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Honduras must seize historic opportunity to prevent and investigate unlawful deaths: UN expert

02 June 2023

TEGUCIGALPA (2 June 2023) – Honduras must address decades of impunity in extrajudicial killings and hold perpetrators accountable, a UN expert said today.

“The political will and ongoing efforts of the Honduran Government to strengthen human rights must be translated into effective prevention and investigation of unlawful deaths,” said Morris Tidball-Binz, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in a statement at the end of a 10-day visit to the country.

The Special Rapporteur assessed the progress Honduras has made since the visits of his two predecessors, Asma Jahangir and Christof Heyns, in 2001 and 2016, respectively.

"Effective investigations, access to information and justice for victims – which remain hampered by limited investigative capacity and a culture of impunity – are critical to breaking the long-standing cycle of violence," the UN expert said.

Extrajudicial killings, which were systematic in the 1980s and reached a peak after a military coup in 2009 and in the 2017 post-election crisis, are still a widespread phenomenon. It affects all sectors of society, but particularly groups in vulnerable situations, including indigenous and Afro-Honduran peoples, peasants, human rights and environmental defenders, journalists and LGBTIQ+ people.

"The Government must ensure that the use of force by all security and military forces is strictly regulated in accordance with international standards," Tidball-Binz said. He welcomed a draft law on the use of force, based on these standards, currently under consideration by the National Congress, and urged its adoption.

The expert noted the difficulties victims face in having their complaints documented and investigated, and the lack of adequate reparations and redress. Harassment and reprisals against victims and witnesses of unlawful death, as well as challenges to the effective protection of these individuals, remain of great concern.

He welcomed the demilitarisation of the prison system and urged the Government to establish a unified digitised system for registering deaths in custody. “All deaths in custody must be investigated in accordance with the international standards set forth in the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016),” Tidball-Binz said.

The expert also noted the disproportionate impact of killings of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons. He expressed concerns about the lack of specialised protocols for investigating violence against women, including femicides and violent deaths of LGBTIQ+ people and called on the Government for their adoption and implementation.

The Special Rapporteur said that an essential step towards the effective investigation and prevention of unlawful deaths involves the establishment of an independent, autonomous and well-resourced Institute of Forensic Medicine.Tidball-Binz said he welcomed a recent legislative proposal to this end.

"Holding the material and intellectual perpetrators of extrajudicial killings accountable is not an option, but an obligation under international law," the expert said. "It is a prerequisite for the fulfilment of every victim's right to truth, justice and reparation for this heinous crime. To that end, I offer the full support of my mandate," Tidball-Binz said.

The Special Rapporteur will present his report to the Human Rights Council in June 2024.

Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, is a medical doctor specialized in forensic science, human rights and humanitarian action. He is currently an Adjunct Clinical Professor in Forensic Medicine, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Australia, and a Visiting Professor of the Department of Forensic Medicine, Ethics and Medical Law, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, Portugal and of the Department of Biomedical Health Sciences, University of Milano, Italy. Mr. Tidball-Binz previously worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), where he helped to establish and served as the first director of the Forensic Services and Unit. He also co-founded and directed the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, an organization that pioneered the application of scientific methods to investigate serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the 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.

UN Human Rights, Country Page - Honduras

For further information and media requests, please contact: Anna Fischer ([email protected]) or in Honduras, Alejandra Amaya ([email protected]).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected]).

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts

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