US Limits Honduras Police Aid Over Death Squad Claims

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The US Department of State has announced that it will suspend aid to Honduran police units under the direct command of the country’s new national police chief while diplomatic officials look into claims that he ran a death squad in the early 2000s.

Citing a State Department report not yet released to the public, the Associated Press reported that the US has established a working group to investigate allegations that Honduran National Police Chief Juan Carlos Bonilla headed a death squad from at least 1998 to 2002, and oversaw several unlawful killings. The US is also restricting its aid to police in the country, and until further notice will only provide funds to Honduran personnel “who receive training, guidance, and advice directly from U.S. law enforcement and are not under Bonilla’s direct supervision.”

This decision comes amidst increasing pressure from human rights advocates and academics, who have raised concerns about the human rights record of the Honduran security forces.

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The memo reportedly takes care to point out that, despite these allegations, Honduras meets the human rights requirements to receive security aid. Thus, the State Department is not obligated to withhold a percentage of overall aid to the country, as was the case with Mexico in September 2010, when 15 percent of security aid was held back due to human rights concerns.

The new funding guidelines will likely not apply to a controversial proposed law enforcement unit known as the “Tigres,” as the elite unit will fall under the jurisdiction of both the Defense Department and Security Ministry. As InSight Crime has noted, the unit has been criticized as blurring the line between domestic policing and military operations, which could lead to further abuses.

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