Sunday, April 17, 2011

Honduras and the OAS: The Plot Thickens

The issue of what to do about Honduras will come up again at the next OAS General Assembly in early June. As readers will recall, Honduras has failed to fulfill the requirements set by members of the OAS opposed to readmission. Most discussed has been the failure to find a way to dismiss politically motivated charges against former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, which would allow him to return to the country. This has come even to overshadow the concerns expressed about continued human rights abuses in post-coup Honduras.

Porfirio Lobo Sosa asked again on April 15, for the Supreme Court of Honduras to do what is necessary to make it possible for Manuel Zelaya Rosales to return to Honduras.

Jorge Rivera Aviles, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, says that if it does, it will just be "a happy coincidence", not because of Lobo Sosa's pressure on the court.

This battle has been going on since Lobo Sosa took office in January 2010. Porfirio Lobo Sosa has done all he can to make it possible for Zelaya to return, but ultimately it is beyond his power. He cannot command the Supreme Court, and so far, they've declined to cooperate with him.

It took the negotiations of Arturo Corrales, once negotiator for Roberto Michelleti, and currently head of Lobo Sosa's Strategic Planning Commission, and the brainstorming of a legal team, to find a legal way the court can dismiss the remaining charges: nullification.

Here's what will happen next with the Zelaya legal case:
--on or about April 20, a three judge appeals panel of the Supreme Court will rule on an appeal by the Public Prosecutor's office to reinstate the arrest warrants for Zelaya that have previously been vacated.

--after that, there's another motion pending before Judge Chinchilla to dismiss the two remaining charges because of procedural errors by the Public Prosecutor, Luis Rubi.

(The procedural errors? Under Honduran law, Rubi had to formally notify Zelaya he was the subject of an investigation, and that notification had to occur before any charges were filed. Rubi filed charges in July 2009, just after the coup, without ever notifying Zelaya. This seems to be the core of the argument for nullification of the charges.)

--if the charges are dismissed, Rubi's office can be expected to appeal, prolonging the case for up to two more weeks.

In any event, if the Supreme Court does not drag its feet again by mid-May it should have heard all the possible appeals and ruled definitively and finally on the charges against Zelaya, either dismissing them or allowing them to go to trial.

There is a lot more now riding on what Rivera Aviles claims would only be a "happy coincidence" being the outcome.

After meeting in Colombia with Lobo Sosa, and with Zelaya and representatives of the Frente de Resistencia yesterday, Hugo Chavez has said that if Lobo Sosa can deliver on the long-demanded dismissal of charges against Zelaya, then he will support reintegration of Honduras in the OAS.

He has promised both Lobo Sosa and Zelaya he would work to bring about a resolution favorable to both sides. Juan Barahona, on behalf of the Frente de Resistencia, has said they put their trust in Chavez as a mediator as well.

There are still, of course, things that making it possible for Zelaya to return will not heal.

At the same OAS General Assembly, the government-sponsored Truth Commission (which isn't really a truth commission because its charter fails to conform to the UN standards for truth commissions), will brief OAS members on the contents of its final report.

Eduardo Stein said the report will be submitted without the help of Zelaya, who refused to give testimony to the commission, because they have a large body of press releases and statements by members of his cabinet to the press to confirm what happened, and that those statements are consistent with other reports made to the commission.

Contradicting himself, he noted that there were some topics where only Zelaya could provide information about his intentions and actions, and he regretted that Zelaya had refused to cooperate.

So, the Truth Commission, which has been touted as providing a means to reconcile Hondurans divided by the coup, is not likely to add much forward momentum. And the human rights situation in Honduras has not been improving. Both the US State Department and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission have recently condemned deteriorating human rights conditions in Honduras.

But it is probably a reasonable bet that Honduras will return to the OAS soon-- that is, if the Supreme Court delivers its "happy coincidence".

1 comment:

RNS said...

A slight delay already. The Supreme Court announced late yesterday it would render a decision on April 27 on the appeal filed by the Public Prosecutor.