Honduras: Stockpile of tear gas grenades uncovered-fears of election abuses

Amnesty International has learned that the de facto authorities in Honduras have stock piled 10,000 tear gas cans and other crowd control equipment, triggering fears of an increased risk of excessive and disproportionate use of force by security forces around the presidential elections.

An Amnesty International delegation in Honduras to monitor the human rights situation around the presidential elections on Sunday 29 November received information of the recent official purchase of 10,000 tear gas grenades, 5,000 projectiles for tear gas grenades and a water spray tank, as well as the deployment of several thousands reservists.

Head of Amnesty International’s delegation to Honduras, Javier Zuniga said:

“Since taking power, the de facto authorities have allowed the security forces to use tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to punish demonstrators in Honduras, causing several deaths and serious injuries, and nobody has been held responsible.

“The past misuse of tear gas and other crowd control equipment, together with the lack of guarantees that the purchased equipment will not be used to attack demonstrators and the absence of investigations on past abuses paints an extremely worrying picture of what might happen over the next few days.”

It is not clear how this new equipment will be used or whether the security forces have received appropriate training or put the procedures in place to ensure that security operations in the context of possible demonstrations do not abuse human rights.

In July earlier this year, Amnesty International visited a detention centre in Tegucigalpa and spoke to a number of demonstrators who were arbitrarily arrested and had been beaten and ill-treated. Amnesty International also criticised the fact that human rights activists and journalists critical of the de facto authorities have been receiving increased threats and intimidation.

In a facsimile signed by the First Battalion of Communications, the Honduran Armed Forces requested a local mayor to provide a list of names and phone numbers of activist members of the Resistencia, a movement opposed to the de facto authorities.

Javier Zuniga added:

“There’s an environment of fear and intimidation in Honduras. We have seen an increased level of harassment against those who are seen as opposed to the de facto authorities and officials responsible for the protection of human rights are not doing anything to investigate the incidents or stop them.”

Notes to the Editor:

· The Amnesty International delegation is in Honduras until 4 December. They are meeting with victims of human rights violations, representatives of human rights organisations, journalists, teachers and doctors. Meetings have also been requested with prosecutors, the Army and the Police.
· For more information, please contact Amnesty International UK press office on 020 7033 1552 or 07721 398 984, or in Honduras Josefina Salomon on jsalomon@amnesty.org , M (Honduras) 504 957 77 162.

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