Honduras protests may have included 'extra-judicial killings': UN

Tegucigalpa (AFP) - Military and police officers in Honduras used "excessive" force against protestors angry over November's disputed elections, said the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Monday.

The report from the Geneva-based body found that Honduran security forces, in particular military members, "used excessive force, including lethal force, to control and disperse protests, leading to the killing and wounding of protesters as well as passers-by."

The leftwing opposition asserts that President Juan Orlando Hernandez stole the election from its candidate, Salvador Nasralla, and was not legitimately re-elected.

Hernandez's narrow win in the contentious vote prompted supporters of the leftist Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship to take to the streets in protests that quickly turned violent.

The OHCHR said at least 23 people died as a result of the protests -- 22 civilians and one police officer, noting that at least 16 were "shot to death by the security forces, including two women and two children."

Seven of the victims "died as a result of the impact of live ammunition in the head," according to the report, which said some of the deaths occurred "beyond dissuasive purpose, such as when victims were fleeing."

"These cases raise serious concerns about the use of excessive lethal force and may amount to extra-judicial killings," the report said.

No charges had been filed against security forces involved in the deaths as of January 27, the OHCHR said.

The rights body also pointed to the arrest of at least 1,351 people between December 1 and December 5 who had allegedly violated an imposed curfew.

The OHCHR "received credible and consistent allegations of ill treatment at the time of arrest and/or during detention," the report said. "It also received reports of illegal house raids conducted by members of the security forces."

An uptick in threats against journalists and activists was also under investigation, the report said.

"The situation of human rights in Honduras remains fragile, characterized by high levels of violence and insecurity, a pervasive social conflict, and impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations and corruption," the OHCHR said.

"The lack of tangible progress in the investigation and prosecution of members of the security forces in relation to human rights violations, -- with no suspension or indictment yet issued -- raises doubts about the genuine commitment of the state authorities to accountability."