Monday, December 20, 2010

Indefensible Defenders

( on an extended London adventure due to Mother Nature )

On December 16, the Attorney General of Honduras (Procuraduria General) asked a Tegucigalpa court to appoint a public defender for Manuel Zelaya Rosales
"so that they could facilitate proceedings against him,"

said Ethel Deras, the Procuraduria General.

Deras said that rather than smoothing the path for Zelaya, as Canahuati's papers (El Heraldo and La Prensa) have accused, she wants to "move the case forward":
"ex-president Manuel Zelaya Rosales has stated publicly that he will not appear (before a justice) because he considers there aren't sufficient guarantees in the country for his appearance, and he has declined to appoint a defender. This office has request, based on this knowledge, that [the court] name a defense lawyer so the cases can continue.....In conformity with the Legal Proceedings Code and the Honduran Constitution, everyone processed in the courts has the right to a defender."

Just not, apparently, the right to choose their defender.

But wait, it gets better:
"I believe it is in the national interest to finalize once and for all these proceedings and bring them to an end, and a criminal trial comes to an end only when we read the real truth of the facts; it is logical that we continue with the criminal process."


Arturo Corrales, a Micheletti supporter and Lobo Sosa's Minister of Planning, says that Lobo Sosa asked the Attorney General to act.
"What the President (Lobo Sosa) asked of the judicial branch was they look for a legal way to leave the charges behind on these two remaining cases (of supposed corruption) to establish a propitious environment so that the ex president can come to the country."

So it's a request from on high to make this a national priority to settle this case.

This "procedure" goes completely against the Código Procesal Penal of Honduras, the very law Deras cites as supporting her actions.

Here's the problem she's trying to get around. Manuel Zelaya Rosales refuses to participate in the charges against him, and as part of not recognizing the court, has not named a defense lawyer. This pretty much puts the case on hold under Honduran law, until Zelaya either returns and voluntarily presents himself, or is arrested and brought before the court, or names a defense lawyer to represent him.

Under the Code (Chapter 5, Articles 111-122), a defender can be appointed by the court only when the defendant cannot afford to hire one, or is mentally incompetent to designate one. The code assumes the defendant has already been arrested or named as the target of an investigation by the Public Prosecutor. A defendant can only have two defense lawyers, plus one substitute.

Article 14 of the Code says
the right to defense is inviolable....the accused and their defender have the right to be present in all procedural acts that incorporate elements of proof.

Article 15 reads, in full
Everyone should have the technical assistance and advocacy of a legal practitioner, from the time they are held as allegedly involved in a crime, or when they voluntarily surrender and make a declaration, until the sentence has been fully executed. If the accused does not appoint a defender, the judicial authority shall immediately request the appointment of a public defender, or failing that will immediately appoint them self. This right is absolute. Its violation nullifies the acts that occur without the participation of counsel for the accused.

Key points here, which seem to have escaped the top attorney in Honduras charged with following this code: the defendant has to "held" or "voluntarily surrender" to put in motion the appointment of a defender. And the right to appoint a defender is absolute.

Its violation nullifies the acts that occur without the participation of counsel for the accused.

While the UCD is not my idea of a legal authority, they outlined the same points made above in a letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice Aviles, pointing out that this would nullify any judicial actions taken as a result of appointing defenders.

The Honduran papers are unclear on whether the court actually appointed defenders or not, with published reports that they did, and that they are waiting to decide.

So much for a rule of law.

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