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Honduran Government Must Address Impunity and Stop Attacks

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A December 2010 report by Human Rights Watch outlines the lack of accountability for human rights abuses committed during and following the June 2009 coup in Honduras. The report also documents 47 cases of threats or attacks, including 18 killings, against journalists, human rights defenders, and political activists since the inauguration of Honduran President Porfirio Lobo in January 2010.

According to José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, “It is clear from our findings that until Honduran authorities take concrete steps to reduce impunity and stop the attacks, it will be very difficult to restore trust in the country’s democratic system.”

HRW notes that, “After the coup, security forces committed serious human rights violations—including  excessive force against demonstrators and arbitrary detentions—as well as illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. No one has been held criminally responsible for any of these violations. The Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office has filed charges in 20 cases of alleged violations committed under the de facto government. Judges acquitted the defendants in eight cases and the rest remain pending before the courts, including some cases that are stalled because the accused remain at large.” 

Ongoing political polarization, HRW suggests, fuels “a climate of fear that has undermined basic freedoms in Honduras.”  One activist told HRW “she had felt compelled to abandon her political activities after armed men accosted her and her daughters. Another, who was shot in the leg during an assassination attempt, said he had stopped participating in political activities as a result of the attack. A radio journalist held that a colleague left his job at the station where they worked after receiving repeated death threats for his political views.”  The full report is well worth a close look.