TEGUCIGALPA / GENEVA (25 February 2013) – The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries today urged the Honduran Government to reinforce the overseeing role of the Control Unit of Private Security Services to ensure that private security companies comply with the law. The human rights experts also called on the authorities to strengthen the judicial system to properly investigate and prosecute crimes committed by private security guards and to ensure that victims receive effective remedies.
“With over seven hundred private security companies operating in Honduras, the Government should ensure that their activities are properly monitored and that they do not become a substitute for competent and accountable police,” stressed Patricia Arias, member of the expert group, at the end of a five day mission in the country.
The Working Group commended positive developments, like Honduras’ accession in 2008 to the International Convention on mercenaries, the adoption in 2008 of the Organic Law of the National Police and Regulations for the Control of Private Security Services, and the establishment in 2011 of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. However, the rights experts expressed concern at the proliferation of both legal and illegal private security companies.
“As a result of the lack of guarantee of security by the state institutions, the private security sector grew exponentially, outnumbering the national police force”, added Elzbieta Karska, another member of the delegation. The ratio of police officers to private security guards is reportedly 1 to 5 in Honduras. In addition to 706 registered private security companies, numerous unregistered private security companies operate in a legal vacuum. Most are reportedly owned by former high-ranking police or military officers who control the security sector in the country.
“Outsourcing the use of force to hundreds of private security companies seriously hampers the rule of law and the effective functioning of a democratic State institution responsible for ensuring national security in accordance with international human rights standards and national laws,” Ms. Arias said, noting with concern that private security guards allegedly used force in performing traditional functions of law enforcement authorities, such as controlling demonstrations and executing eviction orders.
The Working Group highlighted that implementing the existing regulatory framework and ensuring an effective oversight over private security companies remains a significant challenge due to severe under-resourcing of the Control Unit of Private Security Services and its lack of capacity to exercise any meaningful control over these.
During its visit from 18 to 22 February 2013, the delegation received consistent information that many private security guards carry firearms that are prohibited and are allegedly used to commit human rights violations. In this regard, the experts voiced concern about the alleged involvement of private security companies hired by landowners in widespread human rights violations including killings, disappearances, forced evictions and sexual violence against representatives of peasant associations in the Bajo Aguán region.
“There is a wide scale impunity prevailing in the country as well as a total lack of confidence of the population in the judiciary, as these human rights violations allegedly committed by private security companies are not investigated, perpetrators remain unprosecuted and victims do not have access to remedies,” Ms. Karska said.
The human rights experts also recommended that the Government provide adequate resources and training to the National Police, so that they may fulfil their inherent function to guarantee public security and safety of the Honduran population.
The Group’s delegation met with Government officials, parliamentarians, representatives of civil society and the private sector including security companies to assess the impact of the activities of private military and security companies on the enjoyment of human rights.
Ms. Arias and Ms. Karska also followed up on the implementation of the recommendations it had made in the context of its previous visit in 2006*, in particular accession to the International Convention on mercenaries, strengthening the regulatory framework on private security companies, and adopting measures to act speedily on complaints submitted by individuals having returned from Iraq.
The Working Group’s delegation conveyed its appreciation to the Government of Honduras for its fruitful cooperation during the visit, and encouraged them to undertake appropriate measures including amendments of the existing legislation to implement effectively these recommendations.
The Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination was established in 2005 by the then Commission on Human Rights. It is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities: Mr. Anton Katz (Chair-Rapporteur, South Africa), Ms. Faiza Patel (Pakistan), Ms. Patricia Arias (Chile), Ms. Elzbieta Karska (Poland) and Mr. Gabor Rona (United States/Hungary). Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Mercenaries/WGMercenaries/Pages/WGMercenariesIndex.aspx
(*) Check the Working Group’s 2006 report on Honduras: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G07/109/69/PDF/G0710969.pdf?OpenElement
Check the Working Group’s draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies: http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/HRC/15/25&Lang=E
UN Human Rights, country page – Honduras: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/HNIndex.aspx
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