On 4 May 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights signed an agreement with the Government of Honduras concerning the establishment of a country office. In accordance with its mandate, the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (OHCHR-Honduras) monitors the situation of human rights in the country and provides capacity-building and technical assistance to State institutions, the national human rights institution and civil society organizations, with the overall goal of enhancing the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.
The present report is submitted to the Human Rights Council under article V, paragraph IV, of the agreement between the High Commissioner and the Government. It contains a description of the human rights situation in Honduras, with particular attention to the rule of law institutions, the fight against impunity and security policies in a context of violence and insecurity; the situation of human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and women; and development and economic and social rights. The activities of OHCHR-Honduras are described and recommendations provided.
II. National context
The political landscape of the year 2016 was characterized by campaigning for the 2017 presidential, legislative and municipal elections. In April, the new members of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court confirmed the April 2015 decision of the Chamber in its previous composition,1 in which the Chamber declared inapplicable a series of constitutional articles, including the unamendable article 374 expressively prohibiting, inter alia, the re-election of the President. These decisions represented the legal basis for allowing current and former mandate holders to stand for the 2017 elections. On 9 November, the current President, Juan Orlando Hernández, announced his acceptance of the nomination of the National Party for the elections in 2017.
Official and independent data indicate that there has been a reduction in criminality. However, violence and insecurity permeate all levels of society and ways of life, affecting particularly individuals or groups who challenge social norms or the status quo, including human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. The majority of the population cites insecurity as the country’s most urgent problem, followed by the economy, corruption and poor governance.2 The assassination of indigenous leader Berta Cáceres attracted unprecedented international attention. Human rights organizations urged the Government to do everything necessary to bring all the culprits to justice. The offer by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to appoint an independent commission to support the investigation was not accepted.
In April, a special commission was established to purge the National Police. As of November, it had reviewed the files of 2,590 officers and recommended the separation of 1,678 of them.3 In November, the President announced that a similar process would be undertaken for the judiciary and the prosecution service.
In January, the Government and the Organization of American States signed an agreement to establish a support mission against corruption and impunity in Honduras, as a response to the “indignados” movement against corruption and misuse of public funds that marked the second half of 2015. In April, the mission was deployed to assist authorities in a range of areas, including investigation and prosecution of corruption cases. In July, the law on the organization of the judiciary was amended to create a specialized jurisdiction in charge of extortion and corruption.
In October, Congress adopted the law on the financing of political parties, which contains provisions that may lead towards improving transparency and accountability. In November, the mission expressed its concern about the modalities of the election by Congress of the judges of the Supreme Court of Auditors as falling short of the obligations assumed by the State with respect to the ratification of anti-corruption treaties.4
The gross domestic product of Honduras grew by 3.6 per cent in 2015 and was expected to grow in 2016, consolidating the positive trend observed since 2013.5 Despite the favourable economic outlook, Honduras continues to face one of the highest levels of inequality in Latin America, with 60.9 per cent of families living below the poverty line, including 38 per cent in conditions of extreme poverty.6 In August, the Government and the United Nations country team signed the United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2016-2021.