Honduran authorities must respect the rule of law and human rights

Protests are escalating in Honduras with reports of protestors being beaten. Nineteen-year-old protestor, Isis Obed Murillo, died from gunshot wounds on Sunday.

Amnesty International has called on the Honduran authorities to immediately ensure the military and police exercise restraint during demonstrations. The organization has said that they must only use firearms as a last resort and when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

“The military and the police must respect human rights and ensure any use of force is proportionate during law enforcement operations and in accordance with UN standards,” said Kerrie Howard from Amnesty International. “People must be allowed to protest peacefully without fear of being harmed or being wrongfully imprisoned.”

In one report, six protestors were arrested and conditionally released on charges of rebellion in El Progreso. Amnesty International said that the organization believes they were peaceful protestors and that the charges against them are simply intended to punish them for protesting.

Recent reports suggest that journalists covering the protests have been intimidated. Amnesty International has also received reports of attacks on national and local radio stations.

A grenade was found at the premises of Radio America and at least 15 gunshots were fired on a local radio station, leading to its subsequent closure. Some broadcasters appear to have closed for fear for their safety.

Amnesty International has called for the authorities to investigate these attacks and ensure that broadcasters and journalists are able to operate openly and safely without fear for their safety.

“The forced removal of President Zelaya has placed human rights and the rule of law in serious danger,” said Kerrie Howard. “Amnesty International is calling for the Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to be able to return to Honduras immediately, without conditions and safely.

“Amnesty International also believes that the recent presidential decree formalizing a State of Emergency, which includes a curfew and the suspension of some individual guarantees and freedoms, could, if applied unreasonably, open the door to further human rights violations.”

According to the Advisory Opinion of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in spite of the exceptional circumstances, the state of Honduras remains under strict obligation to protect the right to life, to physical integrity, to not be subjected to torture or ill-treatment, and to enforce the judicial guarantees essential for the protection of such rights, in particular the right to habeas corpus.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was detained on 28 June by Honduran military personnel and forced into exile. The de facto authorities have refused President Zelaya permission to return to Honduras and his plane was denied entry at Tegucigalpa airport on 5 July.

There has been widespread unrest in the country since the coup, with frequent clashes between the military and civilian protestors. The regional assembly of nations, the Organisation of American States, has expelled Honduras as a consequence of the coup and the refusal of those in power to engage in the diplomatic initiatives to seek a negotiated solution to the crisis.

The forced removal of President Zelaya and his expulsion from the country has provoked widespread international condemnation from world leaders, and has seen the withdrawal of diplomatic representatives of the European Union from the capital Tegucigalpa.