Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Fitzpatrick Urges Action on Justice and Human Rights in Honduras
Deputy Assistant Secretary Fitzpatrick, Ambassador Kubiske, and other U.S. officials talked with journalists and press freedom NGO C-Libre, and held roundtables on “Civil Rights, Impunity and Corruption” with representatives from human rights and justice organizations including the LGBT community, people with disabilities, and other groups. She discussed cooperation in rights and justice with Honduran authorities including Secretary _of Justice and Human Rights Ana Pineda, _ Secretary of SecurityPompeyo Bonilla, and Director of the Directorate for the Investigation and Evaluation of the Police Career (DIECP) Oscar Arita, and members of the Special Victims Task Force. Deputy Assistant Secretary Fitzpatrick toured a U.S. government funded outreach center in San Martin, where volunteers train underprivileged youth from surrounding neighborhoods in computer and job skills, and where young people can safely get together, to reduce the risk of their involvement with criminal groups. Representatives of activist movement Youth Against Violence shared their perspectives on energizing young people to improve security in Honduras.
Press Statement by Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Fitzpatrick
First let me express my deepest condolences to the people of Honduras and particularly to the family and loved ones of the victims of the terrible prison fire at the Granja Penal in Comayagua. While the cause of the fire has been classified as accidental, this event has focused attention on inadequate safety practices within the Honduran prison system. The United States urges swift action in devising and enacting necessary reforms to ensure the safety, health, and human rights of Honduran prisoners. President Lobo’s recent creation of the Inter-institutional Commission for the Care and Prevention of the Country’s Penitentiary System is a positive development that suggests the government is following through on its commitment for a swift response to the tragic prison fire and will look to expedite reforms to prevent future tragedies.
My visit to Honduras this week focused on a wide range of challenges facing your nation in the area of human rights. I am following up on the visit in December 2011 of Under Secretary of State Maria Otero. In addition to meeting and talking with senior government officials and legislators, I had the opportunity to meet with many representatives of civil society. As I heard their concerns, it became clear to me that human rights are not an abstract. Human rights are universal, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and they apply to all people. It is not an abstract concept, but rather it is about individual people and about respect for the dignity of the human person. It is about the right of journalists to report on important issues without fear of intimidation or physical harm to themselves or their families. It is about the rights of members of our most vulnerable groups to participate fully in the economic and political life of the country. It is about a person of sexual diversity being able to live without fear of threats and violence. It is about citizens having the ability to trust in the professionalism and ethics of their law enforcement institutions. Finally, it is about the need for all citizens to have confidence that those who perpetrate murder, threats, and violence will be held accountable no matter who they are.
This is my first visit to Honduras, but already I am struck by the enormity and complexity of the challenges facing the Honduran people and the Honduran government as it seeks to protect the security and human rights of all Hondurans. The United States is a strongly supporting these efforts and recognizes that Honduras has taken important steps to improve human rights conditions and promote the rule of law. However, much more must be done, as the violence in the Bajo Aguan and the harassment and killings of journalists, opposition figures and members of the LGBT community continue. The Government of Honduras has welcomed international assistance to strengthen its investigative capabilities, and in my meetings with members of civil society, I have emphasized that we will continue to support Honduras’ important efforts.
In speaking with government officials, civil society, and members of vulnerable groups, I also stressed the need to focus on practical solutions to end impunity, to foster accountability and transparency in government, to affect credible investigations into all serious human rights abuses, and to improve respect for human rights.
The Honduran government cannot solve these challenges alone. All Honduran citizens must help ensure that their country is on the right path, by demanding respect human rights while protecting citizens’ security, and by holding their government accountable for the timely investigation and prosecution of crimes and alleged human rights violations. The citizens of Honduras and their government must forge a strong collaboration to overcome these and other challenges that Honduras faces today.