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Honduras

Executive Summary

Honduras is a constitutional, multiparty republic. The country held national and local elections in November 2013. Voters elected Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National Party as president for a four-year term that began in January 2014. International observers generally recognized the elections as transparent, credible, and reflecting the will of the electorate. The National Congress elected a new 15-member Supreme Court for a seven-year term in February.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces.

Pervasive societal violence persisted, although the state made efforts to reduce it. The March murder of environmental and indigenous rights activist Berta Caceres underscored state institutions’ lack of effective measures to protect activists. Violence and land-rights disputes involving indigenous people, agricultural workers, landowners, the extractive industry, and development projects continued in rural areas, including the Bajo Aguan region. Organized criminal elements, including local and transnational gangs and narcotics traffickers, were significant perpetrators of violent crimes and committed acts of murder, extortion, kidnapping, torture, human trafficking, and intimidation of journalists, women, and human rights defenders.

Other serious human rights problems were widespread impunity due to corruption and institutional weaknesses in the investigative, prosecutorial, and judicial systems, and excessive use of force and criminal actions by members of the security forces. Additional, human rights problems included harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions; lengthy pretrial detention and failure to provide due process of law; threats and violence by criminals directed against human rights defenders, judicial authorities, lawyers, the business community, journalists, bloggers, and members of vulnerable populations; violence against and harassment of women; child abuse; trafficking in persons, including child prostitution; human smuggling, including of unaccompanied children; failure to conduct free and informed consultations with indigenous communities prior to the authorization of development projects; discrimination against indigenous and Afro-descendent communities; violence against and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; ineffective enforcement of labor laws; and child labor.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses, including arresting and prosecuting members of congress, judges, prosecutors, police officers, mayors, and other local authorities. Civilian authorities arrested and investigated members of the security forces alleged to have committed human rights abuses. Some prosecutions of military and police officials charged with human rights violations moved too slowly or failed to convict the responsible parties.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Although the constitution and law generally prohibit such actions, a legal exception allows government authorities to enter a private residence to prevent a crime or in case of other emergency. There were credible complaints that police occasionally failed to obtain the required authorization before entering private homes. As of June the judicial system reported three convictions in 10 alleged cases of illegal entry by government officials.

Ethnic minority rights leaders and farmworker organizations continued to claim that the government failed to redress actions taken by the security forces, government agencies, and private individuals and businesses to dislodge farmers and indigenous people from lands over which they claimed ownership based on land reform laws or ancestral land titles (see section 6, Indigenous People).

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. In practical terms there were areas where authorities could not assure freedom of movement because of criminal activity and a lack of significant government presence.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations to provide protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. UNHCR reported that as of August approximately 280 indigenous persons displaced from Nicaragua remained along the international border in Gracias a Dios Department. The government provided some assistance to this community.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

On April 5, the special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons welcomed the government’s recognition that internal displacement existed in the country and its acknowledgement that the challenges it presents require research and concerted action to tackle its root causes. UNHCR remained concerned about forced displacement caused by high levels of violence, national and transnational gang activity, human trafficking, and migrant smuggling. The government maintained an interinstitutional commission to address the problem of persons displaced by violence. UNHCR reported that it collaborated extensively with the commission, which monitored displacement and developed policies and programs to prevent displacement and to provide protection to displaced persons, focusing on the most vulnerable persons affected by organized crime and other situations of violence. A 2015 UNHCR report estimated there were between 174,000 and 182,000 internally displaced persons in the country. There were no official numbers for forced displacement in the country, in part because gangs controlled many of the neighborhoods that were sources of internal displacement (see section 6, Displaced Children). Media reported in March that gangs ordered residents of two communities, one in San Pedro Sula and one in Tegucigalpa, to vacate their homes; the government responded by increasing law enforcement operations and presence in the affected neighborhoods. Several communities along the border with El Salvador reported that gangs displaced them by moving into their communities, following increased police action in El Salvador. On July 10, authorities lifted a one-month curfew in the town of Mapulaca, in Lempira Department near the border with El Salvador, after increasing security force activities in the area.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations to provide protection and assistance to refugees and other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law allows for the granting of asylum or refugee status. The government has established a system to provide protection to refugees, but at times there were significant delays in processing provisional permits for asylum applicants.

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