Honduras's de facto government should refrain from using excessive force against supporters of the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should also refrain from abusing emergency powers to undermine the basic rights of protesters, journalists, and others in Honduras.
Human Rights Watch has received credible reports that police used excessive force - wielding truncheons and firing tear gas and rubber bullets - today to disperse thousands of Zelaya supporters who gathered outside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, where the deposed president has obtained refuge. Since Zelaya returned to Honduras on September 21, the de facto government has imposed a nationwide curfew.
"Given the reports we have received, and the poor track record of the security forces since the coup, we fear that conditions could deteriorate drastically in the coming days," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch and other rights monitors have documented repeated violations by security forces since the coup d'état in June 2009. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a report on August 21 documenting violations under the de facto government that included excessive use of force, arbitrary detention, sexual violence, and attacks on the media, as well as several confirmed deaths and possible "disappearances." The commission also documented the absence of effective legal protections from abuse.
In June, following the coup, the Honduran Congress approved an emergency decree that provides for the temporary suspension of basic rights, including the right to "personal liberty," freedom of association, freedom of movement, and protections against arbitrary detention. International law recognizes that states may temporarily derogate from some of their human rights obligations, but only under exceptional circumstances, including in time of war, public danger, or another emergency that threatens the independence or security of the state.