GENEVA / WASHINGTON D.C. (20 December 2017) – Human rights experts* from the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have condemned the killing of at least 12 protesters in Honduras and the detention of hundreds of others who took to the streets after the Government suspended the counting of votes in last month’s presidential election.
The Government declared a state of emergency, suspending fundamental rights, after thousands of people joined demonstrations against irregularities in the election, which took place on 26 November. Police forcefully halted the protests. The state of emergency ended on 9 December.
“We urge the Government of Honduras to strictly comply with its obligations to respect and guarantee the right to life, as well as the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly,” the experts said.
They noted that the declaration of a state of emergency did not authorize, under any circumstances, the derogation of the right to life and personal integrity.
“Street protests and riots are not exceptional situations that per se justify the suspension of fundamental rights,” the experts stated. “On the contrary, in a democracy, robust public debate and political demonstrations should have the maximum protection possible, including in situations of turmoil and emergency.
“We are alarmed by the illegal and excessive use of force to disperse protests, which have resulted in the deaths of at least 12 protesters and left dozens injured. Hundreds of people have also been detained, many of whom have been transferred to military installations where they have been brutally beaten and subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment.”
The experts also expressed concern about attacks on and arrests of journalists during the coverage of protests. On 9 and 10 December, Radio Progreso, a community station known for its independence and defence of democracy, reported the sabotage of its tower and antenna in Tegucigalpa. The radio station lost its signal in the central region of the country.
The experts called for an urgent investigation into the attack on Radio Progreso to re-establish its transmission, and to guarantee the safety of its journalists and workers.
“Before, during and after electoral contests, the dissemination of public information in a timely, proactive and trustworthy manner, is an indispensable guarantee of democratic systems,” they concluded.
*The experts: Mr. David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Mr. Edison Lanza, IACHR Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
Mr. Kaye and Mr. Forst, as Special Rapporteurs, are part of what is known as the Special Proceduresof 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. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
Mr. Lanza was appointed as Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression in July 2014 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defence of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.