Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Human rights in Honduras: IAHCR expresses "deep concern"

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHCR, CIDH in Spanish) has just issued a press release following its visit this week to Honduras. The summary: the news is not good:
In concluding its visit, the Commission expresses its deep concern over the continuation of human rights violations in the context of the coup d’état that took place in Honduras on June 28, 2009.

Especially troubling to the IAHCR were the reprisals against judges who opposed the coup d'Etat, reprisals that have taken place during the administration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa and that demonstrate that his administration has not advanced from the repression of the de facto regime, but continues it:
Of particular concern are the acts of harassment directed against judges who participated in activities against the coup d’état. The Commission met with members of the Association of Judges for Democracy who were dismissed from their posts by the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ). Notwithstanding the formal reasons that could be argued by the Supreme Court, the reasons that motivated the process and the final decision are undoubtedly linked to participation in anti-coup demonstrations or to having expressed an opinion against the coup d’état. The inter-American human rights system has repeatedly underscored the central role of the judiciary in the functioning of a democratic system. It is unacceptable that those persons in charge of administering justice who were opposed to the democratic rupture would face accusations and dismissals for defending democracy. The IACHR urgently calls for a reversal of this situation that seriously undermines the rule of law [emphasis added].

The Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) comes in for pointed criticism for its complicity in not pursuing cases against human rights violations, creating impunity for those responsible:
The Commission was able to verify that impunity for human rights violations continues, both in terms of violations verified by the IACHR and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and those that continue to occur. ... The generalized impunity for human rights violations is facilitated by decisions of the CSJ that weaken the rule of law. In addition to the CSJ’s disputed role during the coup d’état, it subsequently decided, on the one hand, to dismiss charges against the members of the military accused of participating in the coup and, on the other, to fire judges and magistrates who sought to prevent the coup through democratic means. [emphasis added]

The IACHR notes that threats continue under the Lobo Sosa administration against those who are active in protesting the coup and its aftermath:
The IACHR also received information on the threats and acts of harassment that human rights defenders, journalists, communicators, teachers, and members of the Resistance have received. A number of teachers have been subject to threats and harassment because of their activity against the coup d’état. The Commission also received information about threats and attacks directed against journalists to keep them from continuing to do their jobs.

The IAHCR underscored that assassinations of journalists and activists are not credibly explained away as a consequence of some sort of generalized Honduran tendency toward violence:
Without prejudice to the high rate of criminality that in general exists in Honduras, the IACHR believes that the complaints received could correspond to the same pattern of violence that the IACHR reported in Honduras: Human Rights and the Coup d’État, published on January 20, 2010.

The IAHCR noted the continuing pattern of human rights violations against social sectors that have been marginalized since the coup d'Etat, in many cases losing concrete advances made under the Zelaya administration:
Finally, the IACHR would like to state that human rights violations particularly affect those sectors of the population that have been marginalized historically and are most vulnerable, such as children, the LGTB community, women, and indigenous and Garifuna peoples.

The unwarranted dismissals of members of the Association of Judges for Democracy, who are currently staging a hunger strike, have received no attention in the mainstream English language press. The assassinations of journalists have been treated in the English-language press as either an ambiguous case of "violence" by "both sides" in the struggle for Honduran democracy, or even possibly simply due to that generalized Honduran culture of violence that is stated repeatedly and thus presumed. The continuing targeted assassinations of members of the Resistance and their family members, and of environmental activists; threats against anti-mining activists, and slurs against those Roman Catholic clergy who have remained faithful to the call to serve the poor; these incidents are so numerous that even those of us monitoring the situation cannot possibly write about them all.

No, the coup is not behind us. It remains in the hovering shadow of impunity that the authorities in Honduras cast over those who are responsible for the continued violence directed at activists and those who dare to speak out about violations of fundamental rights, and dare to advocate for greater participation in governance by all the people.

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