The Honduran Armed Forces are training members of the Honduran Public Order Military Police (PMOP, in Spanish) in human rights. The course in human rights and proper use of force keeps the military police up to date in principal doctrinal principles and moral norms that constitute human beings’ inherent legal rights.
The training started in mid-February 2018 and is scheduled to end in November, when all of the PMOP force’s 4,300 elements complete the course. As of June, more than 1,500 military police officers took part in the training.
“The purpose of this training is to provide the necessary tools and knowledge for PMOP to perform adequately,” Honduran Navy Captain José Domingo Meza, director of Public Relations of the Armed Forces, told Diálogo. “Moral and ethical values such as respect, tolerance, solidarity, honesty, justice, freedom, [and] kindness, are reinforced.”
The courses, conducted through the Human Rights Office of the Honduran Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the support of the Honduran Ministry of Human Rights, are taught in the Public Order Military Police Academy in Tegucigalpa. According to Lieutenant Mario Rivera, spokesman for PMOP, 12 instructors from the Armed Forces and 18 from civil institutions lead the classes.
“Certified instructors from the Honduran Armed Forces’ Human Rights Office and the International Committee of the Red Cross teach the refresher human rights and use of force course,” Lt. Rivera told Diálogo. “They are selected for their extensive experience in this matter.”
Capt. Meza added that classes also count on instructors from the National Committee on the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment, an organization the Honduran government created in 2008. “The interagency support is important because this knowledge cannot be addressed exclusively from a military-agency perspective, but rather according to state policies based on laws, agreements, and international treaties,” the officer said.
Subjects of crucial importance
Each week since February, about 100 military police officers take the 40-hour course. The course includes an introduction to human rights and instruction on the use of force and firearms.
In addition, members study the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, national and international human rights legislation, and international accords on civil, economic, social, and cultural rights. Students are also familiarized with the Honduran Criminal Code, Honduran Constitution, and specific laws for members of the Armed Forces and PMOP.
“All topics are utterly important,” Lt. Rivera said. “However, I believe that the use of force draws the most interest, since our personnel always participate in security missions such as searches, checkpoints, raids, and the execution of arrest warrants, among other things. In each of these operations, military police officers should know how to operate without violating people’s human rights.”
High degree of responsibility
In August, members of the PMOP headquarters in Tegucigalpa, who carry out missions in Honduras’s central and southeastern region, will finish the course. Officers assigned to the Chamalecón headquarters, department of Cortés, whose duties focus in northern and western areas, will begin the course in September. The goal is to train all current and future PMOP members before 2018 ends.
“We are simultaneously training candidates for the Military Police,” Lt. Rivera said. “They are currently taking the basic course to become military police officers, and are also taking [the human rights course].”
For PMOP First Sergeant Jonathan Francisco Girón Inestroza, who took the course at the end of June, the knowledge acquired was very positive. “It’s very important to know how to act during a procedure with a citizen,” he told Diálogo. The military police officer also said he is considering sharing the information with family and friends.
“It was excellent training,” 1st Sgt. Girón said. “Instructors always helped clear doubts and shared classmates’ experiences [as examples in class].”
At the end of the course, students take an exam to demonstrate good assimilation of the knowledge imparted. They also receive a booklet with information on rules of the use of force and firearms, including human rights concepts and foundations.
“It is very important that our military police officers receive this training, because we will be able to serve the Honduran people better with them,” Lt. Rivera said. “PMOP are expected to act in compliance with the law while they serve the community and protect all people against illegal acts with the high degree of responsibility their profession demand,” Capt. Meza concluded.