Police officers and soldiers stand guard after dispersing supporters of ousted Honduras President Manuel Zelaya outside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa on September 22, 2009.

© 2009 Reuters

The Organization of American States should press the Honduran de facto government to halt the excessive use of force against protesters and to guarantee other fundamental rights, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch has received credible reports that the use of excessive force by Honduran security forces against demonstrators has caused at least one death, and possibly more. Credible sources also report that more than 150 people have been arbitrarily detained. 

"The international community should immediately take steps to prevent further abuses by the Honduran security forces," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. 

The Committee for Families of the Disappeared and Detainees (COFADEH), a respected local nongovernmental organization, reported that 16-year-old José Jacobo Perdomo was killed on the afternoon of September 22, 2009, by police in San Pedro Sula. The group has also received unconfirmed reports of four more deaths caused by police violence today in Tegucigalpa. 

Local rights defenders also reported that more than 150 detainees had been held in the "Chochy Sosa" baseball stadium. Some of the detainees had been arrested during confrontations with security forces on September 22, while others were reportedly detained during police sweeps through several Tegucigalpa neighborhoods early on the morning of September 23. By the afternoon on September 23, some of these detainees had been released, while others were relocated to detention facilities in the capital. The local rights defenders said the detainees were not informed of the grounds on which they were being held in the stadium, nor is it clear what criminal charges, if any, those who continue to be detained may face. 

Human Rights Watch also received credible reports that some protesters have engaged in acts of vandalism and violence directed at security forces. 

"The Honduran police certainly are entitled to detain protesters who engage in violent criminal activity," said Vivanco. "But that does not give them carte blanche to engage in brutality or disregard basic due process rights."