Sunday, August 19, 2012

Luis Rubi: Police Cleanup Law Unconstitutional

We have often found ourselves critical of Luis Rubí and the Public Prosecutor's office. But we do agree with his latest finding: the law under which the Honduran police are being purged appears to violate the due process guaranteed by the Honduran constitution.

Here's the story: In late June of this year, 375 police officers filed an appeal of the May, 2012 law which Congress passed to clean up the National Police.

The law, decreto 89-2012 [note correction], created the Comisión de Reforma de la Seguridad Pública (Commission for the Reform of Public Security) with broad powers.

It also eliminated Articles 114, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131 y 132 of the Ley Organica, the police charter.  These were the articles that spelled out  due process procedures for firing a police officer of any rank. 

The Sala Constitucional, the five justices of the Honduran Supreme Court that hear constitutional cases, solicits an opinion from the Public Prosecutor about any law subject to challenge.  Luis Rubí filed his opinion, finding the new law unconstitutional. He argued that it denies due process rights to the accused police officers; implicitly presumes officers under investigation guilty; and demands that they prove their innocence.

Rubí said:
There is no doubt that the decreto 89-2012 weakens the rule of law by openly contravening the constitutional disposition and the international order to protect human rights.
The presumption of innocence and the right to due process are guaranteed by the Honduran constitution.

This opinion really should come as no surprise to anyone in Honduras.  Back in February, the Association of Magistrates and Justices of Honduras issued a press release reporting their opinion that the law was unconstitutional, because it suspended basic, constitutionally guaranteed, rights.

The day the law was approved the Public Prosecutor's office said they would begin a review of the law to determine if it violated the constitutional rights of police officers.  Previous attempts to clean up the police had failed for precisely this reason.

Nonetheless, Julieta Castellanos, the Rector of the National Autonomous University, criticized Rubí:
The Public Prosecutor will do harm by opposing a cleanup of the police and I think that there will be sufficient power in society to be able to succeed in the fight that we are all interested to put in order.

Castellanos suggested that Rubí is opposed to cleaning up the police because the same law covers his office as well.

What she doesn't do is provide a counter-argument to his finding, echoing that of the Association of Magistrates and Justices, that the new law violates guarantees of due process.

The Sala Constitucional has not ruled on the case, and the opinion submitted by the Public Prosecutor is not binding on the court, so for now, the process of purifying the police will continue.

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