Friday, October 18, 2013

Juan Orlando Hernández: Let's Rethink Human Rights

Proceso Digital reported Thursday that the candidate for president from the Partido Nacional thinks it is time to reconsider the concept of human rights.

Not, unfortunately, in the way one might hope, given Honduras' human rights failings.

No, Juan Orlando Hernández thinks we are doing a little too much coddling of people with that old-fashioned concept. During a campaign event in northern Honduras, he reportedly said
“I am conscious that if a public official, a police officer or a soldier should commit a crime you have to protect human rights, but the problem is that they don't talk about the rights of the victims."

In other words: in order to protect crime victims, Hernández would like the police and military to have some leeway on those expectations of observing human rights.

We wish this were not really what he said. Actually, it is worse.

The candidate was trying to explain why he was the only one of eight contestants for President who failed to sign a "security pact" promoted by the CRSP-- the state Comisión de Reforma de la Seguridad Pública.

This is the independent commission set up by legislative mandate to address the corruption and poor performance of the Honduran government bodies that should be responsible for investigating crime and prosecuting criminals. CRSP proposed that all parties subscribe to a plan that "would guarantee a profound transformation in the system and improve the results of the Secretaría de Seguridad, Ministerio Público and Poder Judicial".

Juan Orlando Hernández said he did not sign because
“I do not agree with this pact, it seems to me that is lacking a lot. It is unacceptable that it isn't clear that the Armed Forces should play a role as protagonist in recovering the peace and tranquility of the country, that does not appear right to me".

The pact goes further than that: it calls for reaffirmation of the civil role of the national police and the revamping of police on a community policing model. Since Juan Orlando Hernández was the principal architect of the new Policia Militar, it would be a bit awkward to endorse repudiation of that approach.

So the candidate of the Partido Nacional goes into the last weeks of the race as the only presidential candidate who did not agree, if elected to enact the core commitments of the CRSP accord:
  • to undertake a comprehensive reform of the system of Public Security
  • to completely revamp the entire police system to create a true Community Police "close to the community, transparent in its performance, efficient in its functioning, respectful of human rights and the basic norms of the State of Law"
  • to reaffirm respect for the strictly civil and nonpartisan nature of all the National Police, and of the professional, independent, and apolitical character of the attorneys and judges
  • to promote prevention of violence and crime through education, recreational programs, and employment for youth
  • to promote civic participation in community security and violence prevention
  • to maintain a constant fight against corruption of the offices of justice
  • to consolidate the respect for human rights, government transparency, and accountability
The signed document shows the neatly typed signature block for the Partido Nacional candidate, devoid of his endorsement, contrasting with the signatures of all the other candidates.

Maybe Juan Orlando Hernández knows something no one else does, and believes that standing up for militarized police will give him the edge he needs to take the lead.

But as it stands, his breaking ranks simply underlines that his is the candidacy of militarizing everyday life. And if his opponents pursue the point, it could raise awkward questions about his lack of commitment to anti-corruption, pro-accountability policies.

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