Saturday, November 20, 2010

Golpistas Are Nervous

The golpistas in Honduras are nervous after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued the announcement that it would proceed to investigate if it had jurisdiction over human rights crimes allegedly committed by those who carried out the coup and formed the de facto regime in 2009.

The ICC is an independent organization, not part of the UN, located in The Hague, Netherlands. It is governed by the Rome Statute, a UN treaty that establishes the court and the rules under which it operates. The court, funded by individual country governments, was established to "help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community."

The complain was lodged by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH for its name in French). FIDH sent an evaluation mission to Honduras in late July, 2009, and at that time confirmed serious human rights violations had and were taking place. They outlined their findings and concerns in a press release on July 30, 2009. At that time they called on the ICC to remind Honduras it was a member and if the situation continued it could come under the jurisdiction of the ICC. The de facto regime, through its human rights commissioner, Ramon Custodio Lopez, denied at the time that human rights abuses had taken place.

The ICC has assigned Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo to the case. Moreno Ocampo is an Argentinian who successfully prosecuted the Generals in Argentina in 1984 for human rights abuses. He announced that he would shortly conduct preliminary investigations in Honduras.

Sandra Ponce, the Honduran Human Rights Prosecutor, told El Tiempo that the ICC had not communicated with the current Honduran Government. She noted that
"The process of opening an investigation implies the prosecutor (of the ICC) wants to verify the information, and if it has merit, he will have to ask the permission of the Pre-Trial division of the ICC to open a case."

Among those accused of committing human rights violations are Roberto Micheletti Bain, Luis Rubí Avila, Jorge Rivera Avilez, José Alfredo Saavedra, and the military high command, command of the National Police, 18 people in all.

El Tiempo reported that one of the first things that happened after the announcement of the ICC was published in the press, was that the Public Prosecutor, Luis Rubí Avila asked the Human Rights Commissioner, Ramon Custodio Lopez, to come to his office and discuss the announcement. Both Rubí Avila and Custodio Lopez are named in the complaint.

While neither Rubí nor Custodio spoke with the press, a judicial advisor to Rubi, Rigoberto Espinal Irías dismissed the human rights charges alleged by FIDH, claiming that many were "questionable" or "never happened", as documented in a report by his office to the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights.
"You cannot have an assassination where there wasn't one; its easy to put something on paper and build on top of it."

The attitude of that part of the Public Prosecutor's office is in sharp contrast with that of its Human Rights Prosecutor. Sandra Ponce told La Tribuna the visit of Moreno Ocampo was historic since it was the first visit ever by an ICC prosecutor to perform an investigation of Honduras. She pointed out that the government was obligated to cooperate with Moreno Ocampo and the ICC. She also explained that if any of the charges of political persecution were found to have merit, the ICC would have jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, El Heraldo spread the disinformation, sourced to the Colombian Ambassador to Honduras, Sonia Portillo, that the ICC doesn't prosecute individuals, just governments and institutions and used this to make fun of Ángel Edmundo Orellana. However the ICC website states specifically,
"The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes..."

Hmm, nothing there about trying governments or institutions, just persons. So much for the Colombian Ambassador's knowledge and the journalistic integrity of El Heraldo, which didn't bother to do even simple fact checking.

The repression that happened after the coup, the extrajudicial killings by the police and military (indivisible since the coup) that continue to the present, the illegal revocation of constitutional rights, all of these charges deserve an impartial thorough investigation. It will have to be started by the ICC, since there is no reason to believe it will ever happen Honduras.

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