Members of the Honduran security forces, in particular the military police, used excessive – including lethal – force to control and disperse protests that erupted following November’s disputed presidential election, a report the UN Human Rights Office said on Monday.
The report details human rights violations that happened between voting day on 26 November and the presidential inauguration on 27 January. It found that at least 22 civilians and one police officer were killed during the protests. Of these, at least 16 people, including two women and two children, were shot dead by the security forces. The report also documents the killing of 15 individuals in the run-up to the elections, including party candidates, municipal councillors and activists.
While some of the protesters became violent, the report notes that, “analysis of the type of injuries suffered by the victims indicate that the security forces made intentional lethal use of firearms, including beyond dissuasive or self-defense (legitimate) purposes, such as when protestors were fleeing.” This was illustrated by the deaths of seven individuals who received shots to the head.
“These cases raise serious concerns and may amount to extra-judicial killings,” the report says. According to information received, by 27 January, no charges had been brought against any member of the security forces in relation to the killings and injuries.
In addition, some 1,351 people were detained between 1 and 5 December for violating a curfew imposed as part of a state of emergency declared on 1 December. The state of emergency’s imprecise and broad grounds for detaining people, including those “somehow suspected” of causing damage or committing crimes, went beyond what was required by the situation, resulting in mass and indiscriminate arrests, and discouraging people from exercising the right to peaceful assembly and of association.
The report also highlights “credible and consistent allegations of ill-treatment of persons at the time of arrest and/or detention,” illegal house raids, and a surge in “threats and intimidation against journalists, media workers, and social and political activists.”
The human rights violations described in the report, took place “in the context of a political, economic and social crisis, which can be traced back to the 2009 military coup d’état and significant delays to undertake critical institutional, political, economic and social reforms.” The report urges the Honduran Government to engage in a participatory national dialogue on reforms to promote development, human rights and reconciliation.
“The already fragile human rights situation in Honduras, which suffers from high levels of violence and insecurity, is likely to deteriorate further unless there is true accountability for human rights violations, and reforms are taken to address the deep political and social polarization in the country,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
Among its recommendations, the report calls on the authorities to restrict the use of of the military police and armed forces in law enforcement functions, and to regulate the use of force by all security and law enforcement agencies, in line with applicable international human rights norms and standards. There should be prompt, impartial, independent and transparent investigations into all allegations of human rights violations that took place in the context of the elections, the report recommends.
Published on OHCHR on March 12, 2018
By Valentina Stackl
EarthRights International (ERI) filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of Honduran farmers charging two World Bank Group members with aiding and abetting gross violations of human rights.
The suit arises out of the substantial financial support two World Bank entities, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the IFC Asset Management Corporation (IFC-AMC), invested in Honduran palm-oil companies owned by the late Miguel Facussé. His companies – which exist today as Dinant – have been at the center of a decades-long and bloody land-grabbing campaign in the Bajo Aguán region of Honduras.
The Plaintiffs in the suit allege that they are among the scores of farmers in the Bajo Aguán who have been shot, killed, and terrorized by Dinant and security forces working on its behalf. This is the first time a community has sued the IFC in federal court for aiding and abetting crimes related to a project the World Bank Group funded.
The International Financial Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s private lending arm, together with an IFC financial intermediary, the IFC Asset Management Corporation, have provided millions of dollars in financing to Dinant, even though, at the time, there were widespread allegations that Dinant employed hitmen, military forces, and private security guards to intimidate and kill local farmers who claim Dinant’s owner stole their land decades prior. The IFC (with U.S. taxpayer money) and IFC-AMC knowingly financed Dinant’s campaign of terror and dispossession against Honduran farmers. The IFC’s own internal watchdog, the Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO), found that IFC failed to adhere to its own policies to protect local communities, and continued to allow the company to breach those safeguards and either failed to spot or deliberately ignored the serious social, political and human rights context in which this company is operating.
The result was an explosion of extreme violence by public and private security forces against the farmers, their movement leaders, and lawyers representing them. Over 100 farmers have been killed since November 2009 when the IFC disbursed the first half of a $30 million loan to Dinant; and the number of killings continues to grow today. So too has IFC’s support for Dinant; even after the IFC’s internal watchdog scolded the IFC for the 2009 loan, the IFC continued supporting Dinant via an opaque system of financial intermediaries, including the IFC-AMC and the Honduran bank, Ficohsa.
While the IFC boasts of its mission to “end extreme poverty by 2030 and boost prosperity in every developing country,” the IFC has knowingly entered one of the world’s most persistent and abusive land conflicts on the side of Dinant, a primary author of poverty and violence in Honduras. In the words of one farmer in the Bajo Aguán, the IFC is not “ending poverty”; it is “ending the lives of the poor.”
EarthRights International filed the case with the support of several other human rights lawyers, including Jonathan Kaufman, Judith Brown Chomsky, and Lauren Carasik.
This article was published on EarthRights International's website on March 8, 2017.