Britain sold Honduran regime spyware responsible for mass human rights abuses

Anti-regime protesters take to the streets of the capital, Tegucigalpa, in December.

The British government sold spying equipment worth more than £300,000 to the right-wing Honduran regime implicated in mass human rights abuses, including the assassination of high-profile environmental activist Berta Caceres.

The sale of the spyware came in the year preceding Honduras’s November 2017 presidential election, which was widely seen as stolen by the incumbent government of Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Since the election the government has violently repressed protests against the fraudulent result, with at least 40 people killed, 2000 detained and reports of a campaign of violent intimidation of activists by the country’s security forces.

As well as licensing more than £300,000 worth of spying equipment under Standard Individual Export Licences, the British government also licensed an unknown amount of other equipment including decrypting technology on two Open Export Licences (OIEL), according to government figures provided by the British-based Campaign Against Arms Trade.

Britain’s Department of International Trade issues OIELs to select companies so they can sell continuously to a nation. 

Significantly, under these licences the government does not disclose how much equipment was sold, but it is likely to be valued at significantly more than the £300,000 revealed so far.

Human rights abuses in Honduras have been endemic ever since a 2009 US-backed coup overthrew democratically-elected left-wing president Manuel Zelaya and installed a repressive, pro-US government.

The conservative National Party has been in power since January 2010. Its control of the country has been characterised by violence, impunity and corruption.

In March 2016, renowned Honduran indigenous environmental leader Berta Caceres was assassinated. The killing took place under the current regime and was reportedly planned by military intelligence specialists linked to the country’s US–trained special forces.

The British government’s licensing of spyware to Honduras took place despite Honduran military intelligence’s role in Caceres’ assassination. There are also countless other reports of killings and human rights abuses committed by Honduran government security forces, who receive tens of millions of dollars in financing from the US government.

The Donald Trump administration has recognised the fraudulent November presidential elections despite widespread calls, including from the Organization of American States (OAS) and US Congress, to hold a new vote.

[Abridged from Alborada.]

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