U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Honduras
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Honduras, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4724.html [accessed 21 October 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
HONDURASHonduras is a constitutional democracy, with a president and a unicameral congress elected for 4-year terms. President Carlos Flores Facusse took office on January 27, 1998, as the fifth democratically elected President since the reestablishment of democracy in 1982. The two major political parties, the Liberals and the Nationalists, have alternated in power peacefully after free elections. The judiciary is independent but is often ineffective and subject to outside influence. The Honduran Armed Forces (HOAF) comprise the army, the air force, and the navy. The Congress in 1996 ratified a constitutional amendment to sever the Public Security Force (FUSEP), a paramilitary police force, from the HOAF. The police were transferred to civilian control in 1997; new legislation concerning how the civilian police force will function is expected to be approved in 1998. The armed forces operate with considerable institutional and legal autonomy, particularly in the realms of internal security and military affairs. The Government in 1993 established an Ad Hoc Commission on Police and Judicial Reform in response to credible allegations of extrajudicial killings by members of the FUSEP, particularly its National Directorate of Investigations (DNI). That decision led the Government to establish a new Public (Justice) Ministry charged with administering a new Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DIC) to succeed the DNI. Human rights organizations, including the Government's National Commissioner for Human Rights, acknowledge that reports of human rights abuses have steadily declined since the DNI was abolished; however, members of both the armed forces and the police continue to commit abuses. The economy is based primarily on agriculture, with a small but increasingly important maquiladora (in-bond processing for export) industry that accounts for some 90,000 jobs. The armed forces play a role in the national economy through their pension fund, controlling some enterprises usually associated with the private sector, including a bank, several insurance companies, and one of two cement companies. However, some state enterprises, such as the merchant marine and the national telephone company, have passed from military to civilian control. Approximately 43 percent of workers engage in agriculture; about one-third of those work on large plantations. The principal export crops are coffee and bananas, which are the leading sources of foreign exchange; nontraditional products, such as melons and shrimp, also play an increasingly important role in the economy. Annual per capita income is about $700; the Government estimates that 65 percent of its citizens live in poverty. The Government's human rights record improved somewhat, but serious problems remain. Members of the security forces allegedly committed extrajudicial killings. Incidents of police beating and other abuse of detainees remained a problem. Prison conditions remained harsh, detainees do not always receive due process, and lengthy pretrial detention is a problem. Considerable impunity for members of the civilian and military elite, exacerbated by a weak, underfunded, and sometimes corrupt judicial system, contributes to human rights problems. The judicial system continued to deny swift and impartial justice to prisoners awaiting trial. While no senior government official, politician, bureaucrat, or member of the business elite was convicted of crimes, the Government removed dozens of judges and police investigators from office on charges of corruption. Other human rights problems included societal discrimination and violence against women, discrimination against indigenous people, and abuse of street children. There was an increase in killings by vigilantes. Child labor is a problem, particularly in rural areas and in the informal economy, but not in the export processing sector.