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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Honduras (A/HRC/46/75) (Advance Unedited Version)

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Human Rights Council
Forty-sixth session
22 February–19 March 2021
Agenda item 2
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General


The present report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights describes the human rights situation and the activities of her office in Honduras from 1 January to 31 December 2020. The report highlights key human rights advances and challenges in the promotion and protection of human rights, with a focus on population in a vulnerable situation and the human rights impact of the COVID-19 and hurricanes Eta and Iota. The report concludes with recommendations to various State institutions.

I. Introduction

  1. The present report is submitted pursuant to article V(4) of the agreement signed between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Government of Honduras on 4 May 2015. The report is based on the information collected and analysed by OHCHR through in situ and remote human rights monitoring and information provided by state authorities. It also includes information provided by civil society, victims and other stakeholders. OHCHR thanks the State for its responses to requests for information.

  2. Despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, OHCHR remained fully operational throughout the reporting period, continued to monitor the human rights situation in the country and provided technical assistance for the promotion and protection of human rights. OHCHR conducted 29 field missions and 17 missions to detention centres to monitor in situ the human rights situation in the country, in addition to the permanent remote monitoring. At least 105 cases of alleged violations against human rights defenders, including environmental and land defenders, were followed up and 10 trials of emblematic human rights cases were monitored. OHCHR developed advocacy strategies, 25 technical assistance and institutional strengthening processes addressed to State Institutions, and organized 16 capacity building workshops and trainings with the participation of different stakeholders. OHCHR also provided support to more than 350 civil society organizations. The Office launched 8 public media and advocacy campaigns and issued one thematic report, 15 press releases and 59 messages on social media. OHCHR also developed strategic partnerships and strengthened its collaboration with civil society organizations, the United Nations System, the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) and State authorities, including in the Judicial, Legislative and Executive branches. The Office’s priorities included promoting the rule of law and accountability, citizen security and human rights, enhancing civic space, access to economic, social and cultural rights and equality and non-discrimination. In light of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other humanitarian emergencies, OHCHR advocated for placing human rights at the heart of the Government response.

II. Context

  1. In 2020, Honduras continued to face important human rights challenges, including high levels of poverty, violence, impunity, discrimination and lack of access to economic, social and cultural rights. The COVID-19 pandemic and hurricanes Eta and Iota exacerbated this situation.

  2. On 15 March 2020, in response to the first confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Government adopted Executive Decree PCM-21-2020 declaring a state of emergency. The Decree posed disproportionate restrictions to freedom of expression and allowed for detention without judicial review for a period of over twenty-four hours. On 22 March 2020, the Government modified the decree in accordance with OHCHR’s recommendations, which emphasized that emergency measures need to be based on the principles of necessity, legality, proportionality, and non-discrimination.

  3. The state of emergency was regularly renewed and endorsed by the National Congress and remained in force as of 31 December 2020. Measures adopted by the Government in response to the pandemic included an absolute curfew allowing only essential movements and the closing of schools, universities, public offices and most private businesses. As of 1 June 2020, the police had reported 30,000 detentions for non-compliance of the curfew. The lack of clear legal requirements for administrative arrest, as well as its widespread use, raise concern over the arbitrary nature of some of these detentions.

  4. The National Anti-Corruption Council and civil society organizations documented alleged irregularities in government procurement processes during the COVID-19 pandemic, allegedly facilitated by emergency regulations.1 According to a survey conducted in September 2020, 94 percent of the population believed that acts of corruption had occurred in the management of the pandemic.2 The Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating3 alleged irregularities and corruption related to the purchase of seven mobile field hospitals. The exhaustive, impartial and independent investigation of these cases is fundamental to ensure transparency and reduce public distrust related to the Government’s response to the pandemic.

  5. With a view to the 2021 general elections, OHCHR welcomes the adoption in 2020 of a legal framework aimed at increasing women’s participation and political representation. OHCHR is concerned that delays in the approval of the new electoral law, which would regulate the details of the upcoming electoral processes in March and November 2021, as well as the allocation of a dedicated budget for its implementation may affect the legitimacy and public acceptance of the results. This could lead to unrest. OHCHR emphasizes that the prompt adoption of an electoral law and the necessary protocols for its implementation that ensure the right to vote and stand for elections is needed to guarantee a transparent electoral process.

  6. On 5 November 2020, the Human Rights Council examined Honduras during the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).