Several reported dead in Honduras turmoil

The Honduran authorities must immediately halt their “repressive” response to a week of violent political unrest that left five people reportedly killed, Amnesty International has said. Police are alleged to have shot dead an 18-year-old man in San Pedro Sula on Tuesday. Four more deaths have been reported in the capital Tegucigalpa amid widespread demonstrations against the de facto authorities. “The de facto authorities must put an immediate halt to these repressive tactics and commit to respecting fundamental human rights,” said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Americas Director. There has been a sharp rise in police beatings, mass arrests of demonstrators and intimidation of human rights defenders since the return to Honduras on Monday of deposed President Manuel Zelaya, who was expelled from the country in a coup in June. There are reports that protestors have been shot by security forces. A 65-year-old man died of gunshot wounds during a demonstration in Tegucigalpa. The circumstances of three more reported deaths in the capital remain unclear. The man reported to have been shot dead in San Pedro Sula was identified as José Jacobo Euceda Perdomo, 18. Amnesty International understands that police raided poor residential neighbourhoods in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, searching for opponents of the authorities who had taken part in protests. Police are reported to have fired live ammunition and tear gas as they entered homes, before beating and detaining individuals. Young people appear to have been particularly targeted. The location of those detained in Tegucigalpa remains unclear. Some were taken to the main police stations, while others may have been held in the residential neighbourhoods. Such irregular methods of detention place individuals at risk of grave human rights abuses, since their detention may never be formally registered. Witnesses in Tegucigalpa have also reported seeing soldiers randomly beating people on the street with wooden clubs. Concerns about human rights in Honduras have intensified since the democratically elected President Zelaya was forced from power on 28 June and expelled from the country by a military-backed group of politicians led by Roberto Micheletti, former leader of the National Congress. There has been widespread unrest in the country since the coup d’etat with frequent clashes between the police, military and civilian protestors. Tensions have mounted since the return of deposed President Zelaya on 21 September. Amnesty International has documented the restrictions that have been imposed on freedom of expression since the coup d’état. These include the closure of media outlets, the confiscation of equipment and physical abuse of journalists and camerapersons covering events. “The people of Honduras deserve a speedy resolution to this increasingly serious situation,” said Susan Lee. “The efforts of the international community to broker a negotiated outcome to the political confrontation offers the best opportunity to avoid a human rights crisis and must be backed by all political sides in Honduras.”