Article 61 of the 1982 Constitution (as amended) "guarantees to all Hondurans and to foreigners residing in the country the right to the inviolability of life, and to individual safety, freedom, equality before the law, and property." Article 68 prohibits inhumane treatment in the following terms:
Every person has the right to have his physical, mental, and moral integrity respected.
No one shall be subjected to torture, or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment.
Every person deprived of his liberty shall be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
Article 78 guarantees freedom of assembly "provided its exercise is not contrary to the public order or to public morals". Article 79 provides that:
Everyone has the right of peaceful assembly, without arms, in a public demonstration or temporary assembly, in connection with their common interests of whatever nature, without the need of notice or special permission.
Outdoor meetings and those of a political nature may be subject to a system of special permission, with the sole purpose of ensuring public order.
Article 293 governs the Honduras Police:
The National Police is a permanent professional institution of the state, apolitical in the partisan sense, of a permanent civil nature, charged with safeguarding the preservation of the public order, prevention, control, and fighting crime, protecting the safety of people and their property; to execute the resolutions, provisions, orders, and legal decisions of the authorities and public officials, all with strict respect for human rights.
The National Police shall be ruled by special legislation.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
|1948 Charter of the Organization of American States||State Party|
|1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights||State Party|
|Competence of Inter-American Court on Human Rights||Yes|
Police Use of Force
Given the level of armed violence in Honduras, the armed forces as well as the national police are still engaged in law enforcement. In its 2017 Concluding Observations on Honduras, the Human Rights Committee called on Honduras to "continue to strengthen the national police with a view to enabling it to take over law enforcement functions from the armed forces".
A new Organic Law governing the acts of the national police was adopted in 2017, entering into force on 21 January 2018. With respect to the use of force and firearms, the 2017 Act provides that:
In carrying out its functions, the National Police must always make a progressive, differentiated, proportional, equitable and gradual use of force and weapons. The use of force is considered legitimate, only when it is used to the extent strictly necessary for the effective performance of police functions respecting human rights and with the purpose of restoring public order.
The use of firearms is legitimate only when there is a serious, imminent or rational risk to the life or physical integrity of the members of the Police Career, of a detainee or of third parties and in a dissuasive manner when there are reasonable grounds to assume that there is a serious disturbance of public order or is necessary to prevent the commission of a crime and other effective and less dangerous means are not available, as well as to repel an attack in the circumstances established by the Criminal Code, according to the causes of justification and causes of inculpability that are applicable to the case.
This is more permissive than international law allows, which restricts police use of a firearm to a situation where it is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.
Under the new Organic Law, a new Office of Police Disciplinary Affairs has replaced the Office for the Investigation and Evaluation of the Police Career (DIECP), which was not authorized to take disciplinary action. The DIDADPOL will focus exclusively on the investigation of misconduct by both police officers and employees of the Ministry of Security. It will issue technical opinions that oblige the Ministry of Security to oversee appropriate disciplinary action.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2017 Concluding Observations on Honduras, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern
about complaints and reports of torture, ill-treatment and excessive use of force by the police, armed forces and other public officials. The Committee [was] also concerned about the lack of objective criteria to determine the penalty for acts of torture...
The Human Rights Committee called on Honduras to:
Ensure that pending legislation on the use of force is in accordance with the Covenant and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials....
In March 2018, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report that stated that the Honduran security forces, in particular the military police, used excessive – including lethal – force to control and disperse protests that erupted following the disputed presidential election of November 2017. The report 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.
Escaleras Mejía v. Honduras (2018)
In this case, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights approved and gave full legal effect to the friendly settlement between Honduras and the legal representatives of the family members of Mr. Escaleras Mejía. The Court found the Honduran State responsible for the murder of the environmental defender Carlos Escaleras Mejía, as well as for the situation of partial impunity concerning his death. Additionally, the Court declared that Honduras was responsible for the violation of Mr. Escaleras’ political rights and freedom of association, as well as for his relatives’ right to integrity.
In the city of Tocoa on 18 October 1997, Mr Escaleras was shot to death in the back by two persons. Mr Escaleras was candidate for mayor at the Tocoa municipality, where elections were going to take place in November 1997. Before his death he had been subject to pressures and threats and offered money in exchange of withdrawing from the electoral campaign and from the movement fighting for the environment. Several months before his death he had led protests against the decision to build military facilities where a watershed was located.
The Court approved the agreed reparations, which include the obligation on the State to broadcast a documentary on the life and work of Mr Escaleras as a human rights activist; to continue implementing training programmes on environmental issues to secondary school teachers; comply with the terms in the trust set up in favor of Mr. Escaleras’ sons with the aim of guaranteeing their secondary and university education; carry out and continue in a diligent manner with all the investigations and necessary steps to determine responsibilities as well as to completely clarify the facts surrounding Mr. Escaleras’ death and, in that case, prosecute and punish the direct as well as the indirect perpetrators.