Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Honduras (A/HRC/37/3/Add.2) (Advance Edited Version)

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Human Rights Council
Thirty-seventh session
26 February–23 March 2018
Agenda item 2
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

Note by the Secretariat

In the present report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights describes the situation of human rights in Honduras from 1 January to 31 December 2017, with a focus on economic and social rights, notably land and labour rights, security, access to justice, the fight against impunity, democratic space and the situation of human rights defenders, journalists, indigenous peoples and women. The report also highlights some of the activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras and concludes with recommendations.

I Introduction

  1. On 4 May 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights signed an agreement with the Government of Honduras to establish a country office. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Honduras monitors the situation of human rights and provides capacity-building and technical assistance to State institutions and civil society organizations, with the overall goal of enhancing the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.

  2. In April 2017, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people conducted a technical assistance mission to Honduras. In July 2017, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights visited Honduras and met with high-level State officials, civil society organizations, human rights defenders and representatives of the international community.

II. Context

  1. On 26 November 2017, presidential, legislative and municipal elections were held. After significant delays in the processing of electoral results, amid widespread claims of electoral fraud and nationwide protests, on 17 December 2017, the Supreme Electoral Court announced that President Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado had been re-elected for a second four-year term and would be sworn in on 27 January 2018. His re-election was made possible by the striking down, by the Supreme Court of Justice, of the constitutional clause limiting the number of presidential mandates to one. In July 2017, the Human Rights Committee expressed concern that, despite the single-term limit, the current president was standing for re-election and called for the eligibility criteria established by the Constitution to be respected, particularly the presidential term limit.

  2. While there were no major incidents on polling day, international observers expressed their concern vis-à-vis the counting of votes and the transmission and delayed publication of results. In its final report, the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States indicated that the irregularities, errors and systematic problems surrounding the election, combined with the narrow margin of victory, gave rise to uncertainty regarding the electoral results.

  3. Amidst widespread allegations of fraud, protests erupted on 29 November, which included demonstrations, mass meetings in front of State institutions and roadblocks. In some cases, discontent led to looting and damage to private and public property. The Government responded by imposing a state of emergency, which remained in force for 10 days, and by using increased force to disperse protests. On 1 December, Executive Decree No. 084 of 2017 established a 12-hour nationwide curfew, authorizing the detention of individuals breaking that restriction and providing for the dispersal of protesters from roads, bridges and public spaces. The Decree required that a register be kept at each police or military facility, implying the possibility of the transfer of detainees to military facilities. Between 1 and 5 December, 1,351 persons were detained for violating the curfew. OHCHR collected complaints of ill-treatment from individuals who had been held in San Pedro Sula, at facilities of the 105th Brigade that are under the responsibility of the National Inter-institutional Security Force. OHCHR observed that elements of the security forces, especially the Public Order Military Police, used excessive force to disperse protests, resulting in violations of the right to life and physical integrity. Violence broke out at some of the protests and, on 22 December, a police officer died as a result of injuries inflicted by a petrol bomb.

  4. The protests that erupted in reaction to the perceived lack of fairness in the presidential elections find their roots in the unresolved legacy of the 2009 military coup d’état and the ensuing social and political polarization and institutional weaknesses. Following his re-election, President Hernández Alvarado called for an inclusive national dialogue to overcome the ongoing crisis and consolidate social peace. OHCHR considers that human rights must feature prominently in any such dialogue if sustainable progress towards social peace, development and democracy is to be achieved. The Office recalls that the 2011 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission contained 84 recommendations on addressing institutional weakness and ensuring progress towards national reconciliation. The report of the Government on the situation of human rights in Honduras for the period 2016–2017 indicates that, as at 2013, 37 recommendations had been implemented, 32 were being processed and 15 were still pending. Many of those recommendations remain pertinent, including those calling for the reform of the electoral system, the strengthening of the independence of the Supreme Electoral Court and the reform of the process by which its judges are selected. The follow-up unit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was disbanded after the presentation of its 2013 report.