On September 13, Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Maria Otero, and Honduran President Porfirio Lobo launched the US-Honduras High-level Bilateral Human Rights Working Group, an initiative designed to increase cooperation on protecting human rights, to combate impunity, and to enforce the rule of law. The group will consist of two sub-committees, one in Tegucigalpa and another in Washington.
The committee is intended to break the “cycle of impunity” with regards to violence against journalists. The group will also help investigate crimes against other “special victims” from vulnerable groups in Honduran society, including human rights defenders, union leaders, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals.
InSight Crime Analysis
In addition to having the highest homicide rate in the world, Honduras has become one of the most dangerous countries for journalists; since President Lobo took office, 22 journalists have been murdered.
It remains unclear how exactly this new working group will help combat the widespread climate of impunity that allows crimes to go unpunished. The 2009 coup exacerbated the already extreme partisan polarization within the country’s judicial system, which often results in the government using the police to protect its political interests. Compounding the problem, evidence suggests that the police have been co-opted by criminal gangs to the point where many are involved directly in violent criminal operations.
Examples of this endemic corruption abound. In May of this year, the National Police chief was removed after an ex-police officer with suspicious ties to the kidnapping and murder of a journalist was allowed to walk free. His predecessor had also been fired just seven months earlier amidst accusation that policemen murdered two university students.