• Sheet of paper Report

Annual Report: Honduras 2011

June 16, 2011

Head of state and government: Porfirio Lobo Sosa
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 7.6 million
Life expectancy: 72.6 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 44/35 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 83.6 per cent

Freedom of expression came under attack. Little progress was made in repairing the damage to human rights protection and the rule of law that followed the 2009 coup. Impunity for human rights violations by military and police officers persisted. Human rights defenders were subject to intimidation.


Porfirio Lobo of the National Party became President in January. The new government faced criticism for the lack of accountability for human rights violations perpetrated during the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti (June 2009 to January 2010). Few investigations were carried out into police officers and military personnel who arbitrarily detained and ill-treated hundreds of protesters and bystanders during that period.

Military personnel were deployed to the Aguán region at various times throughout the year after land disputes between hundreds of peasant farmers and various companies and private farmers erupted into violence. There were concerns that the military may have used excessive force.

In May, four judges – Tirza del Carmen Flores Lanza, Ramón Enrique Barrios, Luis Alonso Chévez de la Rocha, Guillermo López Lone – and Public Attorney Osmán Fajardo Morel, were arbitrarily removed from their posts for peacefully taking part in demonstrations against the 2009 coup. They had not been reinstated by the end of the year. Judges and court officials who participated in demonstrations in favour of the coup remained in post.

In November, Honduras' human rights record was assessed under the Universal Periodic Review and the Honduran authorities extended an open invitation to UN and Inter-American special experts on human rights.

By the end of the year Honduras had still not been readmitted to the OAS following the June 2009 coup.

International justice

In November, the International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor announced that preliminary investigations would be opened into reports of widespread and systematic human rights violations under the de facto government.

Human rights defenders

Representatives of human rights organizations were threatened and harassed as they carried out their work.

  • In October, a lawyer from the Association for a more Just Society (ASJ) was forced into a taxi by two unidentified men, one of whom was armed, and asked about her work for the ASJ. When she refused to answer, one of the men said to the other "You know we were paid to execute her… we have to carry out the plan". Half an hour later, the lawyer was ordered to get out of the car and left in the street. A police investigation into the incident was continuing at the end of the year.

Freedom of expression and association

At least 10 journalists were murdered between January and December. Joseph Hernández, David Meza Montesinos, Nahúm Palacios, José Bayardo Mairena and Manuel Juárez were all killed in March. Jorge Alberto (Georgino) Orellana, Luis Antonio Chévez, Luis Arturo Mondragón and Israel Zelaya Díaz were killed between April and August, and in December Henry Suazo Santos became the 10th Honduran journalist to be murdered. By the end of the year nobody had been brought to justice for these crimes and no fully resourced and effective programme of protection for journalists at risk had been put in place.

  • In March, Nahúm Palacios Arteaga – a 34-year-old reporter, news director for the TV Channel 5 in Aguán and host of a news programme on Radio Tocoa – was killed as he drove home through the Los Pinos district of Tocoa City, Colón department. Two unidentified men drove up alongside his car firing AK47 automatic weapons. Nahúm Palacios was shot up to 30 times; two people travelling with him in the car were injured. Nahúm Palacios was a prominent public critic of the coup. In July 2009, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had granted Nahúm Palacios precautionary measures and requested that the Honduran state immediately adopt measures to protect him. These measures were never implemented.

Violence against women and girls

According to the Public Attorney's Office, 282 women were murdered between January and October. This figure was questioned by women's rights organizations who claimed the true figure was higher.

A decree by the de facto authorities criminalizing the use of emergency contraception remained in place, despite its negative impact on women and girls whose contraceptive method failed or who were at risk of pregnancy resulting from sexual coercion.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

In October, the LGBT community expressed concern to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that they continued to be threatened and attacked. Attacks were rarely thoroughly investigated and lack of protection for those who came forward to report these crimes remained a concern.

  • Nohelia Flores Álvarez, a transsexual, pressed charges against a policeman who had stabbed her 17 times in December 2008 after she turned down his request for sexual services. During the investigation and trial Nohelia Flores Álvarez, witnesses, investigators, prosecutors and supporters were repeatedly harassed and threatened, culminating in August with the murder of one of her friends as they walked together; the intended target of the attack was Nohelia Flores Álvarez. In September, the police officer was found guilty of the stabbing, and sentenced to a minimum of 10 years' imprisonment. However, by the end of the year, no one had been brought to justice for the intimidation, threats and killing of those associated with Nohelia Flores Álvarez.