Honduran authorities have continued to violate the human rights of people arrested during last year’s post-election protests by denying their right to due process and holding them in inhumane conditions, said Amnesty International in a report released today.
Protest prohibited: Use of force and arbitrary detentions to suppress dissent in Honduras documents how the authorities used excessive force and arbitrary or prolonged pre-trial detention, among other measures, to suppress the wave of demonstrations that followed the elections on 26 November 2017 and to discourage further dissent.
“Not only did Honduran security forces use excessive force to repress peaceful protesters in the immediate aftermath of last year’s contested election; the state then held detainees in deplorable conditions for months on end while denying their rights to due process and an adequate defence,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“Even when released from pre-trial detention, defendants must keep committing their time and resources to fighting the charges against them. By disrupting people’s lives through exemplary punishments, the Honduran authorities are blatantly trying to deter them and others from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
Thousands of Hondurans took to the streets from 29 November last year to denounce alleged voting fraud in favour of the incumbent candidate Juan Orlando Hernández. Security forces brutally repressed the demonstrators and arrested more than a thousand people for allegedly breaking a curfew that Hernández’s government imposed during the first 10 days of December.
Dozens more were arrested for their alleged participation in crimes committed during protests. The majority were detained for months and, although many have since been released, they still face criminal charges.
More than 30 people were killed during the post-election demonstrations, according to Honduran human rights organizations, including at least 16 who were shot, allegedly by members of the security forces. The investigations into these killings have not yet resulted in any charges against members of the security forces.
The state repression of demonstrations in Honduras is part of a regional trend that Amnesty International has observed across the Americas in recent months. The organization has documented how authorities in Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, among other countries, have also used excessive or unnecessary force to crush dissent.
“From Caracas to Managua and Tegucigalpa, we’re seeing the same terrible scenes as authorities clamp down on the right to protest,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.
“It’s a disgrace that states like Honduras are quick to criminalize protesters but not to investigate the killings of people who bravely make their voices heard during demonstrations. But despite the authorities’ strategies to punish protesters and suppress dissent, the Honduran people must know that they are not alone. All around the world we stand in solidarity with them.”
Amnesty International conducted in-depth interviews with people detained during the protests and corroborated their accounts as far as possible through court records, written documentation and meetings with state officials.
People held in pre-trial detention told the organization that they endured restricted access to lawyers and family members, a lack of beds and severe shortages of food and drinking water. At times they were held in isolation or shared cells with convicted prisoners, in breach of international human rights standards.
The prisoners Amnesty International interviewed included Edwin, Jhony and Raúl, three men who were detained for several months, despite multiple irregularities in the cases against them. Their testimony described human rights violations by Honduran authorities that could constitute torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
“I don’t know why they put me there. I almost went crazy during those days. I didn’t see anyone. I was completely isolated,” said Edwin, who was held in isolation for 10 days and remained in prison at the time of publication.
Jhony, who was released on 25 April after more than four months in prison, said: “It was hell for me. I’ve woken up from the nightmare, but we mustn’t forget those who are still detained because of the protests.
Amnesty International calls on the Honduran authorities to initiate prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigations into all cases of unnecessary or excessive use of force throughout the post-election crisis.
The authorities must ensure that people prosecuted for alleged crimes committed in connection with protests enjoy all the guarantees of legal due process.
They must also ensure that prison conditions are compatible with human dignity, including guaranteed access to clean drinking water, food and medical treatment; as well as reforming visiting regulations to ensure that detainees have regular access to their families and lawyers of their choice.