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Preliminary Observations on the official visit to Honduras by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, 23 to 27 May 2016

Spanish

Tegucigalpa, 27 May 2016

Introduction

1.1 Summary of visit

From 23 to 27 May 2016, I conducted an official visit to Honduras. I wish to thank the Government for extending the invitation to me to visit the country, as well as for the extensive cooperation provided during the preparation and conduct of this visit. I appreciate the openness and willingness to engage that I encountered in my meetings. I would also like to thank the country office of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for the valuable support received in the preparations and conduct of my visit.

The aim of the visit was to examine the level of protection of the right to life in Honduras, particularly the legal framework and measures in place to prevent attacks on the life, security and physical integrity of individuals, and to ensure justice and accountability for such violations.

I visited Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. The visit provided an opportunity to engage with the relevant authorities from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches at the federal and state levels as well as national and local human rights institutions, academia and civil society organizations. I consulted also with members of the United Nations Country Team.

During my visit, I met with numerous officials of the federal and state Governments. At the federal level, I met with authorities from the Office of the Presidency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Human Rights, Justice, Government and Decentralization; Ministry of Security; Ministry of Defence; Supreme Court of Justice, Attorney General’s Office; State Attorney’s Office; National Congress, including the commitees on justice and human rights and on citizen security; National Police; Armed Forces; and National Human Rights Commission and CONAPREV. I also visited the National Penitenciary and the detention center in the Second Tactic Batallon of Infantry, both in Tegucigalpa. In San Pedro Sula, I also held meetings with the Governor of the Department of Cortes and the Vice-Mayor of San Pedro Sula.

A detailed report on my findings and recommendations will be presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2017. The observations and recommendations presented today are preliminary and open to further input, and will be developed further in the future report.

1.2 General impressions

A few years ago Honduras had the highest murder rate in the world. Since then a number of significant steps have been taken to reduce the levels of violence, which remain alarmingly high but it has started to move in the right direction. The most difficult but important part now lies ahead – to consolidate the gains and to bring the violence down further.
 I have met many government and other officials who are looking the problems squarely in the eye, and who are committed to change the situation around. Likewise, many parts of civil society are vibrant and engaged.

The problem has two parallel dimensions: first the high number of people who are killed, and then the low number of perpetrators who are held accountable. Regional patterns of drug smuggling as well as grinding poverty and inequality make it hard to break out of the cycle of violence, but the gains that have been made show this is not insurmountable. Impunity is the hallmark and to a large extent the cause of the ongoing violence. Impunity is the result of engrained corruption, extortion, and weak institutions, and much can be done about this.

Positive steps have been taken. Law enforcement agencies have increased their capacity and gang leaders have been jailed or extradited from the country. The police are undergoing a far-reaching restructuring and strengthening process, which is much-needed to reverse the current militarization of law enforcement.  A law has been passed to better protect human rights defenders, journalists and others and consideration is being given to change the law to ensure better gun control. One family member of a victim interviewed said “we have lost our culture of life”. Beyond this I have also met people who are restoring the normality of life through open air concerts, sport, and opportunities for young people.

hese are all important initiatives, and more is needed. The crucial and most difficult part of the road back to a culture that cherishes life lies ahead.  Some additional legal changes are required, but no one should wait for that. The challenge is the consistent implementation of the current laws. Without fear or favour, and as a matter of urgency.
Civil society has engaged with the quest to improve the situation, as seen for example in the recent giant demonstrations against corruption, which where managed withestraint. At the same time one often encounters a sense of resignation – that things have been this way for a long time and are unlikely to change. The current downward trajectory in the incidences of violence should help to counter this approach: Change is possible.

1.3 Importance of the right to life in Honduras

The right to life is a ‘foundational right’. It is often seen as the precondition for the exercise of all other rights. This right, as set out for example in article 6 of the ICCPR, deals with arbitrary depravation of life by the State of its officials, or the acts of those who may be attributed to it, as well as the responsibility of the state to protect individuals from depravation of life by other individuals or groups. In addition to the requirement to prevent arbitrary depravations of life, the right to life also requires accountability where there are arbitrary losses of life – including proper investigations.

2. Violence in Society

Violence and insecurity are serious problems that face Honduran society, with major implications for the enjoyment and effective exercise of human rights in the country. Violence grew exponentially since the early 2000 when the country took on a bigger role in the drug routes from South America to the US, which was paralleled with the infiltration of organized criminal groups and the expansion of gang activity. Following the 2009 coup d’etat, societal violence took on bigger proportions and Honduran homicide rate became among the highest in the region and the world. According to the Global Study on Homicide 2013 published by UNODC, based on data for 2012 Honduras had the highest crime rate in the world, with an annual homicide rate of 90.4 per 100,000 inhabitants. Murder rates remained at the top of world ranking from 2011 to 2013. Murder rate has started to drop since then. According to the Observatory of Violence of the National Autonomous University of Honduras the homicide rate dropped from 79 per 100,000 in 2013 to 71.4 in November 2015, and to 60,0 by early 20161.

The level of violence has by all accounts gone down to some extent since 2013, but it remains at an alarming rate. It is difficult to pin-point the causes for the decline, but the following possible causes were mentioned during my visit: Leaders of gang were captured or extradited; increased teamwork within law enforcement; the role of the military in law enforcement; steps to clean up the police; greater investigative capacity in the police and in the prosecution services; greater technological abilities on the part of law enforcement; some successes in the fight against corruption.
Although it is difficult to obtain figures, I was told that disappearances are also a common occurrence.

From the discussions I had during my visit, violence appears to be the result of several factors, many of them systemic and regionally linked beyond the borders of the country: gang activity; organized crime; drug trafficking; arms trade; corruption, extortion; ineffective law enforcement; and lack of accountability for crimes against life; as well as deep and systemic poverty, unemployment, inequality and lack of opportunities for the population. The atmosphere of insecurity is compounded by the increasing militarization of public security and concomitant episodes of excessive use of force by members of the police force, military police and armed forces, sometimes in collusion with organized crime.

2.1 Police abuse and corruption
There is widespread acceptance that the police has over many years not fulfilled their function as they should have. In many cases they have not addressed the problem of crime, including violent crime, or have in fact become part of the problem.

Police corruption further affects the atmosphere of insecurity, with reports of police elements being involved in soliciting bribes, extortion and even murder. In at least five cases, police officers have been implicated in death-squad style killings of gang members. During the visit, I encounter numerous reports of killings at the hands of police, military police and military officers. According to a report by the Observatory on Violence at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, police killed 285 people between 2012 and 2015. Not all these cases are unjustified, but they are often not properly investigated. Impunity is the rule. Investigations and effective prosecution for these crimes seems to be limited to only a few high profile cases or cases in which the families of the victims had to personally push the investigations or assist in obtaining evidence.

A good number of these killings seem to have targeted the youth, either as a result of profiling of victims, typically as member of gangs, or in response to their participation in demonstrations and other forms of protests or public demands.

2.2 Gangs and organized criminal groups

A number of gangs are present in the country, involved in many criminal activities such as drug-trafficking and extortion. Local populations are forced to pay taxes to gangs in exchange for security in what is referred as “war tax”.

During my visit, I received reports of children and youth being forced to collect these taxes or sell drugs. Those who refuse to perform that task are often killed, leaving children in those communities with only two options, joining gang activity or fleeing their communities. Those who live become either internally displaced or join migration routes to northern countries, which in turn exposes them to human trafficking networks and a new series of risks to their life an integrity. Similarly, local business or citizens who refuse to pay their taxes are either killed or must flee. Young women are subjected to rape and are forced to carry drugs and guns. They are also often tortured and killed in vengeance acts to settle disputes between gang members.

Due to lack of control over gang-controlled areas or neighbourhoods, lack of political will or collusion with organized crime, state security forces offer limited or no protection to these communities. I have received alarming reports of police collusion with gangs and organized criminal groups in the killing and extortion of citizens in some of these communities.

It should be emphasised that the State remains responsible to protect its citizens from such threats and if it does not take reasonable measures in this regard the state is in violation of the right to life.

2.3 Personal use of firearms

Violence is also heightened by the extensive personal use of fire arms, facilitated by highly permissive legislation on arm possession, as well as by the rampant proliferation of private security companies. In response to high violence rates in the country, people have resorted to buying guns and hiring the services of private security companies.
The Law on Control of Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and other Similar, allows anyone to request one or more licenses for the possession and carrying of firearms, and to register up to five firearms, recently reduced to three. Reports estimate the existence of between 800,000 and 1,000,000 firearms in circulation in Honduras, of which only 282,000 are registered2. It is evident that this permissive regulation has contributed to the spiralling violence in the country and facilitated access to weaponry by gangs, organized criminal groups and private security companies. A new draft law on gun control is currently being considered by the National Congress, with a view to tightening regulations and access to guns.

2.4 Private Security Companies

A report by the UN 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 reports the existence of 706 private security companies (PSCs) registered in the country, as well as the existence of 60,000 private guards, many of which are illegal and unregistered. The number of the personnel of private security providers far exceeds that of the police. When compared with the 14,000 existing police officers in Honduras, the ratio of private security personnel to police is almost 5 to 13.

Clearly private security providers in many cases play a positive role, for which the police is currently not equipped. At the same time they can and in some cases do form part of the problem of excessive violence in the society. The legal framework within which they operate appears to be very uncertain. The sector needs to be properly regulated.

While the Organic Law of the National Police entrusts the Ministry of Security to authorize, regulate and supervise PSCs and creates a Control Unit for Private Security Services to control and monitor these companies, the authorities are not effectively implementing this mandate. There are insufficient vetting processes for the licensing of PSCs and their agents, inadequate supervision of their operations, and a lack of control of the weapons used and the training provided to private security agents. Many PSCs are reportedly owned by or constituted of agents who are former, or active, military or police officers, including officers suspected of past human rights violations. In addition, it is not clear which is the regulatory framework governing their use of arms and force.

PSCs have also been linked to human rights violations for example in areas of high social conflict where land and environmental rights defenders typically oppose the activities of private companies who, in turn, hire the services of PSCs to protect their properties and project. In the Bajo Aguán region, PSCs agents have been accused of numerous acts of intimidation and killing of peasants and land right defenders. Violations of the Police Organic Law and its Regulations in what attains to PSCs do not seem to result in the revocation of licences or sanctions.

3. Impunity

Impunity is a widespread problem in Honduras. Lack of human resources and technical capacity, corruption, intimidation and killings of members of the judiciary and infiltration by organized crime has virtually stalled this branch of government. Unverified estimates suggest that 97 per cent of murders in Honduras go unsolved4. A 2014 report estimates that only 4 percent of murder cases end in conviction5. The level of impunity in connection to violations of the right to life is alarming and one of the determinant factors in the spiralling of violence, as the prospect of prosecution is not an effective deterrent of crime. I am requesting the Government for reliable statistics on this issue, indicating the number of homicides that lead to prosecution, and the number of prosecutions, also as far as the security forces are concerned.

4. State Response to Violence

4.1 Police reform

There is an important and much needed effort under way to clean up the work and the image of the police. In addition, much needed technical capabilities are being developed.

Several attempts at cleansing the National Police have taken place since 2011; however efforts to address endemic corruption and abuses within the police force have made little progress. The latest purge was initiated in April 2016 with the establishment of the Special Commission for the Process of Purification and Transformation of the National Police in response to public outcry when information was published that the higher ranks of the institution were involved in the killing of the Chief of the Attorney’s General Direction to Fight against Drug Trafficking (DLCN) back in 2009. The Commission, which has a 1 year mandate, is in the process of assessing members of the entire force, starting by its top, and has in the 40 days since its entry into force suspended dozens of police chiefs and officers.

It is an ambitious and far-reaching process to establish which officers in the police force should retain their position. This is in principle a positive step. At the same time it will be important to establish a clear legal framework within which this is done, including the criteria used to ensure that the system can resist legal and other challenges. A good plan which is poorly implemented can close many doors in the future.

The work of the commission is undertaken in parallel with a restructuring of the police, renewed qualification programmes which include training on human rights and gradual use of force, and a plan to increase the police corps from 14,000 to 26,000 agents by 2019. In addition, a proposed reform to the Organic Law of the National Police is currently being discussed by the National Congress and a new Manual on the Use of Force has been developed in collaboration with ICRC, which is awaiting legislative approval.

4.2 Militarization

One of the main focuses of the Government’s response to violence has been the militarization of public security through the establishment of a series of new measures and entities. Decree 168-2013 of August 2013 created the Military Public Order Police to support the National Police to confront the challenges posed by organized crime, drug trafficking and gang activity. The measure was originally intended as an emergency and short-term response while the National Police entered a process of reform and depuration and murder rates remained high.

While the support of the military was welcomed by certain sectors of society, including members of the national police, many others raised concern about the expected negative repercussions of the militarization of society and the insufficient legal specification of the functions of the military police and its use of force. While understandable as an emergency response given the critical circumstances Honduras was undergoing at the time, in order to prevent abuses by an armed body which is trained for the conduct of war and not for the provision of citizen security, the introduction of the military police requires the adoption of clearly defined roles and rules of engagement. In my meetings with relevant authorities, I was unable to get a clear picture of the legal framework applicable to the use of force by the Military Police. This will be followed up in more detail with the Government.

According to reports from civil society, human rights abuses by the military have increased with the militarization of citizen security. Agents of the military police were accused of involvement in at least nine killings, more than 20 cases of torture, and about 30 illegal arrests between 2012 and 2014, and at least 24 soldiers were under investigation in connection with the killings6.

A special unit within the National Police was created by Decree 103-2013 of June 2013 known as TIGRES. The unit is mandated to act in special operations undertaken in the context of high impact crimes, such as drug trafficking and organized criminal activity. It also supports extradition processes.

The government also designed and implemented the National Force for Inter-institutional Security, known as FUSINA (Fuerza Nacional de Seguridad Interinstitucional). It agglomerates several state entities (including the Armed Forces, the National Police, the Attorney’s General Office, and the Judicial Power) to coordinate actions aimed at strengthening criminal investigations and prosecution of high impact crimes. FUSINA is currently headed by a military commander. While the Government informed that the role of the Commander is merely to coordinate the actions of the agencies involved in FUSINA, other actors voiced concern that it blurs the separation of powers amongst the different branches of Government involved in criminal investigations, and more particularly could put at risk the independence of the judiciary and of prosecutors involved in these cases.

In parallel to these measures, the Armed Forces implemented the Guardians of the Nation Programme aimed at providing civic, patriotic and religious education to Honduran children and adolescents to reduce the risk that they become involved in organized crime or gang activity. The Armed Forces leads this programme and implements it with the assistance of other actors or volunteers such as churches, doctors and psychologists. While it may serve a positive role and offer alternatives, there is also a risk that such a programme can militarise society.

4.3. Reforms to improve criminal investigations and judicial proceedings

During my visit, I received reports of political interference with the independence of the judiciary, including in connection to the appointment process and replacement of judges, as well as in the handling of cases that reaches its courts, including criminal cases. In addition, the country’s prosecutorial services have been marred with accusations of inefficiency and lack of will to investigate criminal cases, particularly high profile ones.

The Government has introduced a process of reform of the prosecutor’s office aimed at modernizing and professionalizing criminal investigations. It created the Technical Agency of Criminal Investigation (ATIC), as a specialized agency within the Attorneys General. With the creation of ATIC the authorities aim to professionalizes criminal investigation services, provide specialized training to the staff at the prosecutors’ office, and modernizes the office’s forensic services and available technologies. Albeit a needed and important reform, the reform has not been matched by budget allocation needed for the effective performance of the Unit’s functions.
 
Within the Police and in the context of its cleansing, the much discredited National Direction of Criminal Investigation (DNIC) was replaced by the newly created Direction of Police Investigations (DPI), which is expected to have over 1,000 agents and modern criminal investigation technologies.

In the judicial system, a 2011 decree established the creation of Courts of National Jurisdiction for a series of criminal offenses of high impact, including inter alia murder, kidnapping and drug-trafficking. The aim of this measure is to prevent local judges, who are more prone to intimidation and infiltration by criminal groups, from working on such cases, thus protecting the judges and improving the effectiveness of judicial proceedings.

4.4 Protection of human rights defenders, journalists,  social communicators and justice operators

In response to the violence suffered by these groups, in May 2015 Honduras adopted a Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators,  and Justice Operators. The Law creates a 14 member National Protection Council, a General Direction of Protection and a Technical Committee of the Protection Mechanism. In addition, it grants powers to several state institutions to provide protection measures to all those defenders who are at risk in the performance of their duties advocacy of human rights. The Council is already in functions and assessing particular cases of persons at risk. A regulation of the law is currently being developend and will be tabled for approval in the near future.

5. Prisons

Very poor conditions, including overcrowding, inadequate nutrition, and poor sanitation, are widespread in Honduran prisons. Corruption among prison officials is also reported to be rife. A main concern with respect to the right to life is the effective relinquishment of authority and discipline to inmates, which has led to abuses, extortion, and intra-prison violence and killings. Under inmate control, prisons are run by “coordinators” who exercise internal control and direct activities essential to the lives of most of the prison population without control or criteria decided by the prison administration. Other  inmates are placed in a position of subordination and vulnerability. Coordinators are known to have beaten, removed from cells, and punished other prisoners with the acquiescence of prison authorities. Inmates have described situations of internal shootings amongst members of opposing gang groups and grenade explosions that resulted in the death of several inmates, which were facilitated by the tolerated stock of all types of weaponry within prison walls.

Faced with this critical situation, the authorities have also resorted to militarization and have put military officers to manage most of the countries prisons, which is contrary to Article 37 of the Law on the National Penitentiary System. In addition, it has established detention centres in 3 military battalions where they have transferred reportedly dangerous inmates, such as gang leaders. Here too the militarization of the countries penitentiary service have risen numerous concerns as military training is not fit for purpose and could lead to an array of human rights violations.

6. Violations of the right to life of vulnerable groups

Human rights defenders, indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendant leaders involved in land disputes, LGBT activists, justice operators and journalists are targeted with violence and intimidation by state and criminal actors in retaliation for their work.

6.1 Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders are targets of attacks by those they have exposed for human rights violations and by sectors opposed to their causes. In light of the risks they face, a large number of human rights defenders have been granted precautionary measures by the IACHR. According to reports, since 2010 there has been: 22 murders, 2 disappearances and 15 kidnappings of human rights defenders7. Of the defenders that had benefitted from precautionary measures, 14 human rights defenders were killed8.

Violence against human rights defenders is also underreported. Reports estimate that of the more than 109 cases of human and environmental rights defenders killed in Honduras between 2010 and 2015, only eight of these murders were publicly reported9.

On 3 March 2016, unidentified assailants broke into the home of world-renowned indigenous rights campaigner Berta Cáceres and murdered her, triggering national and international outrage. Berta was a Lenca indigenous woman who, for the past 20 years, had been defending the territory and rights of the Lenca people. She was beneficiary of precautionary measures by the IACHR. The Attorney’s General Office led an investigation into her death, which derived in the prosecution of an active Mayor of the Armed Forces, a former Lieutenant and former private security agent at the hydroelectric company DESA, against which Ms. Caceres had led a legal battle, and a high ranking employee at DESA, as perpetrators of the crime. Many fear, however, that the prosecutions may not lead to effective convictions in court or that the masterminds of the crime will not be identified and prosecuted.

6.2 Journalists and media workers

The general context of violence against journalists and media workers in Honduras worsened after the 2009 coup d’état and persists to date. According to the National Human Rights Commissioner (CONADEH), 43 journalists were murdered between 2010 and 201410.

6.3 LGBT persons

Civil Society reported a high number of cases in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and Trans persons have been killed in Honduras. According to the National Violence Observatory, 119 homicides of LGBT persons were registered between 2010 and 201411.

6.4 Justice operators

Justice operators are also frequently targeted by violent attacks. Between January 2009 and December 2015, 115 homicides were registered nationwide. Killings are mainly concentrated in the Central District and San Pedro Sula (66 percent)12.

6.5 Indigenous peoples and afro-decedents

Indigenous and afro-descendants leaders are also disproportionally affected by murders, violence and death threats, particularly those who defend their territories and natural resources in the context of development projects. Some communities continue to receive threats and attacks even after the establishment of IACHR’s precautionary measures in their favour.

6.6 Land rights defenders – Situation in Bajo Aguàn

Land right defenders and peasants have been subjected to violence, including murder, intimidation and threats in the context of land disputes between peasants and companies involved in development projects. The total number of deaths occurring in the Bajo Aguán region has reached 127, including farmers, security guards and others13. In response to the violence in this region, the government implemented a series of measures: the Xatruch Task Force conformed by military and national police forces; the Violent Deaths Investigation Unit of Bajo Aguán within the Public Prosecutor’s Office; and the Ministry of Human Rights established the Inter-institutional Commission.

6.7 Migrants

The impact of the violence generated by gangs and organized crime in certain regions of the country is leading to the migration and internal forced displacement of thousands of persons who try to avoid extortion, forced integration to gangs, sexual violence and killings at their hands. Once on route to northern countries, migrants face violence by trafficking networks, and some are mutilated, tortured and killed. Migrants who fled the country due to fear for their lives are deported back to Honduras when they get in contact with migration offices in recipient countries to request asylum. When back in Honduras and in their communities of origin, many of those migrants are faced with the same old threats they have tried to escape from. Some of those have been killed by gangs or criminal groups within days or weeks of their return to the country.

6.8 Children and youth

The context of violence and insecurity in Honduras puts children and adolescents in a particularly vulnerable position. 1,031 children, adolescents, and young adults (18-23 years old) have reportedly died violently between January and December 201414. Between 2008 and 2015, 4,627 homicides of children were registered. In 2015, 570 children were killed. The population between 12 and 30 years of age are the most vulnerable to homicide in the country15. During the visit, I received numerous and concerning reports about the existence of extermination squads which target children. The actions of this squads could be motivated by considerations of “social cleansing”.

6.9 Women

Women in Honduras suffer high levels of violence, including murder, domestic and family violence and rape. 4013 women were killed between 2005 and 2014. 575 femicides were registered between 2015 and the first trimester of 201616. The highest incidence of violent deaths and murders of women because of their gender occurs between the ages of 15 and 39, accounting for 62.2 per cent of deaths. Violence against girls aged between 0-19 years represents 22,6 per cent of all deaths17.

7. The role of CONADEH

The presence of the National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH) is well established throughout the country’s 18 departments. CONADEH is ideally placed to take a lead on focusing on the better protection of the right to life in Honduras. Analysing developments in the country through the perspective of ensuring better protection for the right to life in a pro-active way should be a main priority for this body.

During the visit, it was difficult to see concrete evidence of a close and systematic engagement with the right to life by this body. This is an under-utilised resource in the struggle for the better protection of the right to life in Honduras.

8. The Observatory of Violence of the UNAH

The observatory is a national asset and should be treated as such.

9. Engagement with regional and international human rights protection system

Authorities informed me about the current implementation of  a human rights observatory to monitor the implementation of the Public Policy and National Action Plan on Human Rights for 2013–2022, as well as a system to follow-up and monitor the implementation of recommendations from international and regional human rights protection mechanisms which follows the model introduced in Paraguay. This is a a positive and welcomed initiative.

Honduras has a checkered relationship with the Inter-American human rights protection system. Much is to be gained by working towards a closer relationship. At the same time the disconcerting fact that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has recently announced that it is experiencing severe financial problems should be noted. This has the strong potential to adversely affect the impact of the international system on the protection of the right to life in Honduras.

The agreement between the Government and the OHCHR in terms of which the latter is setting up an office in Honduras should be recognized as a positive development.

Provisional recommendations

Recommendations addressed to the Government:

  • The country should develop a comprehensive strategy specifically to ensure the better protection of the right to life. The ideal body to drive this process should be found – it could for example be done in a cross-sectoral way, or, if the necessary capacity and inclination can be found,  in CONADEH.
  • The National Human Rights Commission and the Government should adopt measures to ensure it fully complies with the Paris Principles. It should develop more creative ways to engae with the right to life, eg through protective measures.
  • The role of CONAPREV should be continued and strengthened.
  • The provisions on the use of force by all sectors of law enforcement – including the police, military police and penitenciary system– must be brought into conformity with international standards. Ensure that the reform of the Organic Law of the National Police fully complies with international standards governing the use of force, including the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.
  • Clear criteria should be developed for the process of certification of the police.
  • The reform of the Law on Control of Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and other Similar must introduces strict regulations on the type and number of weapons permissible, and tight registration requirements for the purchase of gun, in order to protect all individuals from the threat of gun violence.
  • A process of stricter control over private security providers must be established. Ensure that the registration and functioning of private security companies is tightly vetted, controlled and supervised. Establish rules of engagement that govern the use of arms and force by PSCs agents.
  • Ensure sufficient funding to the Attorney’s General Office, in particular to ATIC, to guarantee the continued professionalization of its staff, procedures and laboratories with the aim of improving the effectiveness of criminal investigations
  • Ensure that investigation, prosecution and trial of homicides linked to organized crime, drug trafficking and gang activity fall within national jurisdiction in order to allow federal authorities to attract cases where local authorities are not in a position or are unwilling to do so.
  • The legal and policy framework for the implementation of the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators, and Justice Operators must be completed and implemented as a matter of priority. The regulation of the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators, and Justice Operators must be conducted with full participation of human rights defenders, journalists, justice operators, and civil society. Raise awareness about the existence of the mechanism, especially at the local level.
  • Ensure the full, prompt, effective, impartial and diligent investigation of homicides perpetrated against human rights defenders, justice operators, indigenous and Afro-descendants, journalists, land rights defenders, women, migrants, children, inmates and LGBT persons.
  • Take appropriate measures to protect the right to life of children, particularly during protests, arrests and raids; establish regulations for the armed forces, police and justice personnel on how to ensure the rights of children during the investigations of homicides; collect data on the number of children killed.
  • Create a safe corridor for migrants in transit, including better protection while in transit; strengthen cooperation between state bodies and community organizations that provide humanitarian assistance to migrants; provide adequate redress to victims of violence committed in the country; provide adequate consular services abroad.
  • Coordinate with countries in Central America to establish shared databases on fingerprints, DNA, genetics and missing persons.
  • Train police and judicial authorities on gender-identity and sexual-orientation awareness; ensure protective and precautionary measures; and encourage societal tolerance.
  • The situation of overcrowding and poor conditions of the prison system must be addressed. Improve conditions for all detainees, in compliance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and ensure the right to life of all inmates. Ensures prisons are under the control of penitentiary officers and descale the militarization of prisons with the view to its full return to civil administration. Ensure prisons are not permeated by gangs and impede the access of arms, drugs and mobile phones to inmates which could be used to commit crimes and endanger the lives of others inside and outside prisons.
  • The process envisaged by the government to establish a follow-up mechanism for UPR recommendations (on the so-called Paraguay model) is a positive development which should be implemented.

Recommendations addressed to the international community:

  • The continued ability of the Inter-American Commission to engage with the situation in Honduras is of great importance. Financial assistance to the IACHR is required to allow it to continue to play its vital role in the entire region, including Honduras.
  • Honduran migrants who indicate their their lives are at risk in their home country and request asylum abroad should be granted immediate access to legal assistance or to organizations that could assist them in processing their asylum request. In compliance with the non-refulement principle, receiving countries should refrain from deporting migrants whose lives are at risk in Honduras without having properly and thoughrouhly assessed their cases and their request and applications for asylum.
  • Countries where Honduran migrants have been subjected to physical abuse should adopt immediate measures to protect the survivors, to guarantee that criminal investigations and prosecutions are undertaken without delay, and to return the bodies of the deceased. The families of the victims must be informed and coopperation should be established with the Honduran Government

Notes:

1. Observatory of Violence of the UNAH, Boletín Nacional No. 40, February 2016

2. IACHR Report on Honduras of 2015

3. A/HRC/24/45/Add.1

4. A/HRC/32/35 Add. 4

5. https://www.amnesty.org/es/countries/americas/honduras/report-honduras/

6. Human Rights Watch reports on Honduras of  2015 and 2016

7. IACHR Report on Honduras of 2015

8. IACHR Report on Honduras of 2015

9. https://www.devp.org/en/blog/honduras-impunity-murders-human-and-land-rights-defenders

10. Human Rights Watch Report on Honduras 2016

11. Observatory of Violence of the UNAH, Boletín Especial No.30, April 2015

12. Observatory of Violence of the UNAH, Boletin Especial No. 317, January 2016.

13. IACHR Report on Honduras of 2015

14. IACHR Report on Honduras of 2015

15. Observatory of Violence of the UNAH, Boletin Especial No. 41, April 2016

16. Observatory of Violence of the UNAH, Boletin Especial, no.10, January-December 2014

17. Observatory of Violence of the UNAH, Boletin Especial, no.10, January-December 2014