Honduras election protests met with excessive and lethal force, says UN

By agency reporter
March 14, 2018

Members of the Honduran security forces, in particular the military police, used excessive – including lethal – force to control and disperse protests that erupted following November’s disputed presidential election, says a report from the UN Human Rights Office.

The report details human rights violations that happened between voting day on 26 November 2017 and the presidential inauguration on 27 January 2018. It found that at least 22 civilians and one police officer were killed during the protests. Of these, at least 16 people, including two women and two children, were shot dead by the security forces. The report also documents the killing of 15 individuals in the run-up to the elections, including party candidates, municipal councillors and activists.

While some of the protesters became violent, the report notes that, “analysis of the type of injuries suffered by the victims indicate that the security forces made intentional lethal use of firearms, including beyond dissuasive or self-defence (legitimate) purposes, such as when protestors were fleeing.” This was illustrated by the deaths of seven individuals who received shots to the head.

“These cases raise serious concerns and may amount to extra-judicial killings”, the report says. According to information received, by 27 January, no charges had been brought against any member of the security forces in relation to the killings and injuries.

In addition, some 1,351 people were detained between 1 and 5 December for violating a curfew imposed as part of a state of emergency declared on 1 December.  The state of emergency’s imprecise and broad grounds for detaining people, including those “somehow suspected” of causing damage or committing crimes, went beyond what was required by the situation, resulting in mass and indiscriminate arrests, and discouraging people from exercising the right to peaceful assembly and of association.

The report also highlights “credible and consistent allegations of ill-treatment of persons at the time of arrest and/or detention,” illegal house raids, and a surge in “threats and intimidation against journalists, media workers, and social and political activists.”

The human rights violations described in the report, took place “in the context of a political, economic and social crisis, which can be traced back to the 2009 military coup d’état and significant delays to undertake critical institutional, political, economic and social reforms.” The report urges the Honduran Government to engage in a participatory national dialogue on reforms to promote development, human rights and reconciliation.

“The already fragile human rights situation in Honduras, which suffers from high levels of violence and insecurity, is likely to deteriorate further unless there is true accountability for human rights violations, and reforms are taken to address the deep political and social polarisation in the country,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

Among its recommendations, the report calls on the authorities to restrict the use of of the military police and armed forces in law enforcement functions, and to regulate the use of force by all security and law enforcement agencies, in line with applicable international human rights norms and standards. The report recommends that  there should be prompt, impartial, independent and transparent investigations into all allegations of human rights violations that took place in the context of the elections.

* Read Human rights violations in the context of the 2017 elections in Honduras here

* Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/Home.aspx

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