Sunday, September 11, 2011

Judge, Jury, and Executioner

Oscar Alvarez, the now ex-Minister of Security, sent a law to Congress September 6 for the cleansing of the police of corrupt officials. In it, he proposed that he serve as judge and jury, and be allowed to fire anyone from officers, inspectors, cadets, and the police auxiliary, without them having recourse to due process, or any process at all.

Here's the complete text of the law he sent to Congress:

Article 1: Authorize the Secretary of State for Security to the effect that he proceed with free discretion to terminate the career of classified staff in the Superior Executive, Basic Inspector, Cadets and Auxiliaries of the National Police.

Article 2: You are entitled to compensation consisting of one month's salary for each year of service you've provided, if you accept the retirement offered by the Head of the Secretariat of State.

Article 3: The organic law of the National police (e.g., the police charter) shall not apply to any of the provisions of this law.

Article 4: Authorizes the Secretary of State for Finances to make budget adjustments in support of the implementation of this law.

Article 5: This law takes effect on publication in La Gaceta and is in effect until 27 January 2014.

That's how Alvarez was going to clean up corruption in the Police.

Article 1 would have given him unchecked power over everyone in the police. He could have forcibly retired anyone, by simply ordering it. Article 3 would have removed all due process and appeal rights. Article 2 sets the severance pay to compensate those dismissed under the proposed law.

This level of unchecked power is unprecedented and likely would have been a violation of the due process and presumed innocence clauses of the Honduran Constitution.

Even assuming Oscar Alvarez is an angel with good intentions who would not abuse it (an untenable assumption!), this proposed statute doesn't really solve the problem. It merely pushes aside presumed corrupt police officers without punishment, allowing others to move forward to replace them. The presumed corrupt officials would not be punished; instead, they would be rewarded with severance pay and their accrued retirement benefits intact.

But then, this kind of absolute power is nothing new to Alvarez, who was a special forces officer in the Battalion 3-16 during the 1980s.
"The Argentines came in first, and they taught how to disappear people,"

Alvarez told the Baltimore Sun in 1995.

Isn't disappearing someone making a decision about their future without them having recourse to due process?

Alvarez told the Sun that Battalion 3-16 was supposed to have allowed for due process, but took the easy way out. The Sun wrote, quoting Alvarez:
"What was supposed to happen was that the intelligence unit would gather information and take it to a judge and say, 'Here, this person is a guerrilla, and here's the evidence," he said. "But the Hondurans did not do that." Slashing his finger across his neck, he said, "They took the easy way." And, he said, "U.S. officials did not protest."
Instead of becoming all powerful with the passage of the law he proposed, instead Oscar Alvarez was dismissed by Porfirio Lobo Sosa this weekend.

Alvarez has left Honduras for the United States to join his family, which lives in the US, and "reflect".

Especially if he intends to run for president, the traces of his history of authoritarianism are worth keeping in mind. And there is no indication yet that the law he proposed has been withdrawn.

1 comment:

RNS said...

This morning, Porfirio Lobo Sosa asked the Congress to return the Ley de Depuracion Policial proposed by Oscar Alvarez because he was not in agreement with it. Lobo Sosa made the request directly of the head of Congress, Juan Orlando Hernandez.“ley-purga”-que-habia-remitido-oscar-alvarez/