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'Millions live in constant terror': Amnesty International on Central America

The human rights group has said more must be done to tackle what is fast-becoming another out-of-control refugee crisis.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HAS released a new report this afternoon criticising Central American governments for doing nothing to stop sky-high murder rates.

The human rights watchdog said the governments in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are doing nothing to tackle rampant violence.

Amnesty has estimated that hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee these countries and millions live in fear every day.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, believes the situation in Central America is deteriorating by the minute.

Amnesty International Ireland report launch Colm O'Gorman has hit out at the governments of Central America. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

He said: “El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have become virtual war zones where lives seem to be expendable and millions live in constant terror at what gang members or public security forces can do to them or their loved ones.

These people are now the protagonists in one of the world’s least visible refugee crises.

“Millions of Central Americans are falling through the cracks, victims of countries that do not fulfil their responsibility to provide the international protection they need, and of their own governments’ utter inability and unwillingness to keep them safe from the most tragic end.”

Record-breaking violence

Amnesty have claimed that murder rates in Guatemala and Honduras are among the highest on earth.

The UN has ranked El Salvador as one of the deadliest countries on earth outside of a war zone, with more than 108 murders per 100,000 people in 2015.

In Honduras the rate was 63.75 and in Guatemala it was 34.99 for every 100,000 .

Amnesty said young people are the hardest hit by violence, with more than half of those killed in the three countries in 2015 under 30 years of age.

Young boys often join the gangs under duress, while girls are forced to become gangsters’ ‘girlfriends’ and are often sexually abused.

Honduras Violence Military police stand guard outside of a juvenile detention center after clashes broke out in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Source: AP/Press Association Images

O’Gorman also told the harrowing story of a young boy in hiding in El Salvador.

He explained: “Sixteen-year-old Andrés  is living in hiding after being arrested in May by security forces.

“He told Amnesty International they tortured him to confess to participating in a shootout and being a lookout for gangs in what seems a desperate attempt to show officials are trying to tackle the shocking levels of violent crime in the country.

He said the soldiers poured bottles of water into his mouth and nose, put his head in a puddle, stuffed sand into his mouth, jumped on his stomach, then kicked, punched and threatened to kill him unless he confessed.

Sent back home to be killed

O’Gorman said it is the duty of governments in Central America and across the world to bring an end to the bloodshed plaguing these three nations.

El Salvador Gang Nightmare El Salvador gang members Source: AP/Press Association Images

He added: “What we need to see is an effective region-wide initiative to invest the international aid they are receiving into tackling what causes so many people to desperately flee their homes.

“Unless Central American leaders address the shocking current levels of violence in their countries, the region risks plunging back into its darkest times. Instead of stubbornly denying people who are running away from violence, those in power should focus their efforts on trying to find solutions to it.”

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