State of exception in Honduras sees the continued use of the Military Police for Public Order

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: The Military Police for Public Order (PMOP) in Honduras.

The Peace Brigades International-Honduras Project has previously expressed in its report Defending the Land has a Woman’s Name its concern about the level of police violence against human rights defenders and has called for a timeline be set for the elimination of the role of the Military Police for Public Order (PMOP) in public security.

Now, Tegucigalpa-based freelance journalist Jeff Ernst writes in The Guardian that Honduras had appeared set to follow the example of Nicaragua, “whose community-based policing approach was for years hailed for maintaining exceptionally low crime rates and minimal gang presence until the government turned the police into a repressive force against the people amid widespread protests in 2018.”

He adds: “In Honduras, steps were taken to demilitarize public security forces and a community policing model was announced, with the hope being that the measures would increase public trust in an institution that has historically been dogged by corruption and infiltrated by the very same organized crime groups it is supposed to combat.”

But Ernst notes: “The political gains to be had from emulating [President Nayib] Bukele’s hardline policies [in El Salvador] may be too enticing to pass up. Honduras declared [a] state of exception [on December 6, 2022] for 30 days in 162 neighborhoods, some politicians have already called for it to be extended in duration and territory.”

Deutsche Welle explains that the state of exception means that Constitutional guarantees will be suspended until January 6.

PBI-Honduras has previously noted: “We have worked to visibilize the specific violence and risks faced by women defenders of land, territory and the environment to demonstrate the need for a differentiated response by the Honduran State to their protection.”

It has also highlighted: “The National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras explains that in Honduras 70% of the attacks against women defenders the aggressors are state security forces, especially police or the military.”

And PBI-Honduras has recommended: “In compliance with international human rights standards, [Honduras should] abstain from using the Armed Forces for citizen security activities and commit to the definition of a clear timeline to eliminate the PMOP [Military Police for Public Order] as the police force responsible for public security.”

But in October 2022, AFP reported: “Some 200 military police took control Wednesday of a shantytown in the Honduran capital where gang members were forcing residents out of their homes to occupy them, authorities said.”

And in November 2022, VOA News further reported: “Honduras on Sunday sent more than 600 military police officers to its borders with El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua as part of a state of emergency declared against criminal gangs.”

We continue to follow this situation notably since Canada requested at the United Nations in 2015 that the Honduran military police be redefined as a temporary measure, and again in 2020 that Honduras “create a well-defined plan to complete the reform of the police and remove the military from civilian security duties.”

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