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Press briefing notes on Honduras unrest

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Marta Hurtado
Location: Geneva
Date: 28 June 2019

Ahead of demonstrations planned later today in Tegucigalpa and other Honduran cities, the UN Human Rights Office is calling on the authorities in Honduras to facilitate the exercise of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and of peaceful assembly.  We also call on the authorities not to employ the armed forces and military police in law enforcement operations during demonstrations, as we fear this could heighten tensions and lead to violence.

A number of demonstrations have been called for today to mark the tenth anniversary of the coup d’état that deposed President Manuel Zelaya. It is likely that several sectors will use the occasion to voice unsatisfied political, social and economic claims, and their opposition to current Government policies, such as planned changes in the education and the health sector.

We deeply regret the decision taken last week by the Honduran National Council for Security and Defence to confirm the existing unofficial practice of using the military and intelligence services to carry out public order functions.

Today’s demonstrations are taking place in the context of several weeks of social unrest. Since 27 May, protests took place in at least 14 departments of Honduras. Several were supressed by the security forces, using tear gas and live ammunition. Only on 19 June, 14 individuals were injured by live ammunition when security forces disbanded roadblocks in Tegucigalpa. On 24 June, military forces entered the premises of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, shooting and injuring five students.

To date, the UN Human Rights Office in Honduras is investigating the death of four people, including three adults and one child. Three of them were shot dead, and the fourth died as a result of a blade injury. Another 78 people, including journalists and human rights defenders, have reportedly been injured by the security forces in the context of the protests.

The participation of military personnel greatly increases the likelihood of excessive use of force, as was the case during the post-electoral protests in 2017. Military personnel do not generally have appropriate training or equipment for law enforcement activities, and their involvement in public order operations should be exceptional, and – if truly necessary – should be carried out in strict compliance with international human rights norms and standards.

In particular, ahead of today’s demonstrations, we remind the Honduran authorities of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials* – which include the principles of necessity, precaution and proportionality, and make it clear that live ammunition can only be used in very specific circumstances and as a last resort – as well as of the Code of Conduct for Law enforcement officials.

We note that the Human Rights Prosecution Unit from the Attorney General’s Office has opened an investigation into the alleged human rights violations and abuses in the context of the recent protests. We urge that these investigations be carry out in a thorough, independent, and transparent manner.

*https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/useofforceandfirearms.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org or Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / mhurtado@ohchr.org

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