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Saturday, 11 August, 2001, 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK
Honduras condemned over child killings
Asma Jahangir
Jahangir accuses state agents of carrying out some of the murders
A United Nations human rights investigator has called on the Honduran Government to prevent the extrajudicial killing of hundreds of children and teenagers.

A senior UN official, Asma Jahangir, who is visiting Honduras, said some of the killings were carried out by police officers.

Human rights campaigners in Honduras say more than 800 young people have been killed in less than four years in what they describe as "social cleansing".

President Carlos Flores
President Flores invited the UN investigator
The Honduran Government acknowledges that members of the security forces may have been involved in some of the deaths, and says 12 police officers have been charged.

Correspondents say many of those killed were members of criminal gangs - and ordinary people are often indifferent to their killing.

Ms Jahangir, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions is on a 10-day visit to Honduras to investigate the killings.

"There have been many killings and those responsible are gang members and a percentage of them have been state agents," she said.

Gang members

President Carlos Flores invited Ms Jahangir to the country in response to accusations by human rights groups that the problem was being ignored.

According to Caza Alianza, a non-profit group working with street children in Central America, 820 children and teenagers were murdered in Honduras between January 1998 and June 2001.

The group says that 13% of those killed were murdered by police officers.

The majority of the children are believed to be gang members - police say that there are around 32,000 gang members in Honduras.

Public indifference

Police say that the deaths are a result of gang rivalries.

But Honduran Security Minister Gautama Fonseca admitted that some of the killings may have been carried out by police officers, but insisted that they were isolated cases.

He said that 12 police officers had been charged and that if found guilty they would be punished.

"Several policemen have been arrested as a result of the accusations... They are individual actions, independent of the government," he said.

The gangs, who rob and sell drugs, instil fear in many Hondurans, making them indifferent to the murders of children who are members.

The BBC's Mike Lanchin
"The UN investigator said the murders would continue as long as the authorities tolerated them"
Bruce Harris, Executive Director of Casa Alianza
"13% of the killings, we know, were done by members of the police"
See also:

14 Sep 00 | Americas
Judge orders 'death squad' arrest
30 Jul 01 | Americas
Timeline: Honduras
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Honduras
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