WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

AP/Delmer Martinez

7 Dec 2022 | Press Release

Honduras: State of Emergency Puts Human Rights at Risk

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) affirms that the state of emergency in Honduras puts human rights at risk. We call on the Honduran government to guarantee the rights of its population, ensure unrestricted compliance with the rule of law, and not to restrict inviolable guarantees.

The measure went into effect on December 6 and was established for a period of one month. It is being implemented in 162 areas of the Central District (Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela) and San Pedro Sula, sectors marked by high rates of crime and violence; and will allow the military police to carry out public security work alongside the police. The state of emergency is governed by Executive Decree Number PCM 20-2022 and suspends six rights guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras. These include: freedom of movement, the right of association and assembly, and the inviolability of the home, among others. 

Under international human rights treaties signed by Honduras, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights, a state of emergency is a temporary measure to address an urgent matter that endangers the life and integrity of the citizenry and that cannot be addressed in any other way. The treaties also expressly state that the principles of necessity and proportionality must be respected at all times.

WOLA recognizes the need and importance of implementing citizen security policies and stands in solidarity with the victims of crime and violence in Honduras. However, security policies must be developed and implemented within the framework of a democratic state that respects human rights. 

The involvement of the armed forces in security tasks is also concerning and contradicts Castro’s campaign proposal for the Defense Sector and the Government Plan to Refund Honduras (2022-2226) on the need to demilitarize security in the country. The long tradition of the use of force and the “iron fist” as a method of social order shows that limiting constitutional guarantees and resorting to the mass deployment of security forces are not sustainable responses that address the structural causes of the problem. 

“Limiting constitutional rights that are guaranteed in international treaties poses a huge risk of human rights violations such as arbitrary detentions and abuses of authority,” said Ana María Méndez-Dardón, Director for Central America at WOLA. “It is concerning  that the Military Police of Public Order have a role in these measures as citizen security should be in the hands of a civilian police force and independent from  defense policies to be effective in preventing crime and protecting civilians.”

We reiterate our public call for Honduras not to follow in the footsteps of Guatemala and El Salvador, who have governed under states of emergency or national or targeted regimes of exception without ensuring respect for human rights, especially those of the most vulnerable populations such as women and the Garifuna and indigenous peoples.