On December 9th, CEPR Senior Associate for International Policy Alex Main testified about the human rights situation in Honduras before the Subcommittee of International Human Rights of Canada’s House of Commons.  The Subcommittee asked Alex to discuss the state of human rights in Honduras since the November 2013 elections, focusing in particular on attacks against human rights defenders, journalists and justice sector workers.  He was also asked to comment on government measures designed to address human rights abuses, on the implementation of precautionary measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and on Honduras’ electoral process.

In his opening statement, Alex discussed these points and others, including the growing militarization taking place in Honduras, and in conclusion said:

Honduras’ human rights situation remains as dire as ever and, in many cases, targeted attacks against members of at-risk sectors – including human rights defenders and journalists – have recently increased in number.  Meanwhile, impunity around these and other crimes remains appallingly high. 

The government’s response to this situation over the last 12 months has been grossly inadequate and, in some areas, completely counterproductive.  The processes by which the government claims to address corruption and criminality within the security forces and the judiciary are arbitrary and ineffective.  Genuine police reform appears to be off the agenda, following the dissolution of a reform commission whose proposals were systematically ignored, despite the backing of the human rights community.  The government’s plans to further militarize law enforcement activities, and to involve the military in other traditionally civilian tasks, including state-sponsored extracurricular activities for young people, is an alarming, negative trend that will further undermine human rights and democracy in Honduras.

In short, the government’s record over the last 12 months indicates that it has little real will to address Honduras’ human rights crisis.

The statement was followed by a series of recommendations to Canadian lawmakers.  Here are the top three:

  • The implementation of the Canadian-Honduran free trade agreement of 2014 as well as bilateral security assistance and Canadian support for IFI programs in Honduras should be contingent on genuine and substantive progress in the prosecution of human rights abuses.

  • Canadian private companies should be urged to ensure that their operations and investments in Honduras are not directly or indirectly contributing to human rights abuses, environmental degradation, or violation of the laws of Honduras.

  • The Canadian government should use its voice and vote in international financial institutions, including the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, and in international organizations including the Organization of American States and the United Nations to uphold the above principles and to make respect for human rights and the rule of law in Honduras the first priority regarding all matters dealing with Honduras. In particular, the Canadian government should use its voice and vote to ensure that the IADB, World Bank and IMF are not contributing to human rights abuses or environmental degradation through funding for projects in Honduras.

You can read the full written testimony here