Honduran FlagNGO Law Monitor: Honduras

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated 15 August 2015

Update: CSOs report that new fiscal and legislative measures have been announced for the Act to Promote Development NGOs (NGO-Ds). The measures are part of an executive order of the Secretary of Human Rights, Justice, Governance and Decentralization (ACUERDO No. 2196-A-2013), which provide that all civil associations that do not register their boards and provide financial statements will be shut down. 4,000 civil associations are expected to be shut down as a result of the measures.

ICNL is currently drafting edits to this NGO Law Monitor report to reflect the latest developments in civil society law in Honduras. An updated report is forthcoming in January 2016.


Civil society in Honduras has its roots in church groups and grassroots organizations (labor and peasant-based) that were established in the 1950s, but did not begin to flourish until the 1980s and 1990s when the concept of civil society in Honduras became part of popular social discourse.  

Civil society has made progress, despite a tradition of public indifference and the refusal of some in government to allow civil society to contribute to public policy discussions. CSOs have managed to increase the space for civic engagement with government at both the executive and legislative levels.  After Hurricane Mitch in 1998, CSOs grew in number, increased their activities, and began to coordinate their efforts because international funding was plentiful and the need was great. The government also could not handle relief and reconstruction on its own.  Today there are many laws that provide for civil society participation in governmental functions, either as consultants, implementers, or social service providers.

In 2009, Honduras experienced a political crisis that sprang from a dispute over plans to amend the Constitution of Honduras, which culminated in the forcible removal and exile of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya by the Honduran military. In November 2009, presidential elections were held, and Porfirio Lobo was sworn in on January 27, 2010. Honduras has remained deeply divided following the 2009/2010 crisis and sharp divisions have continued under Mr. Juan Orlando Hernández, who was sworn in as pesident in January 2014.

During Porfirio Lobo's tenure as president, the government faced significant opposition from a segment of civil society. The Lobo government believed some opposition groups were being funded by foreign elements hostile to the Lobo administration. As a result, the government promoted legislation that would restrict the legal space for civil society. CSOs alleged before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other international bodies that the Government routinely violates their human rights, including the right to peaceful assembly.

That said, in 2011, Honduras approved the Special Law for Non-Governmental Development Organizations (NGO-Ds) by Legislative Decree No. 32-2011 of June 27, 2011. This law was discussed with leading national NGO-D networks, especially with the Federation of Private Organizations of Honduras (FOPRIDEH). This law conforms closely to international standards related to freedom of association and exercise of rights by civil organizations. On June 4, 2013, Executive Accord 65-2013 was published in the official journal “La Gaceta” and contains the Regulations of the NGO-D Law. It is essential to develop tools that facilitate understanding and implementation of this law, as both CSOs and NGOs may qualify to apply for legal status as NGO-Ds based on the way the rights and obligations are set in the law and its regulations.

The prevailing policy for regulating civil society appears to be focused on monitoring civil society's actions, with relatively few examples of coordination. Improving on this situation remains a key component of civil society law and policy reform efforts. The new administration headed by President Juan Orlando Hernandez that assumed power in January 2014 made several management changes to the Unit for Registering and Monitoring Civil Associations (URSAC) purportedly in an attempt to modernize it. However, the newpolicies suggest the new administration has the same tendencies of past administrations not to create opportunities for coordination and support of CSOs, especially those in the poorer and isolated interior parts of the country.

In addition, the new administration has burdened CSOs by requiring them to purchase operating permits even for humanitarian aid, the sale of any service, and the defense of rights. This has caused the voluntary (or, in most cases, forced) closure of a number of CSOs that could not obtain the operating permits. Also, still in force are measures that will lead to the shutting down of nearly 4,000 CSOs that do not meet the requirements of the new Act to Promote Development NGOs (NGO-Ds). These factors negatively affect the enabling environment for the free operation of civil society in Honduras.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Foundations and Associations
Registration Body Secretary of State and Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (http://sdhjgd.gob.hn)
Approximate Number 9,865
Barriers to Entry A lack of legal framework creates a complicated web of laws that makes registration difficult
Barriers to Activities The current legal framework gives the government a lot of power and discretion to supervise the activities of organizations
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy Recent political climate has narrowed civil liberties
Barriers to International Contact None
Barriers to Resources Sustainability is a serious problem for many organizations due to lack of resources
Barriers to Assembly Excessive restrictions on places where assemblies can be held and excessive penalties for violations of assembly regulations.

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Key Indicators

Population 8,598,561 (2013 est.)
Capital Tegucigalpa
Type of Government Democratic Constitutional Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 69.14 years
Female: 72.56 years (2013 est.)
Literacy Rate Male: 85.3%
Female: 84.9% (2011 est.)
Religious Groups Roman Catholic: 97%; Protestant: 3%
Ethnic Groups Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and European): 90%; Amerindian: 7%; black: 2%; white: 1%
GDP per capita 4,800 (2011 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2011.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale 
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 129 (2014) 1 – 187
World Bank Rule of Law Index 11 (2012) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 33 (2012) 100 – 0
Transparency International 2014 126 (2015) 1 – 178
Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2015 Status: Partly Free
Political Rights: 4
Civil Liberties: 4 (2015)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 2015
76 (2015) 178 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1997
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 2005
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 1981
Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention No  --
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 2002
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1983
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women No  --
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) Yes 2005
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2008
Regional Treaties    
American Convention on Human Rights Yes 1977
Additional Protocol to the Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights "Protocol of San Salvador" No  --

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The Constitution of the Republic of Honduras establishes, among other things, citizens’ freedom of association and inalienable right to assemble (so long as those rights do not contravene the “public order and good custom”).  It confers to the President of the Republic the authority to grant juridical personality to “civil associations, in conformity with the law.” The relevant Constitutional provisions include:

  • Participatory Democracy (Article 5): The government must be based on the principle of participatory democracy and national integration, which implies participation of all political sectors in the public service, in order to ensure and strengthen the progress of Honduras based on the political stability and in national conciliation.

    In order to strengthen and operate the participatory democracy there are mechanisms of consultation of citizens in referenda and plebiscite for matters of vital importance in national life. A special law approved by two thirds of the totality of the members of the National Congress, determine the procedures, requirements and other aspects needed for the exercise of the popular consultations. The referendum will convene on an ordinary law or a constitutional rule or its reform adopted for its ratification or disapproval by the citizenship. The plebiscite will convene requesting of citizens a pronouncement on constitutional, legislative or administrative, on which the Authorities Constituted have not taken any prior decision.

    On the initiative of at least ten (10) Members of the National Congress, the President of the Republic in Council resolution of Secretaries of State or 6 percent (6%) of citizens, entered in the National Electoral Census, empowered to exercise their right to vote, through their signatures and thumbprints duly noted by the Rostrum Supreme Electoral Council, the National Congress hear and discuss such requests, and if the approved with the affirmative vote of the two thirds of the totality of its members; adopt a Decree that will determine the ends of the consultation, ordering the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, to convene, organizing and directing the consultations to the citizens identified in the preceding paragraphs.

    The exercise of the vote in the consultations citizens is mandatory. It will not be subject to referendum or plebiscite projects aimed at reforming the article 374 of the Constitution. It also may not be used these consultations on matters relating to tax matters, public credit, amnesties, national currency, budgets, treaties and conventions and social achievements. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal reports in a period of no more than ten (10) days to the Congress Nacionial the results of these consultations. The result of the consultations citizens will have obligatory compliance:

    (A) If involving at least the fifty-one percent (51%) of citizens registered in the National Voter at the time to be practiced the consultation; and

    (B) If the affirmative vote majority of valid votes.If the result of the vote is negative, the consultation on the same themes may not take place in the next period of the Government of the Republic. The National Congress orders the entry into force of the rules only as a result of the consultation through constitutional procedure of validity of the law. The presidential veto is not applicable in cases of consultation through referendum or plebiscite. Accordingly, the President of the Republic orders the enactment of the rules adopted.
  • Principle of Freedom (Article 61): The Constitution guarantees to Hondurans and foreigners resident in the country, the right to the sanctity of life, to the individual security, to freedom, equality before the law and property.
  • The principle of Free Speech (Article 72 and 74): The issuance of thought is free by any means of disseminating, without prior censorship. They are responsible to the law not to abuse this right and by means direct or indirect restrict or prevent the communication and circulation of ideas and opinions.... The right of issuing thought by indirect methods or means may not be restricted, such as the abuse of official controls or individuals of the material used for printing of newspapers; of the frequencies or belongings or apparatus used to disseminate information.
  • Principle of Freedom of Association and Assembly (Article 78, 79, 302): Freedoms of association and assembly are guaranteed provided that they are not contrary to public order and to the morality....Everyone has the right to meet with others, peacefully and unarmed, in public demonstration or assembly, in connection with their common interests of any kind, without the need to notice or special permit.... For the sole purpose of ensuring the improvement and development of communities, citizens have the right to freedom of association in Sponsorship, to establish Federations and confederations.
  • Right of Petition (Article 80): Any person or persons' association has the right to submit requests to the authorities either on the grounds of particular interest or general and to obtain a prompt response in the legal limit.
  • Legal Defense (Article 82): The right of defense is inviolable. The inhabitants of the Republic have free access to the courts to exercise their stock in the form that brought the laws.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Honduras does not have a specific law governing every aspect of civil society. Instead, the laws and regulations governing CSOs are scattered throughout Honduran jurisprudence.

The key laws affecting CSOs in Honduras include:
The Civil Code includes in its list of judicial persons “associations and foundations of public interest, recognized by the law.” The Code also notes that legal personality begins in the instant in which the association is validly established, and that the civil capacity of associations is regulated by their statutes, subject to approval by the Executive Government.  

The Administrative Procedures Code grants to the Ministry of Governance and Justice the authority “to grant judicial personality to civil and political associations and foundations of public interest recognized by the law, and to approve their statutes or regulations of the institution.”  The procedure adopted by the Ministry of Governance and Justice is relatively simple, requiring the submission of basic documents.

Special Promotion Law for Non-Governmental Development Organizations (the “NGO–D Law”). In July 2011, President Lobo signed the Special Promotion Law for Non-Governmental Development Organizations (the “NGO-D Law”). CSOs hope that the NGO-D Law will improve the operating environment for civil society in Honduras. Among the more favorable provisions:

  • Organizations applying for legal personality may only be denied registration if they fail to comply with clearly defined requirements that largely conform to international best practices. This change imposes limits on the discretion of Ministry officials, who had previously denied legal personality to organizations such as those working with HIV-positive individuals.
  • CSO sustainability is promoted by unambiguous provisions authorizing organizations to engage in economic activities, including the sale of goods and services.
  • CSOs will be regulated by one clearly drafted framework law rather than an unwieldy collection of codes and highly discretionary laws that confused organizations, leading to both poor compliance and inconsistent oversight.
  • Standards for internal governance, transparency and avoidance of conflicts of interest crafted by CSOs will enhance the legitimacy of the sector.
  • A new Liaison Commission will create a formal mechanism for CSO-Government collaboration.

Executive Accord 65-2013, which contains the Regulations of the Law on Non-Governmental Development Organizations (NGO). In Article 245, President has the power to "grant legal status to civil associations in accordance with the law."

Law to Regulate Private Development Organizations dedicated to Financial Activities.  
This law regulates the activities of the financial private development organizations (OPDs in Spanish) that provide credit loans.  It governs what these organizations can and cannot do with regard to internal governance, investment, and other operational activities.  The law also establishes that OPDs must be independently audited on an annual basis and registered with the National Banking and Insurance Commission (Comisión Nacional de Banca y Seguro). Organizations seeking OPD status must be solely dedicated to financial development activities.

The Law of the National Convergence Forum Created a national space for dialogue between State representatives and “authorized representatives” of civil society.

Presidential Decree CPSC created the Civil Society Participation Commission, and defines its membership and mission.

Other Laws affecting CSOs:
The Labor Code contains regulations on forming and managing workers’ unions and management unions.

The Law for State Modernization created the Presidential Commission for the Modernization of the State, comprised of representatives from business guilds, workers’ confederations, and other civil society organizations.

Law for the Social Sector of the Economy and Law of Cooperatives
Although the latter has partly replaced the former, both define what cooperatives and other associative businesses can work on.

The Law of the Consumer provides a definition for consumer organizations.

The Law of Municipalities and its Regulations defines the local councils as the natural organizational structure at the municipal level, and establishes how they are organized, function, and registered. It also provides for the possible association of municipalities.

Law Creating the Consultative Committee to Implement the Poverty Reduction Strategy 

Laws that give consultative or executive roles to CSOs:
The Law of the Public Ministry, and Regulation of the Citizen Council creates the Citizen Council, made up on civil society organizations, to consult with and support the Public Ministry.

The Law against Domestic Violence anticipates government and civil society cooperation in implementing this law.  It also calls for the creation of the Inter-institutional Commission to follow up on the law’s implementation.

The Organic Law of the Human Rights Commission, and its Regulations establishes the possibility of the Commission’s signing agreements with CSOs to do joint projects.

The Organic law of the Police institutionalizes civil society’s participation through the National Council on Domestic Security (Consejo Nacional de Seguridad Interior (CONASIN))

The Law Creating the Honduran Institute of Childhood and the Family creates a Consultative Council that has representatives from guilds and professional associations, and CSOs that work with children, adolescents, and families.

The Law Creating the National Institute of the Woman creates a Council of Directors comprised of civil society representatives from several ethnic organizations, and among others, the Association of Peasant Women.

The Equal Opportunity for Women Law dedicates various articles to government and civil society’s joint responsibility when it comes to ensuring equal opportunities in jobs and social security, and equal opportunities in participation and decision-making systems in the power structure. Article 79 establishes the duty of the State to incorporate women’s organizations in spaces for State, municipal, and community participation. Article 80 makes civil society responsible for promoting equal participation of women in the decision-making processes of community groups, non-governmental organizations, unions, cooperatives, professional and other guilds, until the Boards of Directors have equal participation.

The Law of Nomination of Justices to the Supreme Court anticipates the participation of civil society delegates on the Supreme Court Justice Nominating Board.

Other laws have called for the creation of democratic institutions to incorporate civil society. CSOs would participate in ways like electing members or help manage the entity.  This is the case with the Public Ministry, National Human Rights Commission, and the Offices of the Attorney General for Women, Ethnic Groups, Childhood, Consumers, Human Rights, and Environment.

In addition, the Act Strengthening Income, Social Equity and Rationalization of Public Expenditure (Decree 17-2010) and Tax Equity Law (Decree 51-2003) affect CSOs (see the"Public Benefit Status" section below in this report for more details).

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

Civil associations expected the government to recognize tax benefits of resources of international cooperation. However, in practice the opposite happened. In 2015, the government's tax treatment of civil associations is still the same as if civil associations were for-profit companies. Thus, CSOs are charged fees for sales, income, and operating permits with no tax benefits. It remains unclear if initiatves to recognize tax benefits to civil associations will come into force.

The Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations for the Development of Honduras (FOPRIDEH), is leading the CSO commission negotiating with the Government on regulations to implement the new Honduran Development NGO Draft Law (NGO-D Law). FOPRIDEH is also participating in commissions working on several other effective or proposed laws affecting CSOs in the country. The NGO-D Law, which was passed in March 2011 and published in June, required that implementing regulations be finalized by mid-January 2012. After intense negotiations to remove a number of proposed restrictive provisions, the draft regulations currently await final approval. It is unclear, however, how long it may take to publish the regulations, as Honduras has faced multiple crises, including a prison fire in 2012 that killed close to 400 people, turnover in over half a dozen Cabinet positions, and routine attacks on CSOs in the press by senior government officials.

It appears the legal environment for civil society remains unpredictable, and the need for constant monitoring for threats to the sector remains critical. There was a three month delay in President Lobo signing the NGO-D Law – far in excess of the time frame for Presidential action on congressionally passed legislation according to Honduran law. During the summer and early fall 2011, several other laws affecting CSOs were passed or introduced, and, as with the NGO-D Law, proper legislative procedure was not followed. Thus, while the NGO-D Law requires that the Government collaborate with civil society in drafting regulations to implement the law within six months of its effective date, it is not certain that these requirements will be honored. Two laws affecting CSOs during this time include:

  • The Framework Law on Social Public Policies (the “Social Policy Law”). Congress reportedly passed this law in April 2011, however, the Law has not been published, and according to most CSOs, President Lobo has not signed it.
  • The Law on Popular Security. Congress passed this new tax law in summer 2011, which imposes a new 0.3% surcharge on transactions conducted through financial institutions, with limited exemptions (e.g., low-dollar transactions; remittances; transactions by individuals who maintain small personal bank accounts; etc.). Most CSOs, along with other types of legal entities, are subject to the surcharge. Only humanitarian NGO-Ds will be exempt. 

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

Honduran laws make reference to various forms of organizations:  Private Development Organizations (OPDs in Spanish), Non-Profit Organizations (OSFLs in Spanish), Nongovernmental Organizations (ONGs and ONGDs – development ONGs), Civil Associations, and most recently, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). [For purposes of this report, the term "civil society organization" or "CSO" is intended to refer to all previously listed forms and not more narrowly to the organizational form defined as a CSO.]

However, the Civil Code (Articles 56 and 58) only recognizes as legal persons two forms of organizations, that is, associations and foundations. For registration purposes, the government includes within the concept of civil association "any form of association, institution, organization or foundation whose grant or cancellation of legal personality belongs to the President of the Republic itself or through the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Interior and Justice." (Regulations of the Registry and Tracking Unit of Civil Associations Art. 6; Ministerial Decree No. PCM-024-2002. Government Gazette, 5/9/2003) 

In order to gain simple legal status, an organization must present an application, power of attorney, articles of incorporation, bylaws, copies of the board members’ identity cards, and a 10-lempira stamp to the authorities. In most cases, the application is made to the Ministry of Interior and Justice.

Public Benefit Status

Honduran laws do not make a clear distinction between mutual benefit organizations and public benefit organizations.

The Tax Law, which was reformed in December 2013, eliminated sales tax exemptions for CSOs. However, custom tax exemptions are allowed for not-for-profit organizations dedicated to education, scientific research, health issues, housing, humanitarian aid and employment generation.  Ultimately, exemptions are granted at the discretion of the Executive Director of the Tax authority.

Due to the national taxation framework regulations, CSOs must pay tax on all their activities and services as if they were businesses. The legal framework consists mainly of the Act Strengthening Income, Social Equity and Rationalization of Public Expenditure (Decree 17-2010) and Tax Equity Law (Decree 51-2003). The Federation of Private Organizations of Honduras (FOPRIDEH) has begun a dialogue with the government on the national taxation framework in order to encourage the government to recognize that CSOs do not pursue commercial purposes and therefore should be treated differently in the tax framework.

Barriers to Entry

Honduran CSOs have historically operated without the benefit of a “framework” law – i.e., a law that provides the basic conditions for establishing a CSO as a legal person and regulating its operations.  As a result, the Ministry of Governance and Justice exercises unfettered authority over the granting of legal personality to Honduran CSOs. Consequent abuses, including a 7-year lag between a CSO’s application and the government’s grant of legal personality, are not uncommon.  

Barriers to Operational Activity

Honduran law fails to set forth clear reporting requirements – leaving CSOs vulnerable to multiple and ad-hoc requests for information from various government entities and/or to charges of a lack of transparency by the public. In addition, in 2013, the Minister of Interior and Population threatened CSOs with cancellation for the failure to present financial statements on an annual basis. Through the Unit for Registering and Monitoring Civil Associations (URSAC), which was established in 2002 under Executive Decree No. PCM-024-2004, the government imposes financial penalties for the failure to file and document activities and has proceeded to cancel the legal personality of several CSOs.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

CSOs have reported a significant deterioration in the human rights situation in Honduras since the expulsion of President Jose Manuel "Mel" Zelaya Rosales’s from Honduras in 2009. International human rights groups have accused Honduran authorities of using excessive force against protesters and harassing human rights defenders. The de facto regime used troops to shut down dissenting media outlets and imposed curfews to prevent anti-coup protestors from forming large groups to voice their opposition.

In addition, the de facto regime issued a decree on September 27, 2009 suspending most civil liberties and invoking a state of emergency, and the de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, issued an executive order giving the executive the right to close any media service it deemed a threat to national security or public order, without a court order.  As a result, an opposition radio and TV station were immediately closed. The decree and executive order were unpopular with civil society groups and the Honduran public.  On October 19, 2009 the de facto regime published a decree abrogating its earlier suspension of civil liberties.  The two media outlets were reopened.

Barriers to International Contact

There are no barriers to international contact.  However, see the “barriers to resources” section below.  

Barriers to Resources

Sustainability is a major issue for Honduran CSOs.  Their survival depends to a large extent on foreign funding that is steadily decreasing; the scarcity of available funds is a problem for the entire sector.  As a result, CSOs have been forced to seek other avenues of support.  That said, there are no significant legal barriers to resources.

Barriers to Assembly

The Constitution of Honduras (Decree 131, January 11, 1982) guarantees the right to freedom of assembly in two articles:

Article 78: The freedoms of association and assembly are guaranteed provided they are not contrary to public order and morality.

Article 79: Everyone has the right to meet with others peacefully and unarmed, in a public meeting or an informal gathering, in connection with their common interest of any nature, without notice or special permission.

Outdoor gatherings that are political in nature may be subject to a special permit system for the sole purpose of ensuring public order.

Article 15 also states that “the State of Honduras endorses the principles and practices of international law,” and Article 16 states that “once international agreements are approved they are part of the domestic law.” Moreover, Article 18 of the Constitution provides that “in Honduras if conflict arises between the law and a treaty, the treaty prevails.” Thus, Honduran law guarantees freedom of assembly in as broad terms as Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

There is no specific legislation regulating the right of assembly itself, but there are relevant provisions in the following Acts:

  • Law on Police and Social Affairs;
  • Municipalities Act;
  • Traffic Act; and
  • Electoral and Political Organizations Act.
Legal barriers to the freedom of assembly include the following:

Advance Notification

A notification before holding an assembly in a public place is required 72 hours in advance.

The notification must be submitted to local governments to enable authorities to prepare for traffic and the use of the public space. The notification must include the name of the institution or group of persons calling the meeting, the organizers that support implementation of the meeting, and a declaration to comply with the law regarding the use of no weapons, no rioting or disrupting the free movement of citizens.

The organizer must reveal the names of the participants in the assembly.
Despite the advance notification requirements, spontaneous assemblies are allowed based on Article 79 of the Constitution.

Time, Place and Manner Restrictions
Article 150 of the Electoral Act states that political meetings: “4) cannot be within two hundred (200) meters of bridges, intersections of roads, places of worship, fire stations, Red Cross, hospitals, police departments and schools. Those who contravene the provisions of the first paragraph of this article shall be punished by a fine of four (4) to ten (10) times the minimum wage."

There are also restrictions on the use of loud speakers near hospitals, schools and churches.

Grounds for Dispersal
According to Article 51 of the Law on Police and Social Affairs:
The police may disperse protest groups in roads, bridges, buildings and facilities affecting public services where they prevent the free movement or access or to counteract public order, morality and decency and damage public and private property.

Article 52 goes on to state:
In the event that the public peace is jeopardized or public safety with weapons or other means of violent action, or free transit is hindered, the police may dissolve the assembly or demonstration and remove obstacles.

Article 60 underscores that the exercise of assembly and public demonstration “should be prohibited when it will affect the free movement and rights of others.”

Excessive Penalties
The Penal Code, Article 331 states that “convening any unlawful assembly or demonstration” is “punishable by imprisonment of two (2) to four (4) years and a fine of thirty-thousand to sixty thousand lempiras (approx. $1500 to $3000).

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UN Universal Periodic Review Reports

November 2010 and May 2015

Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs


USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes

Not available

U.S. State Department 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Honduras
2010 Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports: Honduras
Fragile States Index Reports Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 2014
IMF Country Reports Honduras and the IMF
International Commission of Jurists Not available
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library


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News and Additional Resources

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

Civil Society In Process of Dialogue on Corruption (August 2015)
Political parties, businessmen, civil society organizations and other sectors are participating in a dialogue convened by the government in order to discuss the situation of corruption and impunity in the country. The first day of the process was led by the facilitator of the Organization of American States for dialogue, Chilean John Biehl, and included the establishment of work schedule, as well as meetings with politicians and other powerful voices in society.

Deputies Approve Motion Against NGOs (January 2015) (Spanish)
With an overwhelming majority, the President of the Commission on Human Rights urged the Public Ministry (MP) to investigat and NGO called the"Association of Hondurans for Peace and Democracy ", which promoted a "hate campaign" against several deputies. The NGO had placed several ads on TV, which invited people to call on the deputies and hold them accountable.

Government Cancels Legal Status of NGOs (July 2014) (Spanish)
The government of Honduras canceled the legal status of more than 5,000 NGOs that did not provide annual reports of their financial statements.

President Orders Restructing of URSAC (July 2014) (Spanish)
President Juan Orlando Hernandez ordered the review and restructuring of the Unit for Registering and Monitoring Civil Associations (URSAC) to -- in his view -- ensure proper registration and control of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

More than 6,000 NGOs Canceled in Honduras (July 2013)
The government canceled more than 6,200 non-governmental organizations, said the Minister of Interior and Population, Africo Madrid. This includes different associations, such as water boards, churches and other organizations that were suspected of “operating illegally.”

Honduran Civil Society on the Move (April 2013)
On March 6 the “March for Dignity and Sovereignty, Step by Step” reached the Honduran capital after a journey of 130 miles. Among their demands are three major priorities: the abolishment of the New Mining Act as well as the “Charter Cities” Act, both approved by Congress on January 23.

Cold War Policies Revived by Honduran Intelligence Law (February 2013)
The doctrine of national security, which fostered the dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s, is making a comeback in Honduras where a new law is combining military defence of the country with police strategies for maintaining domestic order. The law created the National Directorate of Investigation and Intelligence (DNII), a key agency in the security structure that does not appear to be accountable to any other body, and does not appear to be under democratic civilian control. The approval of the law on January 14 took human rights organizations, civil society groups and academic bodies by surprise, because of the rushed nature of the legislation, the lack of consensus-building and the skipping of two of the three debates necessary for passing laws in parliament. “This bill unites or fuses military defense and internal security, which is dangerous, because one of the aims after the Cold War was to separate these fields, due to the negative effects (their union had) on systematic violation of human rights” in the region, sociologist Mirna Flores, an expert on the issue, told IPS.

Human rights defender tortured: Karla Zelaya (October 2012)
On 23 October Karla Zelaya, a journalist with the Unified Campesino Movement of Aguán (Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán, MUCA), was abducted from a bus stop in Tegucigalpa at 6.30am by two men who forced her into the back of a car. As the car pulled away, the two men, who got in the back of the car with Karla Zelaya, told her to cooperate and interrogated her about MUCA leaders, including Jhony Rivas. They blindfolded her and began to ask her more questions, while scratching her with a sharp object on her chest and stomach. They spoke about killing MUCA leaders and told Karla Zelaya they knew her routine and where her family lives. MUCA is a movement campaigning for the land rights of peasant farmers, amid ongoing disputes over land ownership in the Aguán region, north east Honduras.

Human rights lawyer, Antonio Trejo Cabrera, assassinated (October 2012)
Authorities in Honduras should ensure a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation into the killing of attorney Antonio Trejo Cabrera, Human Rights Watch said. Trejo, a lawyer who advocated for peasant land rights and publicly opposed the creation of special autonomous development zones, was shot and killed on September 22, 2012, after attending a wedding south of Tegucigalpa.

Minister of Justice and Human Rights condemns the murder of two human rights defenders  (September 2012).
Two public interest attorneys were murdered in Honduras. One represented peasant groups seeking lands in northern Honduras. The other was a government Prosecutor for the Human Rights office.  The Minister of Justice and Human Rights called the murders unacceptable for the rule of law, and the head of the Honduran Bar Association (also the Deputy Attorney General) called it an attack on the state.

UNESCO chief calls for investigation into death of Honduran journalist (May 2012)
The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today called for an investigation into the killing of Erick Martínez Ávila, a Honduran journalist and gay rights activist.“I condemn the murder of Erick Martínez Ávila,” UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, said in a news release. “I am deeply concerned about this second journalist killed in Honduras in a month and call on the authorities to bring to justice the perpetrators of this crime against the basic human right of freedom of expression.”

94 House members urge Secretary of State Clinton to suspend aid to Honduras (March 2012)
94 House members sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to raise alarm over human rights violations in Honduras where human rights defenders, journalists, community leaders and opposition activists are subject to death threats, attacks and extrajudicial executions. The letter asks the State Department “to suspend U.S. assistance to the Honduran military and police given the credible allegations of widespread, serious violations of human rights attributed to the security forces.”

Increased threats and intimidation on civil society members in Honduras reported in early 2012 (March 2012)
A representative from Reporters Without Borders visited Honduras from February 17-29 and concluded that in the beginning of 2012 reporters, local media owners, and civil society members have faced an increase in threats and intimidation, especially in Aguan, which is the site of an agrarian conflict involving the military, andin Copan, a city which is a transit point for drug smugglers entering neighboring Guatemala. This "climate of terror" resurfaced with the government's implementation of "Operation Lightening" in November 2001.

UN Special Rapporteur Sekaggya visits Honduras, expresses concern about legislation that will restrict the work of CSOs (February 2012)
Margaret Sekaggya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, visited Honduras and met with government officials, including the President, and a wide and diverse segment of the civil society. She welcomed the commitment expressed by the President himself to accept and implement her recommendations, particularly the openness of the President to have a constructive dialogue with civil society. However, she expressed concern that the valuable role of human rights organizations may be affected by the adoption of legislation aimed at restricting the work of civil society organizations.

News archive

305 teachers are suspended due to participation in a general strike (April 2011)

U.S. hopes Honduras will come around on human rights (November 2010)

Unions plan for general strike (August 2010)

Honduras: Investigate attacks on journalists (March 2010)

6 cited in Honduran leader's ouster (January 2010)

The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL NGO Law Monitor partner organization in Honduras.

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