Lawyers denounce before the IACHR that amnesty only applies to some

Posted on March 23, 2010


Washington, March 23 (EFE) .- Lawyers of various human rights organizations reported today before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that amnesty granted by the Legislature to heal the wounds of the coup perpetrated on 28 June 2009, is not being applied in Honduras.

The National Congress of Honduras adopted a general amnesty on 26 January for political and common crimes for those involved in the crisis following the coup President Manuel Zelaya.

The amnesty was agreed before President Porfirio Lobo took office. However, during the IACHR 138 period hearing session, a group of eight lawyers representing various organizations in Honduras reported the competent authorities “are not applying amnesty.”

“The amnesty is to be applied automatically by the Public Ministry and competent courts, but we have not been able to get that for people who opposed the coup,” charged attorney Roger Ordoñez, from the Center for Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation for Victims of Torture and their Families (CPTRT).

“They do not want politically to recognize the violation of human rights and that these trials have no reason to be,” that is, the counsel added, amnesty is not being applied in those cases.

The response of the Honduran judiciary after the overthrow of Zelaya is “insufficient” and “biased”, the lawyers reported.

The lawyers said that since 28 June last year, “thousands of arrests have occurred with impunity” and denounced the continuous “torture” and “maltreatment” of many.

“Most of the detainees were tortured and did not have access to doctors. The judges did not exercise the power of review and gave way quickly to allegations, [giving sentences that] were inconsistent and disproportionate,” said Nectalí Rodezno from the Lawyers Front Against the Coup.

Rodezno stressed that the trials of the opponents to the coup was politically “biased” and that despite the amnesty, 76 people were still processed with preventative measures, such as the prohibition to leave the country or to attend demonstrations.

“As long as the same Court of Justice and Attorney General who favored the coup are in power, it is very difficult to see changes,” said attorney Jeaneth Sara Aguilar, from the Frente de Abogados y Movimiento Amplio.

The lawyers denounced that the violations of freedom of expression that occurred after the coup were “serious” and “systematic”, such as those against Radio Progreso, Channel 36 and Radio Globo.

Journalists were harassed, threatened, beaten, and arrested and the channels shut down without a warrant, while those responsible for those acts did not receive any punishment since the courts dictaminated that they did not act intentionally.

Brenda Mejia, from the Frente de Abogados en Resistencia de la Zona Norte y Movimiento Amplio de la Dignidad y la Justicia, noted that the law has been applied “unequally” and in a “discriminatory” fashion against the opponents of the coup in trials that were “processed quickly.”

However, he noted that during the same period no police or military agent has been convicted and that “most of those cases have resulted in their dismissal.”

Additionally, Mejia stressed the need to conduct a report on the procedure for the appointment, removal, and transfer of judges and prosecutors who he said right now “is not guaranteed.”

The petitioners asked the IACHR to issue an additional statement at the conclusion of the session in which they expressed concern about the “ineffective” response of the judiciary in Honduras and urged the authorities to order an investigation into the conduct of judges and issue the corresponding penalties in the event of any irregularities.

In this regard, they demanded the IACHR follows up on human rights violations, as presented during the hearing, and requested a report on court proceedings and irregularities.

They also requested precautionary measures to protect people who may be threatened and to schedule a return visit, like the one made in August, to discuss the situation in the country.

For its part, the rapporteur of the IACHR to Honduras, Felipe González, said that the Committee had already discussed the situation of the Central American country in January, and that they have sent a letter asking for a follow-up visit.

“We expect to finalize plans for a visit soon to observe first-hand the situation in Honduras,” said Gonzalez, adding that the Commission will continue processing requests for precautionary measures.