Honduras is keeping up its human rights and international humanitarian law training. The Honduran Ministry of National Defense’s (SEDENA) Human Rights Directorate, with the support of the Human Rights Initiative (HRI) of U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) Human Rights Office, held the Honduran Human Rights Initiative Seminar, August 9-11, 2022, in Tegucigalpa.
Representatives of the Honduran Armed Forces along with international guests from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Peru participated in the event. The Costa Rican Center for Human Rights Studies, Training and Analysis; the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies; the International Committee of the Red Cross in Mexico; and SOUTHCOM’s Women, Peace, and Security Program (WPS) shared their experiences on the subject.
“This new State administration, presided over by President and Commander General of the Armed Forces Xiomara Castro, has been committed from day one to strengthening the professionalization of our Armed Forces, committing ourselves to creating spaces for military training that are based on the respect and protection of human rights, and at the same time guaranteeing full confidence and ethical actions for the citizenry,” Honduran Secretary of State in the Office of National Defense José Manuel Zelaya Rosales said as he welcomed attendees. “For SEDENA and the Honduran Armed Forces, it is an honor to open this meeting within the framework of SOUTHCOM’s HRI, which seeks to develop an institutional culture of respect for democratic values, human rights, and international humanitarian law.”
For her part, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Laura F. Dogu said that “an Armed Forces’ mission that does not protect individuals’ human rights is not a successful mission, but the Honduran Armed Forces understand this because between 1995 and 1997 it helped with the development of the HRI consensus document… Today, Honduras is an active member of this initiative, which demonstrates its commitment to the practice of human rights and the education of its Armed Forces.”
Honduras joined the HRI in 2005 and is one of 11 countries that make up the HRI along with Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.
Since then, the Honduran Armed Forces have carried out a series of activities on human rights, international humanitarian law, and gender equality, among others. Currently, each Force has its own Human Rights and Gender Equity Department and their respective sections at the unit level, as well as bases and study centers to increase knowledge on the subject. As of July 2022, more than 19,298 service members have received training on the subject.
Human rights and gender integration
The role of the armed forces in the field of human rights, the use of force, human rights, and climate change; the conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the light of international humanitarian law; preventing and addressing military sexual harassment, and the WPS Program were among the topics of the seminar.
The seminar also addressed the experiences of the Colombian Military Forces with its human rights policy, of the Dominican Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Graduate School, and of the Peruvian Armed Forces’ Center for International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.
“For us it’s always been very important to train in human rights; it’s essential that all our personnel understand and put into practice the knowledge in this area to meet national and international standards of human rights and international humanitarian law,” said Colonel Mario Israel Martínez López, Honduran Armed Forces’ Human Rights director. “One of the most important challenges in human rights is for each member to understand, as well as all societies worldwide, that the highest purpose of the State is to ensure and respect human dignity.”
Colonel Rita María Medina Sevilla, Honduran Armed Forces Military Health director, spoke about the integration of women in her country’s Armed Forces. “The importance lies in equity, equal opportunities, and the entrance of women in fields that were previously meant only for men. This progress in gender equality is reflected in the fact that we currently have women in the armed forces, in unit commands, in the services in higher ranks, and we expect the promotion of a woman in the rank of general.”
The attendees pledged to continue trainings on human rights and gender integration as they received certificates for their participation.