were linked to organized crime and announced measures to tackle this, including by launching a police operation to contain violence in the north of the country and to regain control of areas where gangs are active. On June 25, the president decreed a 15-day curfew at night and in the early hours of the morning in Choloma and San Pedro Sula.

The IACHR has warned that maras (gangs) are a major security challenge and a threat to the community. Two IAHCR reports, "Organized Crime and the Rights of Children, Adolescents, and Young People: The Challenges Facing States and Lines of Action in Northern Central America," and "Impact of Organized Crime on Women, Girls, and Adolescents in the Countries of Northern Central America," examine how how organized crime and the violence associated with it pose new challenges for States in the protection of human rights. This is particularly true for the most vulnerable populations, such as children, adolescents, young people, and women, whose lives and development have been disrupted by organized crime.

The State informed the IACHR about the measures it is implementing to combat organized crime with the support of members of the National Police Force and personnel from the Honduran Armed Forces, in strict compliance with human rights. It stressed that the success of these measures would be gauged through the protection of the right to life and notable decreases in the homicide rate. According to the State, the measures included in its Solution to Crime strategy have contributed to reducing crime rates. Authorities from the Security Office at the Secretariat of State have reported that there has been an 83% drop in homicides since these measures were implemented. Furthermore, the State noted that the Secretariat of Human Rights (SEDH) and the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) are promoting human rights training for their officers.

Honduras is obliged to guarantee the security of all people within its jurisdiction, respecting human rights and the international treaties which it is party to. The IACHR noted that the measures adopted by the State in response to these acts of violence have unfolded at a time when certain constitutional rights and guarantees have been suspended in 123 municipalities following a decree issued by the Executive Branch of Honduras in December 2022. In its preliminary observations following its on-site visit to Honduras, the IACHR underlined the fact that this measure was exceptional and temporary and urged the State to formulate a medium- and long-term public security policy that contemplated the human rights approach, the gender approach, and differentiated approaches. On this point, the IACHR once again called for the measure not to be made part of the country's permanent security policy. The State explained to the IACHR that the partial state of emergency is not part of a permanent security policy, but is rather a temporary measure that prioritizes the common good and does not affect the entire Honduran population.

The organs of the Inter-American System of Human Rights have noted that the suspension of guarantees is a provision that can be implemented in the extraordinary circumstances indicated in Article 27 of the American Convention, such as war, public danger, or another emergency that threatens a State's independence or security. They further observed that to adopt such measures, States need to justify their reasonableness, necessity, and proportionality in the context of the emergency.

The IACHR called on the State of Honduras to act by identifying those responsible for the human rights violations that were perpetrated through a preventive approach, using multisector policies to address the root causes of violence. All state efforts must seek to safeguard the integrity and security of individuals and protect the enjoyment of their rights.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 158/23

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