Originally published on the Seattle International Foundation’s blog on June 6, 2012 –
On May 17th, The U.S. Department of State released its 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The reports highlight widespread corruption and violence throughout Latin America, and include statistics on the frightening levels of impunity and sexual and gender based violence in Central America. These trends are similarly reflected in the newly released Amnesty International Report 2012, which documents the state of human rights in 155 countries and territories in 2011.
The following findings from these reports underline the current state of human rights in the region, particularly El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
The principal human rights abuses in El Salvador are related to widespread corruption, particularly in the judicial system and national security forces, resulting in high levels of impunity. These abuses are defined by cases of isolated unlawful killings by security forces; lengthy pretrial detention; harsh, overcrowded, and dangerously substandard prison conditions; child abuse and child prostitution; trafficking in persons; violence and discrimination against sexual minorities; child labor; and inadequate enforcement of labor laws.
Domestic violence and discrimination against women were also addressed as critical issues in the region. ISDEMU in El Salvador reported providing medical and psychological assistance to over five thousand individuals for domestic violence, child abuse, sexual harassment, commercial sexual exploitation, and human trafficking. The Office of the Attorney General of El Salvador reported over two thousand similar cases of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of women by police officials.
The principal human rights-related problems in Guatemala included widespread institutional corruption; police involvement in serious crimes, including unlawful killings, drug trafficking, and extortion; and widespread societal violence, including violence against women and numerous killings, many related to drug trafficking.
The 2008 Law against Femicide and Other Forms of Violence against Women seems to have had little impact on reducing violence against women and holding accountable those responsible. 631 femicides, 3922 rapes, and nearly 60,000 calls to hotlines assisting female victims of violence were reported in Guatemala in 2011.
Guatemala’s judicial system continues to fail to ensure full and timely investigation and fair trials. Judicial sector officials, witnesses, and civil society representatives are rarely protected from intimidation. Other critical issues include: threats and intimidation against, and killings of, journalists and trade unionists; trafficking in persons; discrimination against and lack of opportunities for indigenous communities; and ineffective enforcement of labor and child labor laws.
In Honduras, most of the human rights abuses in 2011 were connected to the nation’s gang and drug-cartel violence, contributing to a rising homicide rate of 82 murders here 100,000 inhabitants, making it the most dangerous country on the planet. The National Criminal Investigation Division reported over 6000 homicides, of which nearly 500 were killings of women.
The Honduran government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to analyze the events leading up to and during the 2009 coup d’état, and took important steps to strengthen respect for human rights and promote national reconciliation, as well as to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses. However, corruption and impunity were serious problems that impeded this process and by the end of the year, no one had been brought to justice or held accountable for these human rights violations.
If you are a funder that is interested in connecting with peers on issues related to funding in Latin America, please contact IHRFG at info [at] ihrfg [dot] org. IHRFG’s Latin America Funders Working Group is a subgroup of IHRFG members that share news, resources, and information about funding in this region.