Date: Sun, 2 Jul 2000 16:55:44 -0400
Police 'dispose' of Honduran street kids
By Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles, The Guardian, Friday 30 June 2000
More than 300 street children and youths have been murdered in Honduras in the past two-and-a-half years as part of a "social cleansing" programme, according to a new survey published this week.
Calls are being made to the United Nations high commissioner for human rights to press the Honduran government to investigate the killings and punish those responsible.
Members of the police and the security services are involved in many of the killings, according to the report. Similar killings of street children and "undesirables" have occurred in Brazil but until now it was not known how widespread such murders were in Honduras.
It is suggested that police officers and members of the military dispose of the children because they are believed to be responsible for some of the large numbers of petty crimes carried out in cities like Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.
"Shockingly, the statistics for the first five months of this year indicate an increase in murders of children under the age of 15," said the report by Casa Alianza, the group that works with Mexican and Central American children from its base in San Jose, Costa Rica.
"In 1999, 15 children under the age of 15 were murdered. However, as of May 31 this year, 13 children under 15 have been murdered and we fear that the list may not be exhaustive."
Researchers working for the legal offices of Casa Alianza in Honduras documented 302 murders of street children and youths from the beginning of January 1998 until the end of May this year. Of the victims, 55% were under the age of 18 and 93% were male.
Most of the murders go unpunished with the killers listed as "unknown" in 74% of the cases. The majority of the killings took place in the departments of Cortes and Francisco Morazon.
Police or members of the security forces have been proven to be involved in 36 murders. Casa Alianza claimed to have had no response from the minister for public security, Elizabeth Chiaz Sierra, to their requests for action.
Bruce Harris, the British-born executive director of Casa Alianza, said this week: "The Honduran authorities have the information on these murders yet have not been capable of prosecuting those responsible."
Mr Harris called for an investigation to be carried out by Asma Jahangea, the UN special rapporteur on arbitrary and extrajudicial executions. He also wants UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson to intervene and bring world attention to the issue.
Honduras is a signatory to the UN convention on the rights of the child which stipulates under article 19 that member states are obliged to "protect children from all forms of mental and physical violence, injuries or abuse".
There is growing concern about the number of abandoned children now living on the streets in Central America. A UN report on children in Guatemala published earlier this year found that there were between 1,500 and 5,000 street children, mainly living in Guatemala City.
"The main sources of income for these children are robbery, prostitution or begging and it is estimated that as many as 90% of the street children engage in substance abuse, for example inhaling shoe glue or paint thinner," said the report.
Copyright Guardian Media Group plc. 2000