Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern over Acts of Violence during the Education and Healthcare Strike in Honduras

June 6, 2019

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Washington, DC—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern over the acts of violence that took place during the recent demonstrations in Honduras. These were part of a strike organized by the healthcare and education sectors.

The IACHR learned of a series of demonstrations in several cities in the country at which serious acts of violence occurred. According to publicly available information, on May 30, 2019, several people were injured by tear gas used when security forces attempted to evict demonstrators who were blocking major streets in Tegucigalpa and around Toncontín airport. Several media outlets reported that three demonstrators received gunshot wounds from security forces at various demonstrations outside Tegucigalpa. On the same day, the National Police Force reported that at least 24 officers from the departments of Prevention and Community Safety, Special Forces, and Roads and Transportation were injured during these demonstrations. The IACHR urges the Honduran authorities to investigate these acts of violence with due diligence, to identify and sanction those who are responsible for them, and to inform the public of the outcomes.

The IACHR has repeatedly argued that firearms should not be among the devices permitted for controlling social protests. Given the irreversible consequences that the use of force with lethal weapons could lead to, the IACHR considers that they should only be used as a last resort to prevent an incident that would be more serious than the state’s reaction, and that qualitative and quantitative limitations should be placed on them. With regard to the exceptional circumstances under which they may be used, both the IACHR and the IA Court have decided that the principles of legality, absolute necessity, and proportionality must be satisfied for the use of force to be justified. Likewise, the IACHR insists that the use of nonlethal weapons must contemplate factors such as the context in which they are being used and the specific circumstances in which targets find themselves, so as to prevent them from having lethal consequences or causing serious injury.

The IACHR also condemns the fires and damage to private property that were caused in several cities in Honduras, including the damage to the US embassy in Tegucigalpa during the protests on May 31, 2019. Such behavior is incompatible with the right to peaceful protest. However, the IACHR also acknowledges that the fact that some people or individuals exercise violence during a demonstration does not necessarily mean that the whole demonstration is violent.

In view of the fact that the strike continues and that new demonstrations are being organized in the coming days, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, president of the IACHR, stated: “we wish to remind the state of Honduras that it is obliged to respect and guarantee the rights to life, personal integrity and security, peaceful assembly, and freedom of association and expression for all people under its jurisdiction. This includes the fact that authorities, particularly those responsible for public order and domestic security, are obliged to take operational measures to facilitate the right to peaceful assembly while strictly adhering to the general principles on the use of force in such contexts.”

The IACHR acknowledges the government’s announcement that it will repeal two decrees related to education and healthcare and pass two new decrees that include the creation of two working groups to improve the country’s education and public health systems. “We urge the government to ensure that a broad, representative swathe of civil society is able to take part in the debate around these proposed reforms,” said Commissioner Joel Hernández García, rapporteur for Honduras.

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. 143/19