Police 'dispose' of Honduran street kids

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at SPAMtao.ca
Fri Jun 30 02:42:16 MDT 2000

Police 'dispose' of Honduran street kids

Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles Friday
June 30, 2000
The Guardian

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

Macdonald Stainsby
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