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Honduras: Concrete action crucial to stop epidemic of violence-induced internal displacement – UN expert

TEGUCIGALPA (27 November 2015) – United Nations human rights expert Chaloka Beyani has urged the Government of Honduras to strengthen its efforts to stop an internal displacement epidemic caused by organized and gang related crime and generalized violence, as well as a failing criminal justice system and deeper social challenges.

“Internal displacement by criminal gangs is an invisible epidemic affecting whole communities touched by violence, including children and young people who fall prey to gangs known as maras and others involved in criminal activities,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons at the end of his first official visit* to Honduras from 23 to 27 November.

“Children are recruited by gangs and used to carry drugs or weapons or as ‘flags’ or lookouts. Parents feel that the only option to escape the influence and threats of gangs and crime is to leave their homes and eventually their country,” Mr. Beyani noted.

The human rights expert stressed that women and girls experience threats, intimidation and sexual violence as a weapon of control by gang members as well as threats to their family members. “Many are alone, without resources and extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse,” he warned.

“It was evident to me after visiting centres for returned migrants in San Pedro Sula and Omoa that the protection measures that currently exist, while positive, are wholly inadequate to meet protection needs of those at risk, particularly of those who were internally displaced by criminal gangs prior to fleeing Honduras,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Mr. Beyani pointed out that, given the current situation in country, internal displacement becomes a staging-post to migration. “Many IDPs see few viable options that provide security and livelihood in Honduras and make the difficult decision to leave the country,” he said.

“The Government must strengthen the effectiveness of newly created institutions and develop more comprehensive options for local integration or relocation and resettlement in other parts of the country as part of a strategy of durable solutions for IDPS,” he urged.

The Special Rapporteur welcomed the important recognition of the problem of internal displacement by the Honduran authorities and that the challenges require concerted action to tackle the root causes of displacement and protect the rights of internally displaced persons.

“Priorities must include tackling impunity and rebuilding trust in national institutions including the police, the criminal justice system and judiciary which has been deeply eroded,” he stated.

During his five-day visit, at the invitation of the Honduran authorities, the expert held consultations with senior Government representatives, UN agencies, national and international civil society and non-governmental organizations and others. I also visited victims of internal displacement and their representatives.

The Special Rapporteur also met with indigenous and Afro-descendent communities and rural farmers facing internal displacement from their lands and territories, due to forced eviction, the impact of business enterprises and extractive industries and development projects.

“In many respects Honduras remains at the norm setting and planning phase of its responses and it needs to rapidly transition into concrete actions and programmes,” Mr. Beyani stated. “However it has demonstrated political will and has the potential to become a leader in the region on the issue if it takes the necessary next steps.”

The Special Rapporteur will present a comprehensive report at the time of his annual report on his visit to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2016.

(*) Check Mr. Beyani’s full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16812&LangID=E

Mr. Chaloka Beyani, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of the Special Procedures of Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization, and serve in their individual capacity.

Read the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/Standards.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Honduras: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/HNIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
In Tegucigalpa (during the visit): Mr. Félix Daniel Gómez (+504 22201100, Ext 1203 / fgomez@ohchr.org)
In Geneva (before and after the visit): Mr. Graham Fox (+41 22 917 9640 / gfox@ohchr.org) or write to idp@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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