Published: February 2018
Prepared by: The Research Directorate, Immigration & Refugee Board of Canada
This Report was prepared by the Research Directorate of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada based on approved notes from meetings with oral sources, publicly available information, analysis and comment. All sources are cited. This Report is not, and does not purport to be, either exhaustive with regard to conditions in the country surveyed or conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee protection. For further information on current developments, please contact the Research Directorate.
Table of Contents
Source: United Nations (UN). May 2004. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Cartographic Section. "Honduras." [Accessed 1 Aug. 2017]
Asylum Cooperation Action Plan
Asociación Calidad de Vida (Quality of Life Association)
Asociación Para Una Vida Mejor de Personas Infectadas y Afectadas por el VIH/SIDA en Honduras (Association for a Better Life for Persons Infected and Affected by HIV/AIDS in Honduras)
Agencia Técnica de Investigación Criminal (Technical Agency of Criminal Investigation)
Centro de Atención a los Migrantes Retornados (Centre for the Assistance of Returned Migrants)
Centro de Atención y Protección de los Derechos de las Mujeres (Centre for Care and Protection of Women's Rights)
Centros de Alcance (Outreach Centres)
Centro de Desarrollo Humano (Centre for Human Development)
Centro de Derechos de Mujeres (Centre for Women’s Rights)
Centro de Estudios de la Mujer (Centre for Women’s Studies)
Centro Nacional de Información del Sector Social (National Centre for Information on the Social Sector)
Comando de Operaciones Especiales (Special Operations Command)
Country of Origin Information
Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados (Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance)
Comisionado Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (National Commissioner for Human Rights)
Centro de Prevención, Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de Victimas de la Tortura (Centre for the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation for Victims of Torture)
Dirección de Niñez, Adolescencia y Familia (Directorate for Children, Adolescents and Family)
Dirección Nacional de Investigación e Inteligencia (National Directorate of Investigation and Intelligence)
Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (Energy Developments S.A.)
Dirección Policial de Investigaciones (Police Directorate of Investigations)
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación – Compañia de Jesús (Critical Thinking, Research and Communication Team – Society of Jesus)
Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Vivienda Social, Urbana y Rural (Foundation for the Development of Urban and Rural Social Living)
Grupo Sociedad Civil (Civil Society Association)
Inter-American Court of Human Rights
International Committee of the Red Cross
International Displacement Monitoring Centre
Internally Displaced Persons
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association
Instituto Nacional de la Mujer (National Institute for Women)
Instituto Nacional de Migración de Honduras (Honduran National Institute of Migration)
International Organization for Migration
Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada
Misión de Apoyo contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras (Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras)
Movimiento Amplio Universitario (Broad University Movement)
Norwegian Refugee Council
Organization of American States
Programa Nacional de Prevención, Rehabilitación y Reinserción Social (National Program for Prevention, Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration)
Pastoral de Movilidad Humana (Human Mobility Pastoral)
Plan Local de Convivencia y Seguridad Ciudadana (National Plan for Citizens' Coexistence and Security)
Programa de Protección a Testigos (Witness Protection Program)
Refugee Appeal Division
Refugee Protection Division
Secretaría de Derechos Humanos, Justicia, Gobernación y Descentralización (Ministry of Human Rights, Justice, Governance and Decentralization)
Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Sexual orientation and gender identity
Unidades Municipales de Atención a Migrantes Retornados (Municipal Units for Assistance to Returned Migrants)
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (National Autonomous University of Honduras)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United States Agency for International Development
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
World Health Organization
In 2013, Canada and the United States of America (US) began working together to identify opportunities to establish new modes of cooperation in the areas of asylum and immigration; this collaboration is known as the Asylum Cooperation Action Plan (ACAP). The ACAP, through the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), approached the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada to seek the IRB's support for capacity-building activities to be undertaken in the Americas with the objective of improving asylum systems in the region. In May 2015, the Deputy Chairperson of the IRB's Refugee Protection Division (RPD) participated in a meeting between Canada, Mexico and the United States, where it was agreed that the IRB would undertake a number of activities to support the development of quality refugee status determination in Mexico. One such activity was IRB participation in a series of joint country of origin information (COI) gathering missions to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala; key source countries in Mexico's asylum case load.
Under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Mexico and El Salvador, a joint information gathering mission was conducted in April 2016 to El Salvador by researchers from the IRB and participants from the Mexican government's Commission for Refugee Aid (Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados, COMAR), the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, SRE), and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The mission resulted in two research reports produced by the IRB:
Gangs in El Salvador and the Situation of Witnesses of Crime and Corruption and
The Situation of Women Victims of Violence and of Sexual Minorities in El Salvador.
A second joint mission was conducted in Honduras in April 2017, including a researcher from the IRB, participants from COMAR and the SRE, and the UNHCR. Representatives of the Mexican Embassy in Honduras also participated. The joint mission was carried out from 3 to 7 April 2017. The purpose of the mission to Honduras was to gather COI as it relates to: state efforts to combat crime; criminal gangs, including their areas of operation, activities, and recruitment practices; the situation of violence against women and girls; the situation of sexual minorities, including LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex) persons; and the ability and efficacy of the state, police and judiciary to provide recourse to victims of crime, as well as to investigate and prosecute crimes.
The IRB would like to thank the Embassy of Canada in Honduras and the UNHCR for providing logistical support and assistance during the mission.
The mission to Honduras consisted of a series of meetings with community representatives, experts, and officials from relevant governmental, non-governmental, academic, and research-focused organizations. For details on the organizations and individuals consulted during this mission, please refer to the section entitled "Notes on Interlocutors" at the end of this Report. The interlocutors chosen to be interviewed were identified by the delegation based on their occupation and their expertise. However, given the time constraints in which the delegation had to undertake the mission, the list of sources should not be considered exhaustive in terms of the scope and complexity of human rights issues in Honduras. Meetings with interlocutors were coordinated by the office of the UNHCR in Honduras and took place in the interlocutors' offices, or at the UNHCR offices in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. All interviews were conducted in Spanish.
Interview questions posed to interlocutors were formulated in line with the Terms of Reference for the mission (see
Appendix 1). Interviews were conducted using a semi-structured approach so as to adapt to the expertise of the particular interlocutor(s) being interviewed. The Terms of Reference were developed in consultation with joint mission participants and the IRB’s decision-makers from the RPD and the Refugee Appeals Division (RAD). Interlocutors' responses to these questions varied depending on their willingness and ability to address them, and the length of time granted for the interview.
In accordance with the Research Directorate's methodology, which relies on publicly available information, interlocutors were advised that the information they provided would be used to produce a report on country conditions in Honduras. In this regard, interview notes were sent to interlocutors for their approval. Furthermore, interlocutors were asked to consent to being cited by a professional title or by their institution for the information they provided. They were informed that this report is publicly accessible and may be used by decision-makers adjudicating refugee claims in Canada.
This Report is divided into three chapters and is based on the information gathered by the IRB during the mission to Honduras, as well as publicly available documentary sources. The first chapter examines the situation of crime, gangs, internal relocation, and state protection mechanisms available for victims of crime, including state programs to assist returnees. The second chapter provides information about violence against women and girls, as well as the recourse available to them. The third chapter provides information about the situation of sexual minorities and recourse available to them.
This Report may be read in conjunction with several IRB publications, including the following Responses to Information Requests:
Honduras has an estimated population of 8,576,532 people and a land area of approximately 112,492 square kilometers.Footnote 1 Honduras has 18 departments and 298 municipalities.Footnote 2 The government consists of three branches, namely a legislative, an executive, and a judicial branch.Footnote 3 Legislation is established through codified law, special laws and written administrative regulations.
Footnote 4 Laws are “only valid once the enactment procedure is completed and [laws] come into force once they are published in the Official Gazette.”Footnote 5 In December 2017, Juan Orlando Hernández of the Partido Nacional de Honduras [National Party of Honduras] was re-elected as the President of Honduras.Footnote 6
Honduras is considered one of the poorest countries in the world
Footnote 7 and the second poorest country in Central America.
Footnote 8 It is estimated that more than 60 percent of its population lives in poverty.Footnote 9 Its economy depends mostly on trade with the US, and remittances sent from the Honduran diaspora in the US, with its main exports being bananas and coffee.
Footnote 10 Other exports include shrimp and tilapia.Footnote 11
Honduras is also considered one of the most violent countries that is not at war.Footnote 12 A significant amount of violence occurs in some of the poorest communities in the country.Footnote 13 The US Department of State's
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016 indicates that, in Honduras, "[o]rganized 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."Footnote 14 Criminal groups operating in Honduras include transnational drug trafficking organizations, street gangs, and local smuggling organizations.Footnote 15 Honduras is a transit country for drugs being transported from South America to North America.Footnote 16 As such, Colombian and Mexican drug trafficking organizations have a presence in the country,Footnote 17 including the Sinaloa Cartel,
Footnote 18 Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas.Footnote 19 The mission learned that street gangs, especially the Barrio 18 (M-18) and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), are engaged in killings, extortion, street-level drug trafficking, forced displacement, disappearances, threats and intimidation. Local smuggling organizations are engaged in the legal and illegal movement of goods throughout the country and have international connections.Footnote 20
According to sources, the root causes of violence in Honduras are unemployment,Footnote 21 lack of access to education,Footnote 22 family disintegration,Footnote 23 economic inequality,Footnote 24 easy access to firearms,Footnote 25 corruption,Footnote 26 and a lack of effective long term policies to address these problems.Footnote 27 It was indicated to the mission that violence is "normalized" in the sense that it is seen as a typical occurrence by Honduran citizens.Footnote 28 That is, to be a witness to violence, but remain silent, is a common method of survival.Footnote 29
In 2011, the Honduran government instituted a security tax to fund the state's national security projects.Footnote 30 For background information on the security tax, see Response to Information Request HND104993 of 10 December 2014. The website of the Honduran government indicates that between 2012 and 28 February 2017, the government collected approximately 14.1 billion lempiras (NHL) [approximately C$768.7 million] through the security tax initiative.Footnote 31 Between 2012 and 28 February 2017, 38 percent of the tax was distributed to the Ministry of Public Safety (Secretaría de Seguridad), 32 percent to the Ministry of Defense (Secretaría de Defensa), 17 percent to the National Directorate of Investigation and Intelligence (Dirección Nacional de Investigación e Inteligencia, DNII), 5 percent to the Public Ministry (Ministerio Público), and 2 percent to the Supreme Court (Corte Suprema), while funding for prevention programs amounted to 5 percent.Footnote 32 Claudia Flores indicated that the population has not benefited from the ways that the income from the security tax has been spent.Footnote 33
The mission learned that social leaders, student activists and journalists are subject to intimidation by state agents and criminal organizations. According to the Ministry of Human Rights, Justice, Governance and Decentralization (Secretaría de Derechos Humanos, Justicia, Gobernación y Descentralización, SDHJGD), human rights advocates are routinely criminalized and threatened by criminal organizations and state security forces.Footnote 34 US
Country Reports 2016 similarly states that "[h]uman rights defenders, including indigenous and environmental rights activists, political activists, labour activists, and representatives of civil society working to combat corruption, reported threats and acts of violence."Footnote 35 Student activists have been pressured by police officers to stop their advocacy work inside universities and they are also coerced by gangs to join them.Footnote 36 According to Radio Progreso, independent journalists are frequently barred from press conferences by state officials.Footnote 37 Journalists also practice self-censorship on issues such as drug trafficking.Footnote 38 Police officers and prosecutors suggest to journalists that they refrain from publishing information related to violence or corruption in order to avoid retaliation from criminal groups.Footnote 39
According to the Honduran government, the homicide rate in 2016 was 57.7 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
Footnote 40 However, interlocutors indicated that the homicide statistics presented by the government tend to be lower than the actual number, and as a result, do not reflect the real situation.Footnote 41 According to the National Observatory on Violence (Observatorio Nacional de la Violencia) of the Autonomous National University of Honduras (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras, UNAH), there were 5,150 homicides in 2016, representing a rate of 59.1 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Footnote 42 The departments with the highest homicide rates in 2016 were Atlántida (414 homicides - a rate of 90.6 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants), Cortés (1,469 homicides - a rate of 88.8 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants), Francisco Morazán (1,129 homicides - a rate of 71.6 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants), and Yoro (420 homicides - a rate of 70.5 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants).
Footnote 43 The municipalities with the highest homicide rates in 2016 were La Ceiba (120.8 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants), San Pedro Sula (107.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants), and the Central District, which includes Comayagüela and Tegucigalpa (82.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants).Footnote 44 The Pastoral de Movilidad Humana (PMH) has documented cases of homicides that are not reported to authorities as criminal organizations kill people and then order family members to bury the victim without telling authorities.Footnote 45 In such cases, families are not able to obtain death certificates,Footnote 46 nor are such deaths captured in official homicide statistics.Footnote 47
The mission learned that firearms proliferation is a serious problem in Honduras. Estimates on the number of legal and illegal weapons in Honduras vary.Footnote 48 In 2014, a commission established by the Honduran Congress estimated that there are approximately 400,000 registered weapons and 700,000 weapons that circulate illegally in the country.Footnote 49 In a 2016 interview with the Small Arms Survey, officials of the National Arms Registry (Registro Nacional de Armas) in Tegucigalpa reported that between 450,000 and 500,000 firearms were registered to private citizens.
Footnote 50 According to the law, a citizen is allowed to legally possess up to five firearms.Footnote 51
Chapter I. Crime in Honduras and the Situation of Witnesses of Crime and Corruption
1. Territorial Presence
The mission learned that gangs have a presence in the majority of communities throughout Honduras. The mission also learned that gangs exert territorial control over their areas of influence.Footnote 52 Territorial control is important for gangs.Footnote 53 Gangs consider residences in their territory as their property and as such, control the lives of the inhabitants.Footnote 54 One way of exerting territorial control is through curfews, which are "normalized" inside communities, and a violation of a curfew can be fatal.Footnote 55 While the gang phenomenon used to be mainly urban,Footnote 56 it has been expanding into rural areas.Footnote 57
1.1 Invisible Borders
The mission learned that gang territories are defined by invisible lines or invisible borders and that gangs are well-informed about the people crossing into their territories. Crossing these borders, on purpose or inadvertently, can lead to the person being killed.Footnote 58 Even in the presence of police patrols alongside these invisible borders, people who cross without permission are at risk of being killed.Footnote 59
Several interlocutors indicated that students are at risk of being killed for crossing the invisible borders that separate schools from their homes.Footnote 60 The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) indicated that during a weekend in 2016, approximately 40 children from a local school had to be transferred to another school as the invisible border that was present in that area had shifted.Footnote 61 The new local gang warned that they would kill any "non-resident" student who attended school the following Monday.Footnote 62 According to NRC, situations like these not only put a strain on other schools' resources, but transferred children are accused by other students for exposing their school to gang violence.Footnote 63
In general, non-residents seeking to enter neighbourhoods controlled by gangs need to request permission from the gangs.Footnote 64 Permission can be obtained through community organizations,Footnote 65 the local priest or a religious leader.Footnote 66 One of the protocols established by gangs for non-residents entering their territory is to lower the windows of vehicles while in the neighbourhood, in order to identify the individuals inside of the vehicle.Footnote 67
Social workers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who go to schools to deliver programs must receive authorization from gangs to do so,Footnote 68 as well as receive gang approval of the content of the educational program.Footnote 69 Asociación Calidad de Vida (ACV) provided the example that students who are part of gangs routinely ask visiting social workers and advocates, in front of teachers and school administration officials, to identify themselves and to provide a debrief on the content to be presented in the classes.Footnote 70 The Directorate of Social Services (Gerencia de Apoyo a la Prestación de Servicios Sociales) of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula indicated that in three of San Pedro Sula's neighbourhoods, it is difficult to send an educator to cover a shift at a school in an area where he or she does not live, because he or she will be at risk.Footnote 71 As a result, the Municipality of San Pedro Sula struggles to recruit educators who live in the same area as the school.Footnote 72 The mission also learned that there have been cases of school closures due to gang violence.Footnote 73
Criminal groups are persistent in their recruitment efforts.Footnote 74 Interlocutors indicated that youth in Honduras usually have two options: join the gangs or leave the neighbourhood to other parts of the country or outside the country.Footnote 75 One of the reasons why youth join gangs is to be part of a group that can protect them.Footnote 76 They are led to believe that these entities are organizations to which they can belong, that they can trust, and where they can find protection.
Footnote 77 Others join as a strategy to avoid being killed by gangs.Footnote 78
In addition, many families have been forced to give away their children to the gangs.Footnote 79 Interlocutors indicated that forced recruitment of children causes families to leave their communities.Footnote 80 In many other cases, parents confine their children to their house and do not let them attend school so they do not get recruited and/or killed.Footnote 81 According to NRC, there are cases where parents and family members lie about their child having a serious medical condition in order to dissuade gangs from forcibly recruiting that child.Footnote 82 PMH indicated that family members caring for children eventually send them on the migratory route (ruta migratoria)Footnote 83 to prevent gangs from recruiting them.Footnote 84 One of the ways girls try to avoid recruitment is through early pregnancies, hoping that this will deter interest from gang members.Footnote 85
The mission learned that gangs recruit children as young as 10 years old.Footnote 86 PMH has documented recruits as young as five and seven years old who are being trained to commit crimes.Footnote 87 In some cases, gangs drug children in order to train them to use weapons and to kill people.Footnote 88 They start out with "easy" targets to kill, but by the time they are 16 or 17 years of age, they are fully trained to assassinate for the gang.Footnote 89 Gangs also use minors, as young as six years old,Footnote 90 as look-outs (banderas) to let them know when non-residents are entering the neighbourhood.
Gangs also use women as
banderas and as bait to kill targeted persons.Footnote 92 In addition, gangs use children to transport drugs between areasFootnote 93 or to sell drugsFootnote 94 in schools, for example.Footnote 95
The mission learned that the number of gang members in Honduras varies from source to source. A research report by Public Safety Canada indicates that the numbers range between 6,000 and 36,000, depending on the source consulted.Footnote 96 Dr. Ayestas indicated to the mission that the number of gang members is actually hard to determine, although it is estimated that the number of gang members is 30,000.Footnote 97 According to InSight Crime, it is difficult to establish who is a gang member and who is a collaborator, as the line that divides both roles is not clear.Footnote 98 InSight Crime explained that "collaborators" are those who provide assistance to gangs, but are not part of the gangs themselves.Footnote 99 Collaborators include street drug dealers, lawyers, taxi drivers and mechanics who provide services to the gangs, as well as intelligence.Footnote 100
The National Program for Prevention, Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration (Programa Nacional de Prevención, Rehabilitación y Reinserción Social, PLAN) indicated that gangs usually respect the lives of members who quit the gang to join religious organizations.Footnote 101 However, according to the Directorate of Children, Women and Family (Dirección de Niñez, Mujer y Familia) of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula, people who leave the gang are persecuted throughout the country.
Footnote 102 Other interlocutors similarly indicated that gangs have the ability to locate targets throughout the country.Footnote 103 The mission learned that people fleeing extortion, recruitment, and people who they suspect have filed a complaint with authorities, are common targets of gangs. The mission learned that gangs have communication networks with other cliques (clicas),
Footnote 104 not only throughout the country, but also with cliques of the same gang in other countries in the Northern Triangle. Casa Alianza gave the example of Honduran asylum seekers kept in Mexican detention centres who felt unprotected, since their persecutors were able to find them due to the presence of gang members in those same detention centres.Footnote 105 The mission also learned that gangs have communication networks inside state institutions.
The mission learned that gangs are involved in killings, extortion, street-level drug trafficking, forced displacement, disappearances, threats and intimidation. Gangs also invest in legal enterprises such as taxis, gas stations and hotels.Footnote 106 Contract killing has become a lifestyle and another form of income for many gang members,Footnote 107 and they can reportedly be carried out for as low as 200 HNL [approximately C$10.80].Footnote 108 The mission learned that gangs displace entire families in order to occupy their houses.Footnote 109 These houses, which are called "crazy houses" (casas locas), are used by gangs to kill people and to dismember their bodies.Footnote 110 The mission learned that dismembered bodies are discarded in sacks in public areas.Footnote 111
Extortion is one of the main drivers for both internal and external displacement.
Footnote 112 Many families are forced to leave their home because they are not able to pay the extortion fee, which is known as the "war tax" (impuesto de guerra).Footnote 113 Casa Alianza has heard cases of persons being extorted for 200,000 HNL [approximately C$10,800], to be paid within 24 hours.Footnote 114
Students and teachers are regularly threatened and extorted.Footnote 115 Public transportation drivers, commonly known as
Footnote 116 are specifically targeted for extortion.Footnote 117 Extortion is the root cause of most attacks and killings of public transportation drivers in the country.Footnote 118 Public transportation drivers are often required to pay up to three extortion amounts to different gangs.Footnote 119 Amounts extorted typically range between 200 HNL [approximately C$10.80] and 300 HNL [approximately C$16.20].Footnote 120
When the National Commissioner for Human Rights (Comisionado Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CONADEH) handles cases concerning victims of extortion and threats, it requests that security measures be taken by the State Secretary of Security (Secretaría de Estado en el Despacho de Seguridad).Footnote 121 In recent years, security measures have consisted of random patrols sent to the victim's residence.Footnote 122 According to CONADEH, however, these measures are not comprehensive and are delayed.Footnote 123
2. Legal Apparatus and Institutional Efficacy
2.1 Justice System
The mission learned that mistrust in the justice system is widespread among the population.Footnote 124 Honduras has high levels of impunityFootnote 125 and investigation into crimes is inefficient.Footnote 126 US
Country Reports 2016 indicates that "[c]orruption and impunity remained serious problems within the security forces. Some members of police committed crimes, including crimes linked to local and international criminal organizations."Footnote 127 Radio Progreso indicated that 95 percent of assassinations go unpunished.Footnote 128 Other sources indicate that in Honduras, 80 percent of crimes go unsolved.Footnote 129 The Organization of American States' (OAS) Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), which started its operations in Honduras in April 2016, works to combat corruption and impunity by, for example, assisting and strengthening Honduran state institutions, to prevent, investigate and punish acts of corruption.Footnote 130 One of MACCIH's areas of work is [translation] "enhancing the criminal justice system and reducing high levels of impunity," including by improving access to justice, reducing judicial delays, improving criminal investigation mechanisms, effectively administrating the penal process and optimizing the quality of sentences.Footnote 131
2.2 National Police
The mission observed a lack of police presence on the streets in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. The BBC reports that Honduras has 13,500 police officers and 15,000 soldiers.Footnote 132 Radio Progreso estimated that there are approximately 14,000 police officers and 13,000 soldiers.Footnote 133 The National Police in San Pedro Sula is divided into four metropolitan units and each metropolitan unit has 200 police officers, including those employed in administrative functions.Footnote 134
Dr. Ayestas indicated that private security companies have a greater capacity to provide security than the National Police and the armed forces.Footnote 135 Radio Progreso indicated that private security firms have more than 75,000 guards.Footnote 136 Other sources indicate that there are approximately 750 security firmsFootnote 137 employing around 120,000 people.Footnote 138
According to sources, there are police officers who have been accused of committing extortion.Footnote 139 Interlocutors indicated that the National Police has being going through an internal purge to dismiss corrupt officers from the force.Footnote 140 Following revelations concerning the involvement of police officials in the killing of antidrug officials, the Special Commission for the Purging and Transformation Process of the National Police (Comisión Especial para el Proceso de Depuración y Transformación de la Policía Nacional) was set up in April 2016 to lead the police purge.Footnote 141 According to Dr. Ayestas, almost 50 percent of police officers have been dismissed during this process.Footnote 142 News sources report that 4,934 police authorities were evaluated, of which 2,581 have been dismissed, including high ranking officials (28 percent), support staff (4 percent), and low ranking officials (68 percent).Footnote 143 The Centro de Prevención, Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de Victimas de la Tortura (CPTRT) indicated that the purge has not been effective as it has focused on lower ranking officials, rather than those in higher ranks.Footnote 144
2.3 Protection Programs
2.3.1 Witness Protection Program
Honduras has a witness protection program, Programa de Protección a Testigos (PPT), which is run by the Public Ministry.Footnote 145 Sources indicate that witness protection provided by the Public Ministry is inefficient,Footnote 146 due to the lack of resources, for example.Footnote 147 CONADEH indicated that the number of protection requests is "out of proportion" compared to the limited financial and human resources available, which hinders the ability of the state to provide effective protection.Footnote 148 CONADEH indicated that it provides, in coordination with the Public Ministry, economic assistance to protected witnesses, including assistance to relocate witnesses to other parts of the country, depending on the particular situation of the person.
Footnote 149 In some cases, CONADEH coordinates with NGOs to relocate protected witnesses abroad.Footnote 150 PMH has documented cases of persons in the witness protection program who were turned over to their aggressors by the officials that were in charge of protecting them.Footnote 151 CPTRT indicated that witnesses face risks, including death, as protection offered to them is limited to six months on average, while a trial can last up to two and a half years.Footnote 152 For additional information about PPT, see Response to Information Request HND105348 of December 2015.
2.3.2 Protection Program for Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Media Workers, and Justice Operators
Honduras has a protection program available for human rights defenders, journalists, media workers, and justice operators.
Footnote 153 The protection program, which was created under the 2015
Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Media Workers, and Justice Operators (Ley de Protección para las y los Defensores de Derechos Humanos, Periodistas, Comunicadores Sociales y Operadores de Justicia), is administered through the National System for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Sistema Nacional de Protección para Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos).Footnote 154 For 2017, the National System had a budget of 25 million HNL [approximately C$1,350,259].Footnote 155 It has issued protection measures to 85 persons, including 56 human rights defenders, 16 journalists, 4 media workers, and 9 justice operators.
Footnote 156 Title III of the Law, which includes information about protection measures and the process to request such protection, is attached to this Report (Attachment 1).
SDHJGD indicated that evaluations of applications for protection originating from outside Tegucigalpa are conducted over the phone, as the SDHJGD does not have the necessary infrastructure in other parts of the country to handle these protection requests.Footnote 157 In some cases, and depending on the nature of the case, the SDHJGD requests the assistance of CONADEH to conduct interviews in its offices outside of Tegucigalpa.Footnote 158 A notification letter is provided to those who are admitted for protection under this program.Footnote 159
SDHJGD indicated that, although the protection program is only available for specific groups, some employees at the SDHJGD have assisted other victims of violence by providing them with information and advice on how to deal with their personal circumstances.
Radio Progreso indicated that the protection mechanism established by the 2015
Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Media Workers, and Justice Operators does not work in practice.Footnote 161 The Movimiento Amplio Universitario (MAU) indicated that the government's witness protection measures for human rights advocates is inefficient and that student activists, who have been threatened, prefer seeking support from NGOs to relocate to other parts of the country or abroad.
Footnote 162 MAU explained that student activists have been criminalized and subjected to arbitrary detention and irregular judicial proceedings, adding that between 2015 and 2017, around 120 criminal processes were launched against student activists for crimes, including sedition, misappropriation, and damage to public property.
Footnote 163 The mission learned that journalists and human rights advocates do not trust the police for protection.
Footnote 164 Radio Progreso explained that members of the National Police and armed forces have been accused of assaulting journalists who cover protests.
2.3.3 Precautionary Measures
According to Article 25 of the Rules of Procedure of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the OAS, the IACHR may, "on its own initiative or at the request of a party, request that a State adopt precautionary measures."Footnote 166 According to the IACHR, Precautionary Measures "may be of a collective nature to prevent irreparable harm to persons due to their association with an organization, a group, or a community with identified or identifiable members."Footnote 167 In order to carry out IACHR’s requests for Precautionary Measures, OAS States have issued protection measures for beneficiaries, which can include “bodyguards, security at office buildings, direct lines of communication with the authorities, protection of ancestral territory, and others.”Footnote 168 The mission learned, however, that activists in Honduras with Precautionary Measures issued by IACHR are regularly threatened, while some have been killed. Berta Cáceres, a highly recognized land rights advocate and indigenous leader, was killed on 3 March 2016 in La Esperanza, in the Department of Intibucá.Footnote 169 Cáceres had Precautionary Measures ordered by the IACHR since 2009; however, prior to her killing, she had indicated that she was constantly being harassed and intimidated.Footnote 170 Cáceres had reported that she received 33 death threats for her campaign against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by a company with "extensive military and government links."
2.4 Violence Prevention Programs
The mission learned of the existence of several social programs to prevent violence and to assist victims, including youth. For example, according to PLAN, there are schools that offer education centres with alternative programs for youth, including violence prevention programs and extracurricular activities.Footnote 172 The Municipality of San Pedro Sula offers vocational training courses to disadvantaged youth, such as carpentry, computer training, appliance repair, and esthetics, so they can obtain employment and become economically self-sufficient.Footnote 173 These programs, which range between six months and two years, are offered at three technical institutes located in Chamelecón, Villas Mackay and Las Palmas.Footnote 174 Around 500 students graduate each year and 80 percent of those who carry out the cooperative portion of their study program at Honduran companies are retained by these companies.Footnote 175
As a result of increasing gang activity and the existence of invisible borders, attendance levels have dropped in recent years for the school in Chamelecón.
Footnote 176 In addition to requesting police assistance, the Municipality of San Pedro Sula is working with military forces, which patrol the invisible borders in order to ensure that the area of the technical school is more secure.
Footnote 177 Nonetheless, the Directorate of Social Services of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula noted the difficulty in recruiting and retaining school instructors for the school in Chamelecón.
Footnote 178 According to the same source, the majority of youth who attend the education centres are youth who have been affected by internal displacement, as a result of the security issues in the areas where they used to reside.Footnote 179
The Local Plan for Citizens' Coexistence and Security (Plan Local de Convivencia y Seguridad Ciudadana, PLCSC) is a government plan that seeks to coordinate municipal efforts to prevent violence.Footnote 180 The PLCSC incorporates municipal agencies, the private sector, civil society, and academia.Footnote 181 Through the PLCSC, the municipality of San Pedro Sula has been accessing high-risk communities to deliver social programs and provide protection.Footnote 182 However, the Municipality of San Pedro Sula indicated that the PLCSC has not been effective in reducing internal displacement.
Another program is the creation of Outreach Centres (Centros de Alcance), a government initiative, in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to provide social programs to prevent violence inside conflict-affected communities.
Footnote 184 There are approximately 40 Outreach Centres across the most conflict-affected neighbourhoods of the country,
Footnote 185 including in Tegucigalpa, Comayagüela, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, La Ceiba and Puerto Lempira.Footnote 186 More than 30,000 youth have benefited from the Outreach Centres.Footnote 187
The Honduran government initiated PLAN, a program created by the Office of the President, to provide assistance in Tegucigalpa to at-risk youth and persons who were former gang members.Footnote 188 PLAN consists of community workers who are sent to areas with a high prevalence of violence to provide programs, including psychological assistance, legal advice, the removal of gang-related tattoos, as well as individual and group therapies.Footnote 189 PLAN helps youth who were former gang members to change their appearance, so that they are able to move from their neighbourhoods and find work or study elsewhere.Footnote 190 Approximately 60 youth who were internally displaced, and have been assisted by PLAN, have been able to relocate to other neighbourhoods, changing their lifestyles completely.Footnote 191 PLAN enters communities without being accompanied by the army or the police, so as not to be perceived as a threat to the community.Footnote 192 While PLAN does not have a shelter for its clients, it does have agreements with shelters, including for persons with addictions and for persons who have problems with gangs.Footnote 193 In addition, PLAN offers support to individual shelters, as needed, including operational support.Footnote 194
The mission learned that various NGOs have support and development programs in place, including violence prevention programs, to serve the needs of children and youth, such as the NGOs that are part of the UNHCR-led Protection Working Group (Grupo de Protección) in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. The mission learned that the Protection Working Group includes nine UN agencies and 17 NGOs who work together in order to: strengthen national protection mechanisms on forced displacement; ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel; share information on protection-related issues and; carry out advocacy on protection-related issues. World Vision, which is part of the Protection Working Group, carries out various programs and projects directly affecting children in communities with high levels of violence.Footnote 195 For example, in the district of San Miguel in Tegucigalpa, World Vision serves 19 communities. One of its development programs is called
Cerro de Plata, which assists 2500 girls and boys.Footnote 196 In addition, World Vision carries out projects focused on the prevention of violence and the promotion of a culture of peace, as well as a technical project for the development of the life skills of children and adolescents.
Footnote 197 World Vision expressed that it is difficult to retain children in their programs, as children are constantly targeted by gangs.
Footnote 198 Children have had to drop out of World Vision's programmes as a result of being forced to flee their community.
Footnote 199 Despite this, the work of World Vision is widely respected within communities, given its religious affiliation and that its work is carried out alongside the church and religious leaders.Footnote 200 Claudia Flores indicated that church groups also carry out development programs for children in neighbourhoods and communities and that such programs are appreciated, even among gang members and organized crime members, due to the level of respect that exists for the church.Footnote 201
2.5 Complaints Mechanism
Rather than filing their complaint with the police, victims of crime carried out by criminal groups prefer filing their complaint with civil society organizations
Footnote 202 or CONADEH.Footnote 203 CONADEH receives 3 to 5 complaints per day from victims of crime, mainly regarding extortion and threats from gangs.Footnote 204 The mission learned that people mistrust state institutions, as there are reports of collusion between government authorities and criminal organizations, including gangs.
Footnote 205 Government authorities are threatened by criminals, who do so in order convince the authorities to act against their victims who file complaints.Footnote 206
Several interlocutors indicated that people regard complaints mechanisms as inefficient.Footnote 207 If a victim of crime does file a report, it is out of "formality" and not because the victim expects authorities to do something about it.Footnote 208 The mission learned that, oftentimes, when victims of crime file a complaint, police officers indicate that the case is not under their jurisdiction or that the IT system is down.
PMH indicated that officers receiving the complaints are not adequately trained to do so.
Footnote 209 Oftentimes, they warn victims about the risk that they are taking by filing a complaint.Footnote 210 The mission learned that criminal groups have banderas outside police stations and Public Ministry offices monitoring who is filing complaints. The mission learned that there have been cases of victims who have been killed shortly after filing a complaint.
In addition to learning that displacement is prevalent in Honduras, the mission learned that causes of displacement include generalized violence, threats, extortion, forced recruitment of minors by gangs, poverty, especially in rural areas, and land/house-grabbing. People are also displaced by violence caused by criminal organizations, particularly gangs.Footnote 211 State agents are also accused of causing displacement, often acting in collusion with criminal organizations and enterprises.Footnote 212 The mission learned that internal displacement also occurs due to family feuds,Footnote 213 the construction of megaprojects,Footnote 214 and the exploitation of natural resources.Footnote 215 PMH has documented cases of people being threatened so that they leave their area of residence and megaprojects can be built.Footnote 216
Most cases of displacement begin as internal in nature; however, it is common that IDPs eventually seek to leave the country.Footnote 217 Usually, parents migrate first and leave their children behind with other relatives who will, in turn, eventually send the children on the migratory route to be reunited with their parents.
Footnote 218 The majority of IDPs across Honduras, however, consist of entire families.Footnote 219 It is very common that entire families leave their homes in order to protect their children from forced recruitment.Footnote 220 The family unit is an important element in Honduran society.Footnote 221 When family members stay behind, gangs pressure remaining relatives to provide information on the whereabouts of the targeted person.Footnote 222 It is also feared that remaining family members will be targeted by gangs as a form of retaliation.Footnote 223
On 31 March 2014, the Honduran government officially swore in the Interinstitutional Commission for the Protection of Displaced People Due to Violence (Comisión Interinstitucional para la Protección de Personas Desplazadas por la Violencia),Footnote 224 which was created by Executive Decree Number (Decreto Ejecutivo Número) PCM-053-2013,Footnote 225 with the mandate to [translation] "formulate policies and adopt measures to prevent forced displacement, as well as to assist, protect and provide solutions to displaced people and their families."Footnote 226 The Commission is comprised of 10 government institutions and 5 civil society organizations.Footnote 227
One of the Commission's main achievements is its ability to provide information on the number of displaced persons, their areas of resettlement, their needs, and the root causes of their displacement.Footnote 228 In 2015, the Commission published a study with statistical information on the number of displaced persons between 2004 and 2014.Footnote 229 The study, titled Characterizing Internal Displacement in Honduras (Caracterización del Desplazamiento Interno en Honduras), provides an analysis on internal displacement in the country based on a survey of displaced and non-displaced persons in 20 municipalities in 11 departments.Footnote 230 The report indicates that approximately 174,000 people, divided into approximately 41,000 households, have been displaced between 2004 and 2014, and that 7.5 percent of these people were in their second displacement, and 2.1 percent in their third displacement.Footnote 231 According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), as of 31 December 2016, there were 190,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Honduras.Footnote 232
In 2016, CONADEH received 694 complaints of forced displacement, out of which 345 petitioners were at risk of displacement, and 349 were already displaced.Footnote 233 CONADEH indicated that it is very difficult to determine how many people are in a situation of internal displacement due to violence, as many of them do not file complaints.Footnote 234 PLAN indicated that filing a complaint due to displacement can expose complainants to retaliation by aggressors.Footnote 235 PLAN indicated that, for example, when students are threatened or face forced recruitment by gangs, they prefer internal displacement over filing a complaint, because submitting a complaint could lead to their death.Footnote 236
Radio Progreso indicated that, according to Casa Alianza, there are 1 million youth in Honduras and that, while they are able to study or work, they neither study nor work.Footnote 237 While youth flee internally as a first step, they opt for the migratory route, in part due to the lack of access to education and work.Footnote 238
IDPs arriving in San Pedro Sula usually inhabit areas near the river banks (bordos), which are not suitable living environments due to a lack of access to potable water, electricity and basic sanitary conditions, and where flooding is also frequent.Footnote 239 Radio Progreso indicated that people living in bordos are discriminated against in the job market, because employers refuse to hire people living in these areas.Footnote 240 The mission learned that people living in high-risk communities, including in Rivera Hernandez and Chamelecón in San Pedro Sula, face similar employment discrimination. People migrate to the cities in search of stable economic livelihoods; however, since there are not enough opportunities available in the larger cities, nor are there options in agricultural development in rural areas, many of them end up taking the migratory route.Footnote 241
3.1 Assistance for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
The Interinstitutional Commission for the Protection of Displaced People Due to Violence has a budget of 12 million HNL [approximately C$637,440], which, according to a SDHJGD representative, is not enough to assist displaced persons in Honduras.Footnote 242 According to SDHJGD, so far, the Commission has only developed draft action plans, without implementation.Footnote 243 Even though the state has recognized the problem of internal displacement, it has not been able to address this problemFootnote 244 and no clear protection mechanism exists.Footnote 245 Interlocutors also indicate that the state is not prepared to deal with internal displacement and victims are sent from one state institution to another in order to find a solution for their displacement, to no avail.Footnote 246
The mission learned that, in practice, NGOs,Footnote 247 international organizations and churches are the entities that have been addressing internal displacement.Footnote 248 The Honduran government refers cases of internal displacement to organizations such as UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and NRC.Footnote 249
NRC, which has been operating in Honduras since 2015, carries out two main programs: an educational programme and the ICLA programme.
Footnote 250 The ICLA programme provides guidance, information and legal assistance to families and individuals who have been displaced as a result of violence.Footnote 251 Additional services include the provision of temporary shelter, food, support to relocate in Honduras, and, with help from Doctors Without Borders psychological care.Footnote 252 The educational programme works with children who fall outside of the official school system as a result of displacement, or, as a result of being returned to Honduras after attempting to take the migratory route.Footnote 253 NRC indicated that the children it serves through its educational programme are often fleeing gang recruitment.Footnote 254 NRC is able to identify which children have fallen outside of the school system by means of a census that its volunteers carry out in violent and vulnerable communities in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula and through organizations like Centro Belén.Footnote 255 NRC indicated that there are families who, once displaced, choose not to register their children in the educational system, fearing that the family's relocation will be known.Footnote 256 NRC further indicated that when there are no government or NGO programs or shelters to protect children who face violence or recruitment from gangs, parents choose to keep their children locked up within their house.Footnote 257 Alternatively, children are sent to live with relatives in rural areas.Footnote 258
Casa Alianza has been providing assistance to people in 31 cases of forced displacement due to violence, including 12 cases of internal displacement and 19 cases involving migrants.Footnote 259 In 60 percent of these cases, victims have suffered the loss of a relative due to violence.Footnote 260 Casa Alianza works with: children who receive death threats from organized crime groups or gangs; children that have been or can be recruited by organized crime groups or gangs; children whose relatives are directly connected to organized crime groups or gangs; children experiencing sexual violence; children who were witnesses of a crime; and children affected by internal displacement or migration.Footnote 261 At its office in Tegucigalpa, Casa Alianza offers a residential programme with comprehensive care for children between 12 to 18 years old in the areas of academics, psychology and physical health.Footnote 262 Admission to Casa Alianza's residential programme is voluntary, and the permission of the child's mother, father or guardians is required.Footnote 263 With its residential programme, Casa Alianza is able to host up to 120 children every night.Footnote 264
Casa Alianza also offers another residential programme in Tegucigalpa, called Querubines, for children between the ages of 12 and 17 years old who are victims of human trafficking.Footnote 265 The only requirement for the Querubines programme is the need for protection, because admission to the programme is voluntary.Footnote 266 Casa Alianza indicates on its website that the “majority of the victims arrive at Querubines via a judicial order from a judge or prosecutor.”Footnote 267 Through the Querubines programme, Casa Alianza is able to house 25 girls at once, providing care “for an average of 30 to 50 girls per year, who stay for varying amounts of time.”Footnote 268 Through its presence in San Pedro Sula, Casa Alianza also offers comprehensive care to children who are not able to attend Casa Alianza's residential programme and who remain with their families.Footnote 269 Consequently, Casa Alianza provides them with comprehensive care in the areas of physical health, dentistry, ophthalmology, psychiatry and food.Footnote 270
The mission learned that UNHCR provided four protection alternatives in 2016: 1) internal relocation; 2) humanitarian evacuation; 3) Protection Transfer Arrangements; and 4) guidance on international protection. In addition, the mission learned that these alternatives are implemented with UNHCR resources in coordination with the NGOs PMH, Casa Alianza, NRC, Caritas de Honduras, and the Mennonite Social Action Committee (Comisión de Acción Social Menonita). UNHCR indicated that 2,230 IDPs were assisted in 2016, while 1,930 IDPs were assisted between January and June 2017.Footnote 271
While the state does not have protection homes available for children, the Directorate of Children, Women and Family of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula indicated that it does support protection homes for children that are provided by NGOs.Footnote 272 SDHJGD indicated that while there are shelters for children, there are no shelters for families as a whole.Footnote 273 If a child is threatened by a gang, admission to a shelter might be denied, because the child may pose a threat to the rest of the children in the shelter.Footnote 274
The mission learned that there have been cases of NGO workers being threatened or attacked by criminal organizations.Footnote 275 World Vision indicated that it is common that organizations, including UNHCR, Casa Alianza, World Vision, and the Directorate for Children, Adolescents and Family (Dirección de Niñez, Adolescencia y Familia, DINAF), are unable to assist victims of gang violence, as it could endanger someone in their organization.Footnote 276
A report produced by the National Centre for Information on the Social Sector
(Centro Nacional de Información del Sector Social, CENISS), the government agency responsible for providing information to the Presidential Office (Despacho Presidencial), including on the creation of programs, projects and social policies,Footnote 277 indicates that between 1 January and 31 July 2016, 27,137 people were repatriated/returned to the country,Footnote 278 of which 5,284 were minors.Footnote 279 The same report indicates that between January 2014 and July 2016, 95,250 people were returned to the country, of which 11,884, or 12.48 percent, had been returned more than once before.Footnote 280 NRC similarly indicated that there are many cases of returnees retaking the migratory route.Footnote 281
The mission learned that there are a significant number of cases where returnees were killed shortly after they returned to Honduras.Footnote 282 According to PMH, there are cases of people who left Honduras, due to gang or organized crime-related violence, who were killed shortly after returning to San Pedro Sula.Footnote 283 PMH indicated that some press reports attribute these crimes to theft or robbery, even though, in many cases, deportees arrive without any belongings.Footnote 284
4.1 Assistance for Returnees
The mission learned that there are three Centres of Assistance for Returned Migrants (Centros de Atención a los Migrantes Retornados, CAMRs), namely in Omoa, La Lima, and San Pedro Sula. The mission learned that the CAMR in Omoa is administered by the Red Cross and receives adults deported from Mexico. It assists returnees upon their arrival in Omoa with their registration, the provision of food, health services, clothing, transportation to the bus terminal, and accommodation for a maximum of 100 persons.Footnote 285 The mission learned that the CAMR in La Lima is administered by the Congregación de las Hermanas Scalabrinianas [Congregation of Scalabriniana Sisters] and that it receives adults deported from the US. The mission further learned that the CAMR in San Pedro Sula, which is known as CAMR Belén, is administered by DINAF and receives children and families who are deported from Mexico and the US.
In March 2017, Municipal Units for Assistance to Returned Migrants (Unidades Municipales de Atención a Migrantes Retornados, UMAR), were opened in San Pedro SulaFootnote 286 and the Central District, to help [translation] "reduce the number of cases of returnees retaking the migratory route."Footnote 287 In August 2017, an UMAR was opened in Choloma, in the neighbourhood El Centro.Footnote 288 UMARs assist families who are returned from the US and Mexico with community reintegrationFootnote 289 and provide returnees with psychological, educational and employment support.Footnote 290
DINAF is a state institution that provides policies and regulations for the comprehensive protection of the rights and well-being of children, youth and families in Honduras.Footnote 291 According to the Directorate of Children, Women and Family of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula, DINAF attends to cases involving children in gangs and assists them with their relocation.Footnote 292 The Directorate of Children, Women and Family of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula indicated that it supports returned children through DINAF in various aspects such as social assistance, including helping with their registration and paperwork, and legal assistance.Footnote 293 The Municipality of San Pedro Sula also follows up on the reinsertion of children in the school system, as well as with the relatives of returned children so that they can attend the municipal training centres where free vocational training is provided for women, including mothers.Footnote 294
Interlocutors indicated, however, that social programs available for returnees are limitedFootnote 295 and only a fraction of returnees benefit from them.Footnote 296 NRC indicated that there are no school integration programs for children returnees provided by the Ministry of Education.Footnote 297 NRC added that it has heard of cases where children returnees experienced bullying at school, because they are returnees.Footnote 298 NRC itself offers assistance programs for returnees, including school enrollment for children, food, and a temporary shelter for those wishing to relocate internally.Footnote 299
Chapter II - Violence against Women and Girls
The mission learned that women and girls face various forms of violence and that violence against women and girls continues to be widespread across Honduras. Grupo Sociedad Civil (GSC) indicated that there is a "war against women" in Honduras and that women face various levels of violence, including domestic violence (violencia doméstica) and violence carried out by organized criminal groups.Footnote 300 The same source indicated that these acts of violence can ultimately lead to femicide,Footnote 301 which the World Health Organization (WHO) describes as the "intentional murder of women because they are women."Footnote 302
The Observatorio de Violencias Contra Las Mujeres (Observatory of Violence against Women) of the NGO Centro de Derechos de Mujeres (CDM) (Centre for Women's Rights), which has offices in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, provides the following statistics on 752 cases of violence against women that occurred between January 2016 and December 2016, according to data collected through the monitoring of written media reports at the national level:Footnote 303
|Types of Violence||Victims||Percentage|
|Acts of lust||45||6|
|Commercial sexual exploitation||113||15|
|Multiple homicides and massacre||44||5.9|
|Attempted sexual violence or statutory rape||4||0.5|
|Violent death and sexual violence||11||1.5|
|Sexual violence or rape||142||18.9|
|Intrafamily violence (violencia intrafamiliar)||25||3.3|
In 2016, CONADEH received 1,786 complaints from women related to the right to life and personal integrity, including on the basis of death threats, maltreatment, intimidation, and duress.Footnote 304 346 of these complaints were related to domestic violence, while 48 complaints were related to intrafamily violence.Footnote 305
The Observatorio de Violencias Contra Las Mujeres of CDM provides the following statistics on 306 cases of violence against women that occurred between January 2017 and June 2017, according to data collected through the monitoring of written media reports at a national level:Footnote 306
|Types of Violence||Victims||Percentage|
|Acts of lust||18||5.9|
|Commercial sexual exploitation||8||2.6|
|Multiple homicides and massacre||15||4.9|
|Attempted sexual violence or statutory rape||16||5.2|
|Violent death and sexual violence||6||2.0|
|Sexual violence or rape||96||31.4|
|Intrafamily violence (violencia intrafamiliar)||2||0.7|
2. Forms of Violence against Women and Girls
2.1 Domestic Violence versus Intrafamily Violence
Dr. Ayestas indicated that in Honduras, domestic violence and intrafamily violence are problems.Footnote 307 In Honduras, however, there is a difference between the concepts of domestic violence and intrafamily violence.Footnote 308 While domestic violence concerns violence between partners, intrafamily violence concerns violence involving members of the traditional nuclear family, including fathers who assault their daughters.Footnote 309 Dr. Ayestas indicated that a culture of violence exists within households and that, according to information from the National Observatory of Violence of UNAH, the primary perpetrators of violence against women and girls are parents, uncles, and cousins.Footnote 310 Domestic violence is not criminalized and is addressed in domestic violence courts (juzgados de violencia doméstica), whereas intrafamily violence is addressed in criminal courts,Footnote 311 as intrafamily violence is considered a crime.Footnote 312 According to the Directorate of Children, Women and Family of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula, if a domestic violence case is recurrent, it could be considered to be intrafamily violence, but this does not mean that a woman must exhaust the domestic violence complaints process before filing a criminal complaint.Footnote 313 Nonetheless, the majority of complaints are treated as cases of domestic violence.Footnote 314
2.1.1 Domestic Violence
Sources indicated that domestic violence is an issue in HondurasFootnote 315 and has been a reason why women leave the country.Footnote 316 Article 5 of the 2006
Law against Domestic Violence and its Reforms (Ley Contra la Violencia Doméstica con sus Reformas) provides the following:
The following meanings shall apply for the purposes of this Law:
Domestic Violence: All patterns of conduct associated with a situation of unequal exercise of power that is manifested in the use of physical, psychological, patrimonial and/or economic and sexual violence; and
Unequal Exercise of Power: All behaviour aimed at affecting, compromising or limiting free development of the personality of the woman for reasons of gender.
The following are considered forms of domestic violence:
Physical Violence: Any action or omission that damages or impairs the bodily integrity of a woman that is not criminalized in the Criminal Code;
Psychological Violence: Any action or omission whose purpose is to degrade or control the actions, behaviours, beliefs and decisions of a woman through intimidation, manipulation, direct or indirect threat, humiliation, isolation, confinement or any other conduct or omission involving injury to her integral development or self-determination, or that causes emotional harm to a woman, lowers her self-esteem, impairs or disturbs her healthful development, through the exercise of acts of discrediting a woman, contempt for personal value or dignity, humiliating or debasing treatment, monitoring, isolation, insults, blackmail, degradation, ridicule, manipulation, exploitation or threats to take children away, among others;
Sexual Violence: Any conduct involving threat or intimidation that affects the integrity or sexual self-determination of women, such as unwanted sexual relations, denial of contraception and protection, among others, provided that such actions are not classified as a crime in the Criminal Code; and,
Patrimonial and/or Economic Violence: Any act or omission involving the loss, transformation, negation, removal, destruction or retention of objects, personal documents, movable property and/or real estate, securities, rights or economic resources used to meet the needs of a woman or family group, including impairment, reduction or negation affecting a woman's income or non-compliance with support obligations.Footnote 317
Law against Domestic Violence and its Reforms, which is based on the OAS
Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against WomenFootnote 318 (also known as the
Bélem do Para Convention), is attached to this Report (Attachment 2)
2.1.2 Intrafamily Violence
Intrafamily violence is addressed in Chapter V of Title IV of Book II of the
Penal Code (Código Penal), which is attached to this Report (Attachment 3). GSC indicated that the penalty for intrafamily violence is "very low" and that civil society is fighting for a new penal code to increase the penalty for intrafamily violence.Footnote 319 GSC further stated that it is also advocating for a comprehensive law on violence against women.Footnote 320
The mission learned that there is a high prevalence of femicide in Honduras, with a rate of one woman killed every 16 hours,Footnote 321 just for being a woman.Footnote 322 In July 2017, women's rights defenders and organizations declared a “red alert” (alerta roja) for the high rate of femicides in Honduras.Footnote 323
According to the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 531 women were killed in Honduras in 2014, which represents a femicide rate of 13.3 per 100,000 women.Footnote 324 The Observatory for Violent Deaths of Women and Femicides (Observatorio de Muertes Violentas de Mujeres y Femicidios) of UNAH reported that 478 women were subjected to violent death or femicide in 2015,Footnote 325 which represents an average of 40 women per month.Footnote 326 Sixty-nine percent of these deaths occurred in urban areas, while 31 percent occurred in rural areas.Footnote 327 The departments with the highest number of women subject to violent death or femicide are Cortés (31.2 percent) and Francisco Morazán (26.6 percent), followed by Yoro (6.7 percent), Atlántida (4.8 percent), and Olancho (4.6 percent).Footnote 328 The data collected by the Observatorio de Violencias Contra Las Mujeres of CDM indicates that the violent deaths of women that happened between January 2016 and June 2017 occurred in the following departments:
|Department||Victims in 2016Footnote 329||Victims in 2017Footnote 330||Victims January 2016 - June 2017|
|Gracias a Dios||2||2|
|Isla de la Bahía||1||1||2|
The mission learned that the existing homicide rates issued by state officials in Honduras are not conclusive and the actual rate may be higher, as not all homicides are recorded. PMH explained that homicides are not always recorded because state officials, like the police and the forensic unit of the Public Ministry, do not always have access to gang-controlled neighbourhoods where homicides take place, and because family members of the victims are threatened by gangs so they do not report the homicide or bury bodies in an official manner.Footnote 331 PMH provided the example of a 16-year-old girl who refused to be recruited by a gang to perform sexual acts, and was subsequently raped by eight gang members and then killed.Footnote 332 The gang members demanded that an 11-year-old child bury the body of the 16-year-old girl in secret, and threatened to kill the remaining children of the family if the family members spoke out.Footnote 333
Penal Code, which was reformed in 2013 with
Decree No. 23-2013
(Decreto No. 23-2013), adding Article 118-A, provides the following:
Article 118-A. The crime of femicide is committed by a man or men who kill(s) a woman for reasons of gender, with hatred and contempt over the fact that she is a woman, and is punishable with thirty (30) to forty (40) years in prison when one or more of the following circumstances is in effect:
- When the perpetrator of the offence has or has had a couple’s relationship with the victim—whether involving marriage, a domestic partnership, a common-law union or any other similar relationship, whether or not there is or has been cohabitation, and including when there is or has been a sentimental relationship;
- When the offence is preceded by acts of intra-family domestic violence, whether or not a complaint has been filed;
- When the offence is preceded by a situation of sexual violence, harassment, intimidation or persecution of any nature; and,
- When the offence is committed with cruelty or when deprecating or degrading injuries or mutilations have been inflicted prior to or following the taking of life.Footnote 334
Radio Progreso explained that it is common for the media to justify acts of femicide by reporting that the murdered women had been unfaithful to their partner.Footnote 335 Radio Progreso indicated that perpetrators of femicide often remain unidentified and that many of them do not appear in police reports or in forensic reports, especially in rural areas.Footnote 336
2.3 Sexual Violence
Sources indicated that adolescent women, in particular, are vulnerable to sexual attacks and sexual violence.Footnote 337 According to Asociación Calidad de Vida (ACV), there has been an increase in the sexual abuse of girls in rural areas.Footnote 338 PLAN indicated that girls between the ages of 12 and 15 living in rural areas are vulnerable to being targeted by drug lords who wait for them outside of schools.Footnote 339 ACV provided the example of a group of girls who were raped while traveling to school in a rural area.Footnote 340 One girl had consequently become pregnant, but was accused of abortion when she lost the baby.Footnote 341 Given that abortion is criminalized in Honduras,Footnote 342 she was sent to jail.Footnote 343 GSC indicated that women are also vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual exploitation.Footnote 344 The same source provided the example of a case where church pastors were involved in the trafficking of girls.Footnote 345
Out of the 1,786 complaints in 2016 by women related to the right of life and personal integrity, CONADEH registered 17 complaints of sexual violence from women.Footnote 346 The mission learned that survivors of sexual violence often do not file a report as a result of fear of the aggressor, shame, or due to a lack of confidence in the justice system, for example.Footnote 347
Forms of sexual violence, including rape and sexual harassment, are addressed in Chapter I of Title II of Book II of the
Penal Code, which is attached to this Report (Attachment 4).
2.4 Gang Violence against Women and Girls
The mission learned that gangs subject women to various forms of violence and that they seek to exert control over women, including their bodies. GSC provided the example that gangs establish rules on how women should dress and what their hair colour should be, including prohibiting them from dyeing their hair, unless they belong to a certain gang or criminal organization, as well as prohibiting them from wearing purses that show crosses, as this is regarded to have a symbolic meaning.Footnote 348 GSC also explained that women's bodies are used for revenge; gang members may seek to kill the wife or children of an adversary as a form of retribution.Footnote 349
The mission learned that girls have been forced to carry out gang-related activities.Footnote 350 GSC provided the example of a neighbourhood where youth, including girls, were killed for not wanting to sell drugs.Footnote 351 Girls have also been subject to extortion.Footnote 352 GSC provided an example of an incident that occurred in 2016, where girls between the ages of 13 and 15 years old were found dead (dismembered in bags) because they had refused to pay a gang's war tax.Footnote 353
The mission learned that gangs subject girls to forced recruitment,Footnote 354 for example, as the girlfriends of gang leaders.Footnote 355 PMH explained that grandmothers, aunts and guardians of children often send minors on the migratory route to prevent them from being forcibly recruited by gangs.Footnote 356 The Directorate of Social Services of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula explained that when a girl refuses to submit herself to the gang, after a member expresses interest in her, the rest of her family is put in danger and is threatened by the gang.Footnote 357 As a result, there have been families that have been coerced to surrender their daughters to gangs, subjecting the girls to early pregnancies.Footnote 358 In order to protect their daughter, there have also been families who choose to leave the country instead.Footnote 359
2.5 Violence by Authorities against Women and Girls
In addition to violence perpetrated by gangs, the mission learned that women face violence from state authorities as well, including the police and the military.Footnote 360 According to GSC, there are cases where women experienced gang rape by the police and members of the military.Footnote 361 The same source explained that in these cases, there is usually no DNA evidence to prove that rape had occurred, because the perpetrators had used condoms.Footnote 362
2.6 Violence Experienced by Women's Rights Defenders
Sources indicated that human rights defenders in Honduras are very vulnerable.Footnote 363 Human rights defenders and journalists suffer a high level of aggression and rights violations, and face threats, harassment, persecution and criminalization.Footnote 364 Human rights defenders have received threats via social media and telephone calls, sometimes by members of the police or the military.Footnote 365 The mission learned that human rights defenders generally do not trust the police or the military.Footnote 366 Despite the existence of the
Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Media Contributors, and Justice Workers, the mission learned that there is no true protection mechanism in Honduras for human rights defendersFootnote 367 and that the protection mechanisms for women’s rights defenders are ineffective.Footnote 368
Radio Progreso indicated that many women's rights defenders receive threats for their work from perpetrators of violence against women.Footnote 369 There have also been various women's rights defenders who were criminalized for their work to advance women's rights in Honduras.Footnote 370 An example is the case of women's rights defender Gladys Lanza Ochoa.Footnote 371 Gladys Lanza Ochoa was the coordinator of the women's rights collective Visitación Padilla.Footnote 372 In 2015, she was convicted of defamation against the Director of the Foundation for the Development of Urban and Rural Social Living (Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Vivienda Social Urbana y Rural, FUNDEVI), after she supported the case of a FUNDEVI employee who reported that the Director had sexually harassed her in 2011.Footnote 373 Another example is the case of women's rights defender Suyapa Martínez,Footnote 374 who is the co-director of the Women Research Centre - Honduras (Centro de Estudios de la Mujer - Honduras, CEM-H).Footnote 375 In February 2017, the company Desarrollo Energético S.A. (DESA) filed a lawsuit against CEM-H for alleged false declarations linking DESA and the murder of land rights defender Berta Cáceres.Footnote 376 The lawsuit was dismissed in March 2017 by the Civil Court of the district of Francisco Morazán.Footnote 377
3. State Protection
3.1 Agencies Where Victims Can File Complaints
Sources indicate that women experiencing violence can file complaints with: the police; the Public Ministry, and domestic violence courts.Footnote 378 According to GSC, the police no longer has a unit specializing in gender-related issues.Footnote 379
In terms of reporting cases of domestic violence, Article 16 of the
Law Against Domestic Violence and its Reforms provides the following:
A complaint of domestic violence may be submitted by:
- The woman directly affected;
- Any household member;
- Any official, public employee or professional who, for reasons of his/her duties, is in contact with the woman directly affected or with members of her family group;
- State institutions and non-governmental organizations that defend the fundamental rights of women and that in general address family matters and human rights; and
- Any person who is aware of the case.
The complaint shall be presented in verbal or written form.Footnote 380
According to the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa, when a police report is filed for domestic violence, the aggressor is detained "for a few hours and a protection/restraining order may be issued."Footnote 381 The mission learned that the aggressor can be detained for up to 24 hours, but if the victim does not ratify the complaint at a court, the aggressor is set free, without a protection/restraining order. In a case of intrafamily violence, the aggressor is detained, trial procedures are initiated, and a protection/restraining order may be issued.Footnote 382 Once the complaint is received and security measures are imposed, the police forwards the proceedings to the Public Ministry, or the competent judicial authority (in case there is no local Public Ministry office), within the following 24 hours.Footnote 383 When a complaint is filed at the Public Ministry, a decision needs to be made, within 24 hours, whether to forward the complaint to the competent judicial authority.Footnote 384 Consequently, any entity that receives domestic violence complaints must forward the complaints within 24 hours to a domestic violence court, a local court that addresses minor cases (juzgado de paz) or a family court (juzgado de letras de familia).Footnote 385 If a judge determines that the complaint involves an act of domestic violence, a writ of admission is issued and a date and time of the hearing is provided.Footnote 386
The moment that a woman presents a complaint of domestic violence, protection measures, as established within the
Law against Domestic Violence and its Reforms, can be applied by the police, the Public Ministry and the competent courts, including prohibiting the accused from visiting places that the complainant visits, removing the accused from the house of the complainant, confiscating any weapons, and placing the accused in prison for 24 hours.Footnote 387 If the accused is indeed determined to have committed domestic violence, several sanctions can be applied, including community service.Footnote 388 GSC explained that the
Law against Domestic Violence and its Reforms is a preventive measure and that there is “pressure” from authorities on the perpetrator of domestic violence for only 24 hours.Footnote 389
A diagram providing the steps for filing a complaint, which is featured in the 2013 report of the Judicial Authority (Poder Judicial) titled
Protocolo de Atención Integral a Víctimas de la Violencia Contra la Mujer en Supuestos de Violencia Doméstica y de Violencia Intrafamiliar [Comprehensive Care Protocol for Victims of Violence against Women in Cases of Domestic Violence and Intrafamily Violence], is attached to this report (Attachment 5).
A complaint can also be filed at CONADEHFootnote 390 and at a Municipal Office for Women (Oficina Municipal de la Mujer).Footnote 391 CONADEH is a state organ that works to promote and protect human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms.Footnote 392 Complaints can be filed in person at one of the 19 CONADEH offices,Footnote 393 by phone or electronically, by inhabitants of Honduras and migrants.Footnote 394 When a complaint is filed, an acknowledgement of receipt is provided and the complaint is subsequently processed.Footnote 395 If the complaint is rejected, the complainant is informed in writing of other available recourse.Footnote 396 In domestic violence or intrafamily violence cases evidencing a criminal offence, CONADEH can file complaints before another state body, on behalf of the party concerned.Footnote 397 In addition, CONADEH provides legal adviceFootnote 398 and coordinates with institutions, such as women's shelters.Footnote 399 The Municipal Office for Women supports women who are victims of violence with the legal processes, in order to monitor whether their complaint is being processed.Footnote 400 Not all municipalities have a Municipal Office for Women, however.Footnote 401 The Municipal Office for Women of San Pedro Sula reports that it responds to 30 cases of domestic violence a week.Footnote 402
3.2 Reporting Rate and Lack of Trust
While some sources indicated that women do not file complaints because they do not know how to file complaints or because they are scared,Footnote 403 others indicated that it is because women do not trust the system.Footnote 404 Sources indicated that there is a general lack of trust in state institutions,Footnote 405 including those that carry out criminal investigations, such as the Public Ministry and the Police Directorate of Investigations (Dirección Policial de Investigaciones, DPI),Footnote 406 as well as the justice system.Footnote 407 Sources indicated that there is collusion between members of the police and members of organized criminal groups.Footnote 408 SDHJGD indicated that when people do not file complaints, their situation and their problems remain invisible, which prevents SDHJGD from responding to their protection needs.Footnote 409
The mission learned that women feel that they would be in greater danger if they reported the violence they have experienced.Footnote 410 For example, the mission learned that permission must be sought from gang leaders to file a complaint related to violence against women.Footnote 411 While filing a complaint, it is common for women to be told by state authorities that it is better to not file the complaint, because it is dangerous, and that one should leave the office.Footnote 412 ACV provided the example of a woman who came to the organization to seek protection from a man who was managing a
sicariato group (a group of contract killers) from inside prison.Footnote 413 While the woman had proof to show that her story was credible, she refused to report her situation to authorities, fearing that she would be killed for doing so, as the man had been paying police authorities from inside of the prison.Footnote 414 The same source provided another example of a woman who reported that she was raped.Footnote 415 After the perpetrator was captured, she began receiving threats from his family against herself and her family.Footnote 416 ACV also provided the example of a woman who refused to present her case in front of a judge, out of fear that the judge was compromised.Footnote 417
3.3 Protection Measures
Interlocutors indicated that there are large gaps in state protection measures,Footnote 418 including in addressing violence against women.Footnote 419 According to ACV, when a woman files a complaint, she is provided with protection measures, which, depending on the judge receiving the complaint, can include precautionary measures as well.Footnote 420 According to the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa, protection/restraining orders may be issued for both domestic violence and intrafamily violence cases.Footnote 421 The same source states that in the case of intrafamily violence, if the aggressor violates the order, the victim has to file a new police report.Footnote 422 Regarding domestic violence cases, the Public Ministry, the police and the competent judicial authority are required to enforce and monitor the compliance of security measures of the accused, until the hearing.Footnote 423 ACV explained that the enforcement of such measures is problematic and that women have complained that men do not respect the measures.Footnote 424 The same source indicated that there have been women who were killed despite the issuance of such measures.Footnote 425 In the case of gang violence towards women and girls, GSC highlighted a case where girls, who were targeted by gangs and displaced from their homes, received assistance from the National Police in order to leave their neighbourhood.Footnote 426
3.4 Effectiveness of the Police and Judicial System
The mission learned that protection mechanisms, including the police complaint mechanism, do not function effectively and do not guarantee protection for victims and witnesses of crimes.Footnote 427 The SDHJGD explained that the investigation systems of the Public Ministry and the police are weak, particularly when identifying aggressors and, consequently, in reducing the level of risk for victims.Footnote 428 PMH indicated that complaints mechanisms, including human rights mechanisms and police mechanisms, do not have sufficient and qualified persons with the ability to provide an official response from an institution.Footnote 429
The mission learned that impunity is rampant,Footnote 430 and that state institutions do not function effectively.Footnote 431 For example, according to the Directorate of Security, Prevention and Transportation (Gerencia de Seguridad, Prevención y Transporte) of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula, the DPI does not have the capacity to carry out adequate investigations.Footnote 432 According to CONADEH, a contributing factor to the high level of impunity in cases of femicide is the lack of preventative and investigative strategies for addressing femicide.Footnote 433 Such cases are investigated by the Technical Agency of Criminal Investigation (Agencia Técnica de Investigación Criminal, ATIC), which is a special unit that is part of the Public Ministry.Footnote 434 According to ACV, ATIC lacks resources, training and specialized staff.Footnote 435
A 2017 BBC article cites women's rights organizations as stating that "out of 463 women murdered [in 2016], … 15 cases were investigated."Footnote 436 According to the 2015 Annual Report of the National Police, out of the 4,201 arrest warrants issued by the police in 2015, 417 were issued to members of criminal groups for intrafamily violence.Footnote 437 In 2015, the Special Tribunal on Domestic Violence issued 3,430 sentences.Footnote 438La Prensa, a daily Honduran newspaper, reports that, between January and July 2016, the Domestic Violence Court in San Pedro Sula received close to 2,000 complaints, with the Domestic Violence Court in San Pedro Sula issuing 700 sentences by the beginning of August 2016.Footnote 439 The Domestic Violence Court in San Pedro Sula noted that complaints increased by seven percent, in contrast to 2015, when the Court had received 1,500 complaints.Footnote 440 According to
La Prensa, judicial authorities indicate that 50 percent of domestic violence victims drop their case before a sentence is issued.Footnote 441 The mission was unable to obtain further statistics on sentences.
3.5 Awareness-Raising Campaigns and Activities
A small number of activities are carried out at state and municipal level to raise awareness about the prevalence of gender-based violence. For example, in 2016, CONADEH once again joined UN Women's UNiTE To End Violence Against Women campaign, which occurs annually, for sixteen days between 25 November and 10 December.Footnote 442 The objective of this campaign is to sensitize and mobilize the public to take a stance against gender-based violence.Footnote 443 According to the Directorate of Social Services of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula, the Municipal Office for Women and the Municipal Office for the Defense of Children (Defensoría Municipal de la Niñez) of San Pedro Sula provide training in neighbourhoods on how to file a complaint with authorities and what the rights of the complainants are, including those of their children.Footnote 444 The Municipality of San Pedro Sula also provides classes on the
Law Against Domestic Violence and its Reforms in order to educate couples who are about to get married.Footnote 445 These classes address the types of violence that exist, the protection mechanisms and security measures available, the places where complaints can be filed and the sanctions that exist for domestic violence.Footnote 446
4. Support Services
The mission learned that there is a significant gap in support services for women facing violence. According to ACV, there are even fewer support services for women and girls who are survivors of violence in rural areas than in cities like Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.Footnote 447 Dr. Ayestas stated that, according to information from the National Observatory of Violence, mechanisms providing health services to assist victims of domestic violence do not exist.Footnote 448 GSC indicated that a woman who has experienced domestic violence may face difficulty accessing services, such as shelters, if her partner is also a gang leader.Footnote 449 In a context where there are no real protection mechanisms that can adequately protect women from violence and life-threatening situations, ACV expressed feelings of despair.Footnote 450
The mission learned that the majority of support services that are available for women facing violence are provided by NGOs,Footnote 451 such as Casa Alianza, NRC and ACV. Casa Alianza provides services for girls and boys affected by violence, including a voluntary residential programme for children at the office of Casa Alianza in Tegucigalpa, as described in Chapter I.Footnote 452 Another voluntary residential programme, also described in Chapter I, is called Querubines, which takes care of youth between 12 and 17 years old who have been victims of human trafficking.Footnote 453 In addition to the residential programs, Casa Alianza provides material support to children, in case they do not have school supplies, such as backpacks, clothing or lunch.Footnote 454
NRC's ICLA Programme assists people who are displaced as a result of violence, for example intrafamily violence, including with access to food, a temporary shelter, as well as assisting with one's relocation or, with the help of Doctors Without Borders, providing psychological care.Footnote 455
The mission learned that, through ACV, UNHCR provides humanitarian assistance to displaced women and their children up to 12 years old, who face persecution, threats and forced recruitment from gangs.
In terms of state-run support services, the Centre for Care and Protection of Women's Rights (Centro de Atención y Protección de los Derechos de las Mujeres, CAPRODEM) was created by the state to provide free of charge technical and legal support to women who are victims of domestic violence and intrafamily violence.Footnote 456 CAPRODEM receives support from civil societyFootnote 457 and CONADEH.Footnote 458 Its office is located in Barrio Concepción in Comayagüela.Footnote 459 In 2015, CAPRODEM assisted 213 women who experienced domestic and/or intrafamily violence.Footnote 460 The mission did not obtain further information on the services provided by CAPRODEM.
Sources report that in March 2017, the first comprehensive care centre, called Ciudad Mujer (Woman City), was opened in the Kennedy neighbourhood of Tegucigalpa.Footnote 461 Ciudad Mujer is a state-led initiative that coordinates the work of 15 state institutions with the objective of providing comprehensive services to women, including in the area of violence against women.Footnote 462 The mission did not obtain further information on the services provided by Ciudad Mujer.
According to the response of the Government of Honduras to a 2010 UN questionnaire on violence against women, the Special Attorney for Women (Fiscalía Especial de la Mujer), as part of the Public Ministry, provides legal and technical assistance on the issue of gender-based violence.Footnote 463 The Special Attorney for Women also carries out public criminal proceedings of violence against women cases, in addition to designing and implementing institutional policies on violence against women.Footnote 464
There are no official helplines provided by the state that serve to inform women about their rights and about the services that are available,Footnote 465 other than 911, which is the general emergency phone line.Footnote 466 According to the National Institute for Women (Instituto Nacional de la Mujer, INAM), which is responsible for the development of policies to guarantee women and girls' rights in Honduras,Footnote 467 the national emergency line of 911 is [translation] "a successful tool that ensures that complaints about intrafamily violence are addressed as a priority matter and allows for adequate follow-up to each individual case."Footnote 468 Media sources report that in 2016, 3,233 domestic violence complaints and 4,653 intrafamily violence complaints were received through 911.Footnote 469 The website of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula indicates that women can call the Municipal Office for Women of San Pedro Sula if they have experienced violence.Footnote 470
The mission learned that oftentimes, the most that women's rights organizations are able to do for women facing violence is help them look for a shelter or send them back to their community, where they are expected to be protected by the community.Footnote 471 Within the
Law Against Domestic Violence and its Reforms, shelters are listed as one of the measures provided to women who are survivors of domestic violence.Footnote 472 According to the Directorate of Social Services of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula, there is one state-run shelter, which is located in San Pedro Sula and run by the municipality of San Pedro Sula, and there are four NGO-run shelters, which are located in La Ceiba, Santa Rosa de Copán, Choloma and Tegucigalpa.Footnote 473 ACV stated, however, that there are three state-run women shelters across Honduras, which are under the direction of the Municipal Offices for Women and are located in San Pedro Sula, Choluteca, and La Ceiba.Footnote 474 According to ACV, both the shelters in Choluteca and La Ceiba receive support from civil society.Footnote 475
The mission learned that a key requirement to access the shelter in San Pedro Sula is that a domestic violence complaint is filed. In order to access the shelter in San Pedro Sula, a woman has to be referred to the shelter either by the police, the Public Ministry or a judicial authority.Footnote 476 Women may also come to the Municipal Office for Women to access the shelter, but they are then accompanied to first file a complaint at a domestic violence court or at the Public Ministry.Footnote 477 The shelter, which is in a secret location for security reasons,Footnote 478 receives women who have been displaced from their homes, including by their partner.Footnote 479 The mission learned that this shelter does not receive women who have been displaced by gangs; it only receives victims of domestic violence. The shelter admits women with their children who can remain there for up to three months.Footnote 480 The mission learned that boys older than 12 years old are not allowed, however. Women's entry, stay and departure of the shelter is voluntary and there are women who leave before the three-month period has ended.Footnote 481 The shelter was furnished as a result of donations received by the municipality.Footnote 482
The shelter in San Pedro Sula can host six families.Footnote 483 Women receive food, medical care, psychological care and legal support at the shelter in San Pedro Sula.Footnote 484 The Municipality of San Pedro Sula also offers women who come to the shelter vocational training and training to help them open small businesses in the fields of flower-arranging, baking, jewelry-making, and cosmetology.Footnote 485 There is also an educational programme for childrenFootnote 486 and children have access to therapy and psychological support.Footnote 487 The shelter has one psychologist that provides support to the women and children.Footnote 488
According to the Directorate of Social Services of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula, the shelter in San Pedro Sula provides effective and successful support to the women it hosts.Footnote 489 According to ACV, however, the shelter does not function effectively, given that it is run by government personnel who are not gender-sensitive and who are not knowledgeable about the issues at stake.Footnote 490
ACV itself is an NGO that runs a women's shelter in Tegucigalpa, providing women facing violence, and their children, with services, food, clothing and medicine.Footnote 491 Women can remain in the shelter for three months, and sometimes longer in exceptional cases.Footnote 492 Boys can remain with their mother until they are 12 years old.Footnote 493 ACV has a multidisciplinary team that is comprised of a social worker, a psychologist, a lawyer and a teacher.Footnote 494 It receives many women, including women that have fled from other countries, like Afghanistan, Brazil and Mexico.Footnote 495 According to ACV, as a women-run organization, security is an issue.Footnote 496 ACV provided the example of a man trying to break down the door of the shelter.Footnote 497 According to ACV, requests made to the police to designate women police officers to protect the shelter have been declined, with the police giving excuses that there are other emergencies, or that the request has been sent to a higher level.Footnote 498 Nevertheless, the police continue to send women who need protection to the ACV shelter.Footnote 499 ACV stated that in its 20 years of existence, it has never received financial support from the state of Honduras.Footnote 500 In addition to running a women's shelter, ACV indicated that they work in border areas as well, for example on the issue of human trafficking.Footnote 501
The mission learned that there is a private-run shelter in Santa Rosa Copan that is well-established with the necessary resources.Footnote 502 This shelter was financed and constructed by the Spanish Cooperation (Cooperación Española) and has space for 12 families.Footnote 503 According to ACV, the shelter in Santa Rosa Copan is Honduras' best women's shelter, in terms of its infrastructure.Footnote 504 ACV further indicated that there is less demand for this shelter, given that the area is more affected by trafficking than by violence.Footnote 505
ACV explained that there is communication among shelters in Honduras to coordinate whether to send women to another shelter, so as to ensure their security in another location.Footnote 506 Likewise, the Directorate of Children, Women and Family of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula indicated that if a woman is too scared to stay in San Pedro Sula, she can be transferred to another shelter or to family members in another city.Footnote 507
According to ACV, women in shelters live in fear, experience a high level of stress and some even experience post-traumatic stress syndrome.Footnote 508 According to the same source, women's shelters receive women who have experienced various types of violence, in addition to women who have experienced human trafficking.Footnote 509 ACV indicated that it is working with Trócaire, an Irish Catholic development NGO,Footnote 510 to create a shelter solely dedicated to women who have experienced human trafficking.Footnote 511
5. Possibility of Relocation and Traceability of Women Fleeing Violent Situations
PMH explained that women leave Honduras to protect their own lives and also the lives of their children.Footnote 512 Other interlocutors similarly indicated that, when women are forced to flee, they are often reluctant to leave behind their family members, including their children, given the cultural importance of family ties.Footnote 513 GSC indicated that when women do flee, either abroad or within Honduras, it is standard for them to take contraceptive pills, with the assumption that they will be raped at some point in their journey.Footnote 514
According to ACV, the feasibility of a woman to safely relocate to another part of Honduras to escape violence depends on her own means and the support network she has, including support she could receive from relatives.Footnote 515
Chapter III - Situation of Sexual Minorities
The mission learned that the situation of sexual minorities and LGBTI human rights defenders in Honduras is precarious. Sexual minorities in Honduras face widespread discrimination on a daily basis throughout the country.Footnote 516 Asociación Colectivo Violeta indicated that it is ingrained in society as a whole to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).Footnote 517 According to Asociación Para Una Vida Mejor de Personas Infectadas y Afectadas por el VIH/SIDA en Honduras (APUVIMEH), LGBT organizations and sexual minorities live in an "extreme situation" where their human rights are not respected and they remain invisible.Footnote 518
The mission learned that sexual minorities in Honduras are persecuted in both public and private domains. In the public domain, persecution occurs at the hands of state authorities,Footnote 519 including the policeFootnote 520 and the military.Footnote 521 According to Asociación LGTB Arcoíris, the principal agents of persecution are security forces, including the National Police, the Military Police of Public Order (Policía Militar Del Orden Público), municipal police (policía municipal), DPI, ATIC, Special Operations Command (Comando de Operaciones Especiales, COBRA), and the Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas).Footnote 522 Security forces have subjected sexual minorities to robbery,Footnote 523 extortion,Footnote 524 physical abuse, kidnapping,Footnote 525 and death.Footnote 526 According to Asociación LGTB Arcoíris, security forces have also subjected sexual minorities to sexual abuse, including children as young as 12 years old.Footnote 527 Asociación Trans Cozumel indicated that there is a case where military representatives targeted and attacked transwomen.Footnote 528 The Directorate of Security, Prevention and Transportation of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula, stated, however, that sexual minorities are not persecuted by the municipal police of San Pedro Sula.Footnote 529
The mission also learned that gangs discriminate against sexual minorities and have used them for various gang-related activities. According to APUVIMEH, gangs, including M-18, MS-13, and criminal organizations, like the Cachiros, among others, express a high level of intolerance, homophobia, transphobia and lesbophobia towards sexual minorities.Footnote 530 According to Asociación Kukulcán, transwomen and gay men are not only stigmatized by gangs, they are also forced to sell drugs and are used as drug mules.Footnote 531 Asociación LGTB Arcoíris explained that it can be deadly if one declines to sell drugs.Footnote 532 Asociación Kukulcán further explained that when transwomen and gay men seek to escape gang control, gangs threaten them, causing transwomen and gay men to move to another city or to leave the country.Footnote 533 The Department for Children, Women and Family of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula stated that sexual minorities are not special targets for gangs and that sexual minorities are subject to the same type of violence as any other member of society.Footnote 534
The mission learned that it is also common for sexual minorities to face discrimination and ill-treatment from family members.Footnote 535 Asociación LGTB Arcoíris explained that LGBTI persons experience high levels of repression within their homes from family members, including parents, brothers and sisters, which affects their psychosocial and psychological state.Footnote 536 The same source indicated that the stigma and discrimination against their sexual orientation causes LGBTI persons to leave their homes at an early age.Footnote 537 In addition, suicidal thoughts among LGBTI adolescents are prevalent and suicide is regarded as an option to escape the shame placed upon them by family members.Footnote 538
According to Asociación Colectivo Violeta, the persecution of LGBTI rights defenders is significant and systematic.Footnote 539 LGBT organizations are also frequently robbed, including of their files.Footnote 540 Asociación Colectivo Violeta stated that espionage of LGBTI rights defenders by state authorities, including wiretapping, is commonplace.Footnote 541
Sources indicated that sexual minorities are vulnerable and face obstacles when trying to access opportunities,Footnote 542 including in the areas of employment and education.Footnote 543 Sources indicated that transwomen have been forced to cut their hair,Footnote 544 in order to access employment or education.Footnote 545
The mission learned that sexual minorities have been targeted and killed. APUVIMEH indicated that sexual minorities have been killed in a "very dehumanizing manner" and in "very savage" ways in their homes and in public spaces, including being stoned to death and mutilated.Footnote 546 Asociación Trans Cozumel stated that the situation of transwomen in Honduras is "horrible"Footnote 547 and that there have been cases of transwomen who have been attacked, threatened, stabbed, kidnapped, forcibly disappeared, and assassinated.
Footnote 548 While the mission participants were in Honduras, Sherlyn Montoya, a transwoman, was killed and found dead in Tegucigalpa on 4 April 2017.Footnote 549 Sources indicate that Sherlyn Montoya was an LGBTI human rights defender and that she was a member of Asociación LGBT Arcoíris and of Grupo de Mujeres Transexuales – Muñecas de Arcoíris (Transsexual Women’s Group – Rainbow Dolls),Footnote 550 “which is part of Arcoíris and is dedicated to promoting dialogue and advocacy for issues concerning transgender women.”Footnote 551 Sources indicate that her body was found wrapped in sacksFootnote 552 and that it showed signs of tortureFootnote 553 and strangulation.Footnote 554
A 2017 report published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) indicates that, there is an "absence of comprehensive statistical information on the violence indexes that affect LGB people in the [Americas]."Footnote 555 Sources indicate that in 2015, 37 sexual minorities were killed in Honduras.Footnote 556 According to ILGA, in 2016, the murders of "seven LGBT people and human rights advocates" were recorded in Honduras.Footnote 557 A 2017 report by CATTRACHAS,Footnote 558 a Tegucigalpa-based feminist lesbian organization dedicated to research, communication and advocacy to defend the human rights of sexual minorities in Honduras,Footnote 559 indicates that in 2016, 22 sexual minorities were killed in Honduras.Footnote 560 The same report indicates that between 1994 and 2017, 269 deaths of sexual minorities were registered in Honduras, of which 153 were gay men, 23 were lesbian women and 93 were transsexuals.Footnote 561 In the vast majority of cases involving gay men, the bodies of the victims were found in their own homes.Footnote 562
According to the same source, the highest number of cases involving sexual minorities were registered in the Francisco Morazán Department (115 cases), followed by the Cortés Department (114).Footnote 563 By municipalities, the highest number of cases were registered in the Central District (110 cases), which includes Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela, followed by San Pedro Sula (80), Choloma (17), La Ceiba (8), Chamelecón (6), El Progreso (5), Roatán (5), La Lima (4), Tocoa (4), San Manuel (2), Quimistán (2), and Santa Cruz de Yojoa (2).Footnote 564 CATTRACHAS indicated that between January and 22 September 2017, a total of 27 sexual minorities were killed in Honduras, including 7 lesbian women, 6 transsexual persons and 14 gay men.Footnote 565
ILGA's 2017 report indicates that consensual same-sex acts between adults have been legal since 1899.Footnote 566 Asociación Trans Cozumel indicated that, according to research carried out with CATTRACHAS, SOGI is addressed in 15 laws, rules and protocols in Honduras.Footnote 567 Sources indicated that legislation to exclusively protect the rights of sexual minorities in Honduras does not exist.Footnote 568 In 2013, Article 321 of the Penal Code was amended and criminalizes discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation.Footnote 569 Asociación Colectivo Violeta indicated that the reform of Article 321 has not produced any tangible results for sexual minorities, because it has not been applied due to a lack of political will.Footnote 570 ILGA's 2017 report indicates that Article 27(27) of the Penal Code, which was amended in 2013, "establishes that motivation for a crime based on the victim's sexual orientation (among other grounds) operates as an aggravating circumstance."Footnote 571 Article 321-A of the Penal Code, as amended in 2013, criminalizes "incitement to hatred or discrimination based on sexual orientation."Footnote 572 Between 2013 and 2017, there have been no cases of punishment on the basis of discrimination against sexual minorities.Footnote 573
Asociación LGTB Arcoíris indicated that the
Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Media Contributors and Judiciary Workers does not necessarily protect all sexual minorities, because not all sexual minorities are active human rights defenders.Footnote 574 The same source explained that it is necessary to have legislation that protects sexual diversity for all, not just for human rights defenders, and that it is necessary to have anti-discrimination legislation with functioning mechanisms and legislation on gender identity.Footnote 575
4. State Protection
In meetings with state authorities, the mission observed an attitude of indifference towards sexual minorities as a group that has special protection needs. Interlocutors indicated that the state lacks the political will to address the situation of sexual minoritiesFootnote 576 and that state protection for sexual minorities does not exist.Footnote 577 According to Asociación Colectivo Violeta, there is no mechanism in the country that functions adequately to improve the situation of sexual minorities.Footnote 578 According to Asociación Colectivo Violeta, the state exacerbates the vulnerability of sexual minorities due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.Footnote 579 APUVIMEH added that severe institutional homophobia exists and that in the past, public officials have carried out smear campaigns against sexual diversity.Footnote 580 The representatives of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula, stated, however, that "sexual minorities have the same rights as everyone else in Honduras,"
Footnote 581 elaborating that sexual minorities have "the same rights as men, women and children."Footnote 582
According to Asociación LGTB Arcoíris, the state "permits the social cleansing" of sexual minorities in Honduras by not condemning newspapers that spread anti-LGBTI rhetoric and by allowing state ministers and religious entities to spread negative rhetoric about sexual minorities.Footnote 583 Other interlocutors also indicated that sexual minorities are stigmatized and discriminated against by Christian-based religious entities.Footnote 584 For example, according to Asociación Colectivo Violeta, religious groups, such as the Evangelical Brotherhood of Honduras (Confraternidad Evangélica de Honduras), advocate for violence and discrimination against sexual minorities.Footnote 585 According to APUVIMEH, SDHJGD had created a campaign in 2012 to raise awareness about SOGI, but due to interventions by the Evangelical Brotherhood and the Catholic Church, the campaign launch was suspended.Footnote 586 According to Asociación Colectivo Violeta, there are no state-led campaigns to reduce discrimination on the basis of SOGI.Footnote 587 In terms of support from religious figures, sources indicate that Reverend Berta Ramírez has been advocating for the rights of sexual minoritiesFootnote 588 since 2009Footnote 589 and has provided them with a place of worship.Footnote 590 As a reverend of the Metropolitan Community Church, Reverend Berta Ramírez ministers in Tegucigalpa.Footnote 591
Sources indicated that the police and the judiciary receive training on how to respond to cases involving sexual minorities.Footnote 592 Such training has been provided by LGBT organizations, but due to rotations within the police force, the training has not been effective and sexual minorities continue being victimized by the police.Footnote 593 There is no mechanism to monitor or evaluate the manner in which the police and the judiciary respond to cases of involving sexual minorities.Footnote 594 The 2016 Annual Report by CONADEH states that one of their priorities is to carry out actions that prevent violence and aggression against sexual minorities and to reduce the level of impunity surrounding their deaths.Footnote 595
4.1 Filing Complaints
Sources indicate that sexual minorities who have experienced harassment or violence can file complaints before: police bodies,Footnote 596 namely ATIC and DPI;Footnote 597 the Public Ministry;Footnote 598 courts;Footnote 599 CONADEH;Footnote 600 and LGBT organizations.Footnote 601
The mission learned that protection mechanisms, including the police system to report crimes, do not function effectively and do not guarantee protection for victims and witnesses of crimes. In addition, the mission learned that filing complaints can be risky for sexual minorities. APUVIMEH provided the example that, in many cases, there is a lack of evidence or witnesses to prosecute crimes, because witnesses fear that they will be in danger if they provide information.Footnote 602 There have been cases of persons whose houses were burnt down by the same perpetrators against whom a complaint was filed.Footnote 603 APUVIMEH indicated that such acts have caused fear among sexual minorities, making it less likely that they will file complaints.Footnote 604 According to the Directorate of Security, Prevention and Transportation of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula, the Municipality of San Pedro Sula does not have statistics on how many complaints are filed by sexual minorities, because sexual minorities "do not file complaints."Footnote 605
As previously noted, there is a general lack of trust among citizens, which prevents them from filing complaints with state authorities.Footnote 606 This lack of trust is linked to the overall lack of confidence in state authorities to protect citizens from human rights abuses.Footnote 607 The mission also learned that complaints against the police can be fatal for the complainant.Footnote 608 Asociación Trans Cozumel provided the example of a case where transwomen were threatened by the police while they were reporting a crime, and they were reportedly told by police officers that if they continued filing complaints, they would be killed.Footnote 609 According to Asociación LGTB Arcoíris, LGBT persons who experience violence perpetrated by security forces are very vulnerable given that they are not able to report such instances to the police.Footnote 610
Asociación LGTB Arcoíris explained that there is a sentiment among sexual minorities that reporting a crime is "futile" given that no adequate investigation results from reporting a crime.Footnote 611 The mission noted that impunity is commonplace, because state institutions do not function effectively.Footnote 612 A special unit exists to investigate crimes committed against sexual minorities,Footnote 613 called the Unit of High Impact Deaths (Unidad de Muertes de Alto Impacto) within the Attorney General's Office (Fiscalía) of the Public Ministry.Footnote 614 This special unit, however, lacks the human and technical resources required to function effectively.Footnote 615
Other sources further indicated that investigations carried out by state authorities are not effective.Footnote 616 Asociación LGTB Arcoíris added that the Public Ministry does not carry out appropriate measures for the effective investigation and punishment of crimes that are committed against sexual minorities.Footnote 617 According to the 2017 report by CATTRACHAS, 48 of the 225 cases involving the deaths of sexual minorities between 2008 and 2015 were prosecuted.Footnote 618 The rate of cases that went unsolved for those prosecuted between 2008 and 2015 is reportedly 80 percent.Footnote 619 The same report indicates that of the 29 cases involving the deaths of sexual minorities that occurred between 2016 and April 2017, 4 were prosecuted.Footnote 620 According to Asociación Colectivo Violeta, between 2009 and April 2017, there were 242 cases of sexual minorities who were murdered, 10 per cent of which were prosecuted.Footnote 621 Asociación Colectivo Violeta explained that the majority of these cases were dropped, because the state did not have enough capacity to investigate.Footnote 622
4.2 Protection Measures
CONADEH indicated that there is a "large vacuum" in the area of protection measures.Footnote 623 Protection orders for sexual minorities experiencing violence do not exist.Footnote 624 Many leaders of LGBT organizations have been issued Precautionary Measures by the IACHR of the OAS, which were discussed in Chapter I.Footnote 625 Asociación LGTB Arcoíris indicated that the Precautionary Measures are not effective, especially when police authorities are the ones sanctioned to enforce these measures.Footnote 626
5. Support Services
The mission learned that support services for sexual minorities are primarily provided by LGBT organizations. Asociación LGTB Arcoíris explained that it provides support services to adolescents who are victims of abuse or bullying and that LGBT organizations provide a safe space and support for youth.Footnote 627 The same source further explained that the capacity of LGBT organizations to provide LGBTI adolescents with psychosocial and psychological help and care is nevertheless limited and, in some cases, non-existent.Footnote 628 Asociación Trans Cozumel provides support services to transwomen, including adolescents involved in the sex trade industry, and works together with DINAF to assist at-risk/vulnerable adolescents.Footnote 629 PLAN indicated that it does not have programs especially dedicated to sexual minorities, but that the principles of non-exclusion and non-discrimination are upheld in their programs.Footnote 630 While the situation for intersex persons was described as "very difficult,"Footnote 631 the mission learned that there are no organizationsFootnote 632 or leadersFootnote 633 that are focused on intersex issues in Honduras.
There are no state-run shelters specifically for sexual minorities fleeing violence carried out by gangs, family members or state authorities.Footnote 634 APUVIMEH is the only organization able to provide sexual minorities with a place to stay.Footnote 635 In regard to other LGBT organizations, the homes of the organization's leaders are used as a place of shelter.Footnote 636
There are no official helplines provided by the state for sexual minorities.Footnote 637 However, leaders and members of LGBT organizations respond to queriesFootnote 638 and provide information on the rights of sexual minorities.Footnote 639
6. Possibility of Relocation and Traceability of Sexual Minorities Fleeing Violence
The mission learned that, in an effort to escape violence, sexual minorities have fled internally or have sought to leave Honduras. According to Asociación LGTB Arcoíris, LGBT organizations have seen an increase in cases of forced internal displacement over the last nine years.Footnote 640 In many instances, sexual minorities who are internally displaced do not receive support.Footnote 641 There have also been cases where sexual minorities become internally displaced without having first sought assistance or information.Footnote 642 Casa Alianza provided the example of a gay boy and his family who were threatened by gangs.Footnote 643 The boy and his father fled the country without first seeking protection due to the lack of information about protection options available.Footnote 644 They were subsequently deported back to Honduras where they received assistance from a local NGO, which gave them information about seeking asylum abroad.Footnote 645 After contacting UNHCR in Mexico, the family was able to leave for Mexico.Footnote 646 According to Grupo Lésbico Bisexual LITOS, approximately two sexual minorities flee Honduras every week.Footnote 647
Sources indicated that while it is possible for sexual minorities to relocate elsewhere in Honduras, it is unlikely that they are able to relocate to a secure location.Footnote 648 According to the Asociación Kukulcán, there are no safe neighbourhoods for the LGBTI community.Footnote 649 According to Asociación LGTB Arcoíris, there are three bars and one club for sexual minorities in Tegucigalpa.Footnote 650 However, APUVIMEH added that people in these spaces are harassed by state authorities.Footnote 651 Asociación Kukulcán explained that, even though there are bars and discos for sexual minorities, there have been fatalities and assassinations in these areas and as such, there are no true safe spaces.Footnote 652 The Directorate of Security, Prevention and Transportation of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula stated that the city of San Pedro Sula allows sexual minorities to express themselves freely.Footnote 653 The Directorate of Social Services of the Municipality of San Pedro Sula stated, however, that there are "risks" for sexual minorities in San Pedro Sula, "like in any other major city."Footnote 654
Notes on Interlocutors
Asociación Calidad de Vida, ACV (Quality of Life Association)
ACV is a Tegucigalpa-based NGO and women’s shelter that assists women and their children fleeing violence, including domestic violence. In addition, ACV provides services to persons with HIV/AIDS. The joint mission met with a representative in Tegucigalpa on 7 April 2017.
Asociación Colectivo Violeta (Violet Collective Association)
Asociación Colectivo Violeta is an NGO based in Tegucigalpa that promotes human rights in order to reduce the stigma and discrimination against sexual minorities as well as improve their access to justice. The joint mission met with a representative in Tegucigalpa on 6 April 2017.
Asociación Kukulcán (Kukulcán Association)
Asociación Kukulcán is an NGO based in Tegucigalpa that works to provide a better quality of life for sexual minorities in the Central District in the area of HIV prevention and human rights. The joint mission met with a representative in Tegucigalpa on 6 April 2017.
Asociación LGBT Arcoíris (Rainbow LGBT Association)
Asociación LGBT Arcoíris is an NGO that raises awareness about the rights of sexual minorities in the cities of Comayagüela and Tegucigalpa, in addition to carrying out research on sexual minorities' issues in Honduras. The joint mission met with a representative in Tegucigalpa on 6 April 2017.
Asociación Para Una Vida Mejor de Personas Infectadas y Afectadas por el VIH/SIDA en Honduras, APUVIMEH (Association for a Better Life for People Infected with and Affected by HIV/AIDS in Honduras)
APUVIMEH is an NGO that works with sexual minorities and those affected by HIV/AIDS in Honduras. The joint mission met with a representative in Tegucigalpa on 6 April 2017.
Asociación Trans Cozumel (Trans Cozumel Association)
Asociación Trans Cozumel is an NGO based in Tegucigalpa that works to promote and defend the right of transvestites, transgender persons and transsexual persons. It also works to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. The joint mission met with a representative in Tegucigalpa on 6 April 2017.
Casa Alianza (Covenant House)
Casa Alianza is an international NGO that provides assistance to vulnerable children, including those at risk of being recruited by gangs and homeless youth. In Tegucigalpa, Casa Alianza has two residential centers for youth, including the Crisis Centre and the Querubines Home. The joint mission met with representatives in San Pedro Sula on 4 April 2017 and visited the Crisis Centre in Tegucigalpa on 6 April 2017.
Centro de Desarrollo Humano, CDH (Centre for Human Development)
CDH is a Tegucigalpa-based NGO focused on human development and deals with issues related to poverty in Honduras. CDH delivers violence prevention programs in conflict-affected neighbourhoods in both urban and rural areas. The joint mission met with a representative in Tegucigalpa on 5 April 2017.
Centro de Prevención, Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de Victimas de la Tortura, CPTRT (Centre for the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation for Victims of Torture)
CPTRT is a Tegucigalpa-based human rights NGO that advocates for the defense of the rights of victims of torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. The joint mission met with a representative in Tegucigalpa on 5 April 2017.
Claudia Flores is a lawyer and the Academic Head of Law and International Relations majors at the Central American Technical University (Universidad Tecnológica Centroamérica, UNITEC), a private institution of higher education, with seven campuses across Honduras, including in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and in La Ceiba. The joint mission met with Claudia Flores in Tegucigalpa on 7 April 2017. The information provided by Claudia Flores represents her personal opinion, not the position of UNITEC.
Comisionado Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CONADEH (National Commissioner for Human Rights)
CONADEH is a governmental institution that advocates for the respect and promotion of human dignity and human rights in the country. The joint mission met with representatives in San Pedro Sula on 4 April 2017 and with representatives at the Tegucigalpa office on 5 April 2017.
Dr. Migdonia Ayestas is the Director of the National Violence Observatory (Observatorio Nacional de la Violencia) at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras, UNAH), which analyzes and publishes information on violence and fatalities in Honduras. The joint mission met with Dr. Ayestas in Tegucigalpa on 7 April 2017.
Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación - Compañía de Jesús, ERIC-SJ (Critical Thinking, Research and Communication Team – Society of Jesus)
ERIC-SJ is a Jesuit organization that carries out research and analyses on social justice issues, including on the situation of migrants. ERIC-SJ is the sister organization of Radio Progreso. The joint mission met with a representative of ERIC-SJ in San Pedro Sula on 4 April 2017.
Grupo Lésbico Bisexual LITOS (LITOS Bisexual Lesbian Group)
Grupo Lésbico Bisexual LITOS is an association representing the rights of lesbian and bisexual women in Honduras. The joint mission met with a representative in Tegucigalpa on 6 April 2017.
Grupo Sociedad Civil, GSC (Civil Society Association)
GSC is a civil society association representing eleven social sectors (including women, the afro and indigenous population, the working class, private businesses, small and medium-sized businesses, people with disabilities, seniors, youth and sexual minorities) to advance the promotion of citizens' participation, democracy, political dialogue, economic stability and equality. The joint mission met with a representative in Tegucigalpa on 7 April 2017.
Movimiento Amplio Universitario, MAU (Ample University Movement)
MAU is an association of several Honduran student movements that advocates for the right to education and participation in the drafting of policies that affect education and universities. The joint mission met with a representative in San Pedro Sula on 4 April 2017.
San Pedro Sula - Dirección de Niñez, Mujer y Familia (San Pedro Sula - Department for Women, Children and Family)
The Department for Children, Women and Family is the municipal agency of San Pedro Sula responsible for providing assistance and protection programs to women, children and families. The joint mission met with a representative in San Pedro Sula on 3 April 2017.
San Pedro Sula - Gerencia de Apoyo a la Prestación de Servicios Sociales (San Pedro Sula - Directorate of Social Services)
The Directorate of Social Services is the municipal agency of San Pedro Sula responsible for executing public policy through programs designed to protect women, children, families and vulnerable groups. The joint mission met with a representative in San Pedro Sula on 3 April 2017.
San Pedro Sula – Gerencia de Prevención, Seguridad y Transporte (San Pedro Sula – Directorate of Prevention, Security and Transportation)
The Directorate of Prevention, Security and Transportation is the municipal agency of San Pedro Sula responsible for policies and programs for the prevention of violence, citizen safety and transportation within San Pedro Sula. The joint mission met with a representative in San Pedro Sula on 3 April 2017.
Norwegian Refugee Council, NRC
NRC is an Oslo-based humanitarian organization that provides assistance to displaced people. NRC has two programs in Honduras that provide information and legal assistance to displaced people, as well as educational programs. The joint mission met with a representative in San Pedro Sula on 4 April 2017.
Pastoral de Movilidad Humana, PMH (Human Mobility Pastoral)
PMH is a faith-based organization under the Episcopal Conference of Guatemala that promotes the research, advocacy, and protection of the rights of migrants. The joint mission met with a representative in Tegucigalpa on 5 April 2017.
Programa Nacional de Prevención, Rehabilitación y Reinserción Social, PLAN (National Program for Prevention, Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration)
PLAN is a program created by the Office of the President to provide assistance in Tegucigalpa to at-risk youth and persons who were former gang members. The joint mission met with representatives from PLAN in Tegucigalpa on 6 April 2017.
Radio Progreso is an independent Jesuit radio station that carries out investigative journalism on issues related to, for example, migration, human rights, the environment and culture. Radio Progeso is the sister organization of ERIC-SJ. The joint mission met with three journalists of Radio Progeso in San Pedro Sula on 4 April 2017.
Secretaría de Derechos Humanos, Justicia, Gobernación y Descentralización, SDHJGD (Ministry of Human Rights, Justice, Governance and Descentralization)
SDHJGD coordinates the implementation of public policy, including on human rights, and works to promote citizenship participation and a culture of respect for human rights at state level. SDHJGD is responsible as well for the coordination of the Interinstitutional Commission for the Protection of Displaced People Due to Violence (Comisión Interinstitucional para la Protección de Personas Desplazadas por la Violencia). The joint mission met with representatives in Tegucigalpa on 5 April 2017.
World Vision, a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization, has several social projects in Honduran communities that address issues related to education, health, and violence prevention. The joint mission met with representatives in San Pedro Sula on 4 April 2017 and in Tegucigalpa on 6 April 2017.
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Appendix 1 - Terms of Reference
Witnesses and victims of crime and corruption
- Current levels of corruption, including in the police, judiciary and government; anti-corruption efforts and their effectiveness.
- Current extent of individuals who report police corruption or witness a crime by a criminal gang especially with regard to drug-trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, and public sector malfeasance:
- Statistics: national, state, and local;
- Legislative framework: national and state level.
- Government and police effectiveness in assisting individuals who witness police wrongdoing or a criminal activity:
- Police protection measures; whether a special police unit exists to investigate these types of crimes; availability and effectiveness of protection at the national, state and local levels;
- Accessibility of the justice system: complaints procedure, whether protection for witnesses/whistleblowers is addressed; police response to complaints; judicial process for these types of complaints (e.g. are witness protection orders available and to what extent are they enforced);
- Whether special training exists for police and judiciary in dealing with witness protection cases;
- Whether police response to witnesses is measured or evaluated, including results;
- Existence, scope and effectiveness of any witness protection programs.
- Ability of victims to seek relocation:
- Ability to flee from aggressor without being found (e.g., the level of risk & socio-economic factors);
- Accessibility to databases to find a victim (e.g., school registries, etc.); what are the main national registries and identity cards that are issued by the government? Which authorities, and at what level, are able to access these registries? Level of security used to protect these databases; surveillance systems in place at the state and national levels;
- Level of communication among law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels;
- Known cases of victims being found by agents of persecution.
- Main gangs and criminal organizations, including presence of Los Zetas.
- Structure of main gangs
- Hierarchical division of main gangs as a whole and as cliques; scope of communication between leadership and cliques, within cliques, within cities and between different cities/areas; how are orders transmitted and executed;
- The role of women in the maras;
- Number of cliques and members.
- Methods of recruitment; have they changed after the
mano dura policies? Target population (i.e. age, gender, social class, etc.);
- Initiation process and processes practiced for promotion within;
- Information on how to leave a gang; treatment of former gang members or people who try to leave; information about former gang members (also known as
calmados); whether they are still active or collaborate with gangs.
- Areas of operation
- Territorial division of gangs and cliques; how are territorial divisions established (rifa del barrio);
- Conflicts and disputes between cliques and gangs for territorial presence; cooperation between gangs.
- Presence in rural areas;
- Proliferation of firearms.
- National/transnational activities
- Local criminal activities: kidnapping, extortion, homicides; statistics; profile of targets/victims;
- International activities: drug trafficking, contract killings; statistics; profile of targets/victims;
- Whether gangs can be considered transnational crime syndicates; relationship with drug cartels and other organized criminal organizations.
- Ability to flee from gangs without being found, including characteristics (gender, education, economic background etc.) of the victim; scope of their reach at the national and transnational levels; whether a victim's profile influences the likelihood of being found.
- State efforts
- Legislative framework;
- Anti-gang units: whether a special police unit exists to combat gangs and investigate crimes committed by them; information on effectiveness, training, and resources; instances of cooptation, infiltration, corruption or excessive use of force; whether their effectiveness is measured or evaluated; statistics on arrests.
- Accessibility of the justice system: complaints procedure; police response to complaints; judicial process for these types of complaints; statistics on charges, convictions, and jail terms;
- State protection programs: existence, scope and effectiveness of any witness protection program; whether the protection for victims, witnesses, and former gang members is addressed; accessibility to databases to find a victim; level of security used by authorities to protect these databases; known cases of victims being found.
Violence against Women
- Prevalence of gender-based violence, including: domestic violence, sexual harassment and violence (including rape), femicide, disappearance, trafficking, and stalking:
- Statistics: national, state-level, and local;
- Legislative framework; whether there have been any new developments nationally; or at the state-level.
- Effectiveness of the police and judiciary in addressing gender-based violence:
- Police records; arrests and complaints; numbers of persons charged/arrested for committing gender-based crimes (as outlined in section a); numbers of those convicted; length of jail term (if found guilty); numbers of those released;
- Police protection measures; whether special police units exist to investigate these types of crimes; protection orders and enforcement;
- Accessibility of the justice system: Complaints procedure, police response to complaints; judicial process for these types of complaints (e.g. are protection orders available);
- Whether special training exists for police and judiciary in dealing with gender-based violence cases;
- Whether police response to gender-based violence is measured or evaluated by government agencies.
- Status of emergency shelter system:
- Number of government-run shelters in operation and the capacity of each of these shelters (e.g., number of beds per shelter, trained staff);
- Accessibility and length of stay allowed;
- Options available after individual leaves shelter; whether social services follows-up with victim.
- Ability of victims to seek relocation:
- Ability to flee from aggressor without being found (e.g., the level of risk & socio-economic factors);
- Access to databases to find a victim (e.g., school registries, etc.); what are the main national registries and identity cards that are issued by the government? Which authorities, and at what level, are able to access these registries? Level of security used to protect these databases; surveillance systems in place at the national and state level;
- Known cases of victims being found by their ex-partners.
- Women rights organizations and treatment of women human rights defenders.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
- Treatment by society; current extent of homophobia, transphobia, discrimination, and harassment against members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community:
- Statistics on homophobic and transphobic violence/hate crimes: national, state-level, and local;
- Incidents of homophobic and transphobic violence against LGBTI members (widespread, minimal, under-reported, etc.);
- Types of violations experienced by LGBTI members (e.g. insults, harassment, physical violence, homicide, and discrimination, including employment, housing and education);
- Legislative framework; whether there have been any new developments nationally; or at the state-level;
- Access to social services.
- Police effectiveness in addressing wrongdoing/violence against LGBTI individuals:
- Police records; arrests and complaints; numbers of those charged for committing homophobic and transphobic crimes (as outlined in section a); numbers of those convicted; length of jail term (if found guilty); numbers of those released (without conviction);
- Police protection measures; whether a special police unit exists to investigate these types of crimes;
- Access to the justice system: Complaints procedure, police response to complaints; judicial process for these types of complaints (e.g. length of procedures, protection orders available for victims, availability of bail for the accused);
- Whether special training of police and judiciary in dealing with LGBTI cases exists;
- Whether police response to LGBTI violence is measured or evaluated.
- Ability of victims to seek relocation:
- Ability to flee from aggressor without being found (e.g., the level of risk & socio-economic factors);
- Access to databases to find a victim (e.g., school registries, etc.); what are the main national registries and identity cards that are issued by the government? Which authorities and at what level are able to access these registries? Level of security used to protect these databases; surveillance systems in place at the national and state level;
- Known cases of victims being found.
- Availability of government programs for returned asylum seekers, including housing, health, education, and employment.
- Availability of fraudulent documents.