Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Human Rights Loses Again

The security forces in Honduras continue to be in denial about their trampling on the human rights of Hondurans. For the second week in a row, Ana Pineda, the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, called on the Police and Military to change their procedures to comply with UN protocols and observe human rights to no avail.

In the council of ministers meeting yesterday Pineda pointed out that the security forces are using teargas "irrationally". They are, she asserted, violating UN protocols on how to use teargas on several fronts; foremost by launching the teargas canisters directly at people instead of into the air, which also makes the teargas less effective overall and is an improper use of force. She also noted that security forces were shooting teargas into enclosed spaces like offices and the interior of cars, causing more harm and damage than necessary. She noted that the security forces were violating UN protocols because they failed to initiate any form of dialogue with the protesters before resorting to force. The UN protocol states that force should only be a last resort after all attempts at dialogue are exhausted. Finally she noted that proper arrest procedures were ignored in the detention yesterday of Garifuna leader Miriam Miranda in Tela. Miranda was held 9 hours and her rights were violated numerous times during that detention.

Last week it was Oscar Alvarez, the security minister, who was in denial. It was Marlon Pascua who was in denial of the problems this time. Pascua, the defense minister and nominally in charge of the military asserted that it was the police and military whose human rights were being violated.
"Unfortunately human rights only work in one direction,"

said Pascua, ignoring the power differential between an unarmed public and the armed security forces. Pascua went on to remind the ministers of the three soldiers hospitalized with burns from Molotov cocktails. Perhaps not fully realizing the irony of his statements, Pascua noted that so far the international human rights organizations had not ruled in favor of the security forces. Gee, I wonder why?

Armando Caledonio, vice minister of Security read a letter written by Ramon Custodio, the Human Rights commissioner, to the security agency noting that the police use of wooden clubs (toletes y garrotes in Honduran Spanish) violated the UN conventions on the use of force and asked them to cease using them immediately. One wonders where this concern about the use of wooden clubs was during the de facto regime, but better late than never.

La Tribuna notes that Porfirio Lobo Sosa asked both sides to meet and work out their differences, perhaps appoint an ombudsperson and review the security force procedures in light of UN protocols. He called on the ministers to put aside their differences and work as a team. This is much the same thing he told them last week, so obviously it is working well as a plan.

Until there is a recognition on the part of the police and military that they are violating the human rights of the Honduran people, the problem will persist. The problem, caused by poor training, cannot be addressed until it is recognized as a problem by those who lead, and so far they are in denial. Until then, Honduras will continue to be called to task by the international community.

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