A new report shows 149 people have died at the hands of the Honduran police in the last 23 months, highlighting the urgent need for reform efforts, which are currently being challenged by the Supreme Court.
The report, released on December 1, was compiled by the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras and implicated police officials from commissioners to agents, according to La Prensa. The majority of the victims were aged between 24 and 34 years old, the Observatory found.
The report comes less than a week after the Constitutional Branch of the Honduran Supreme Court declared a police cleanup law unconstitutional.
The law, which went into force June 2012, forced police officers to undergo a series of confidence tests — including lie detector and drugs tests — and allowed for their dismissal if they failed. The court ruled against the law as it did not offer accused officers the recourse to appeal. However, as the decision was not unanimous, the case will now pass to the full Supreme Court.
Julieta Castellanos, the president of the National Autonomous University, presented the report and used the release to call on the court to reverse the decision. “We want those who oppose the cleanup law to explain to us what right they have to make these decisions while the country’s citizens are defenseless,” she said.
Four police officers were charged with the murder of Castellanos’ son and a friend in October 2011.
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The Constitutional Branch’s ruling dismissing the cleanup law was based on valid concerns, especially given allegations that the law was being used by high-ranking police chiefs to remove political rivals and personal enemies rather than removing corrupt elements in earnest.
However, the new report once again underscores the dire state of the Honduran police force — widely renowned as one of the most corrupt police forces in the region and has deep ties to organized crime — and the urgency with which reform measures should be undertaken. If the full Supreme Court upholds the ruling against the cleanup law, it is uncertain how the state would proceed with any future purge measures.
For now, President Porfirio Lobo has declared that reforms will continue despite the ruling, calling the institution an “enemy” of Honduras, reported La Tribuna.