Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of state and government: Ricardo Maduro (replaced Carlos Flores Facussé in January)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified

Dozens of children and young people were killed in circumstances suggesting that they had been extrajudicially executed. Human rights violations against human rights defenders persisted. There were reports of excessive use of force by police officers against demonstrators.


Ricardo Maduro, who had been elected President in November 2001, took office in January. He came to power with an agenda to fight crime and quickly introduced "zero tolerance" initiatives and involved the army in law enforcement activities. However, these measures appeared to have little impact on crime levels and no significant reduction in crime had been recorded by the end of the year.

The economic conditions of the poorer sectors of society continued to deteriorate; there were reports of acute hunger and malnutrition in some rural areas. The fall in the price of coffee and the failure of various crops early in the year exacerbated the situation. There were demonstrations against government plans to privatize basic services and utilities, such as education and water (see below).

The new government entered into a number of agreements with human rights organizations and other civil society organizations. These included an undertaking to review violations of human rights which took place in the 1980s, including over 100 "disappearances", for which no one has ever been held to account, despite the continued efforts of non-governmental organizations.


There were continued and persistent reports of the killing of children and young people, some in circumstances suggesting that they had been extrajudicially executed. According to Casa Alianza, a non-governmental organization working with street children which has been monitoring such deaths, around 1,500 children and young people had been killed since 1998, 556 of whom were killed in 2002 alone.

In January the National Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights published a report, Informe Preliminar sobre Muertes Violentas de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes en Honduras, Preliminary Report on the Violent Death of Boys, Girls and Teenagers in Honduras. The report disagreed with the explanation that the deaths were the result of inter-gang violence, but found some credence instead for the argument that the deaths were the result of "social cleansing". It also found that the majority of the victims did not have criminal records, contrary to public perception.

The report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on her visit to Honduras in August 2001 was published in October. She concluded that "children had been killed by members of the security forces" and that in many cases the victims were unarmed and had not provoked the police to use force. The Special Rapporteur noted that the government had failed to send a clear message to the police that they would be brought to justice for abuses of human rights.

In September the Ministry of Security established the Unidad Especial de Tratamiento de Muertes de Menores, a special unit to investigate and resolve, within 90 days, the deaths of 15 minors whose cases had been documented and submitted by Casa Alianza. By the end of the year that commitment had not been fulfilled.

Both the current and previous governments had consistently failed to respond to calls for investigations into such deaths and for steps to be taken to protect those at risk. Also of concern was the failure of the police and the judicial system to follow established procedures at the most basic level in cases of violent deaths.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders continued to be targeted for human rights violations. Nobody was brought to justice for violations against human rights defenders in previous years.

  • In August José Santos Callejas, a member of the Comité de Derechos Humanos en Honduras (CODEH), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Honduras, in the San Antonio Community, La Masica municipality, Department of Atlántida, was shot dead by at least two unidentified men as he was leaving the school where he was providing literacy training. He had narrowly escaped a previous attempt on his life two weeks earlier. José Santos Callejas provided support to victims of violence in the region. The police initiated an investigation shortly after his death but the outcome was not known by the end of the year.

There was no progress in the case of Carlos Roberto Flores, a community leader and environmental activist who was shot dead outside his home in El Ocotal, Gualaco, Olancho Department, in June 2001. Although charges had been filed and arrest warrants issued against five security guards in August 2001, no further proceedings had taken place by the end of 2002.

Indigenous peoples

The new government promised that indigenous groups would no longer be forgotten and took some positive steps to protect them from discrimination. However, issues relating to land rights and natural resources remained contentious and discrimination persisted.

At least one indigenous leader was killed during 2002. There were no investigations into killings of indigenous people in previous years.
  • In May, Luis Soto, a member of the Xicaque community, was killed in Yoro Department. Although there were witnesses to the killing, no investigation was initiated by the authorities into the circumstances of his death.
National Police

There were reports of human rights violations committed by members of the National Police, particularly in the context of demonstrations.
  • In October the police reportedly used tear gas, water canon, sticks and batons to disperse demonstrators, including teachers and workers in the water and sewage services, who were protesting against privatization plans and the introduction of charges in state education services. A leader of the teachers' union was injured when he was hit in the face while being restrained by several police officers.
International Criminal Court

In July Honduras ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, in September Honduras signed an agreement with the USA pledging not to extradite US soldiers for prosecution by the ICC. AI urged the government to reconsider the agreement and not to implement any measure which would contravene Honduras' obligations under international law to ensure the prosecution and punishment of those guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

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