Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 19, 2010 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) visited Honduras May 15-18 to follow up on its on-site visit of August 2009 and its report Honduras: Human Rights and the Coup d’État. The delegation was composed of IACHR Chair Felipe González, First Vice-Chair Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Executive Secretary Santiago A. Canton, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Catalina Botero, and staff of the Executive Secretariat.
The IACHR met with officials from all three branches of the State, human rights defenders, journalists, civil society representatives, and members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It also met with representatives of the United Nations system in Honduras and with ambassadors from the Stockholm Declaration Follow-Up Group (G 16). The Commission’s report on the visit will be made public in the near future.
In concluding its visit, the Commission expresses its deep concern over the continuation of human rights violations in the context of the coup d’état that took place in Honduras on June 28, 2009. Without prejudice to the progress made toward the restoration of democratic institutions, the IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression have received information about the murders of a number of persons, including journalists and human rights defenders. The IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur have expressed their deep concern over the absence of effective investigations that could lead to the clarification of these events. Without prejudice to the high rate of criminality that in general exists in Honduras, the IACHR believes that the complaints received could correspond to the same pattern of violence that the IACHR reported in Honduras: Human Rights and the Coup d’État, published on January 20, 2010.
The IACHR also received information on the threats and acts of harassment that human rights defenders, journalists, communicators, teachers, and members of the Resistance have received. A number of teachers have been subject to threats and harassment because of their activity against the coup d’état. The Commission also received information about threats and attacks directed against journalists to keep them from continuing to do their jobs.
Since the coup d’état, the IACHR has granted precautionary measures to protect the lives and integrity of many individuals who are in a situation of risk. During the visit, the IACHR received information indicating that the inter-institutional coordination mechanism for the implementation of the precautionary measures is ineffective. It is essential that the Inter-Institutional Commission on Human Rights be provided with adequate staffing and sufficient resources so it can respond efficiently to the Commission’s precautionary measures.
Of particular concern are the acts of harassment directed against judges who participated in activities against the coup d’état. The Commission met with members of the Association of Judges for Democracy who were dismissed from their posts by the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ). Notwithstanding the formal reasons that could be argued by the Supreme Court, the reasons that motivated the process and the final decision are undoubtedly linked to participation in anti-coup demonstrations or to having expressed an opinion against the coup d’état. The inter-American human rights system has repeatedly underscored the central role of the judiciary in the functioning of a democratic system. It is unacceptable that those persons in charge of administering justice who were opposed to the democratic rupture would face accusations and dismissals for defending democracy. The IACHR urgently calls for a reversal of this situation that seriously undermines the rule of law.
The Commission was able to verify that impunity for human rights violations continues, both in terms of violations verified by the IACHR and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and those that continue to occur. The Commission was informed that only one person is being held in custody for human rights violations, only 12 have been charged, and the cases are not moving forward, among other reasons due to the lack of investigation by the various State bodies, particularly the security forces handling the investigations. The generalized impunity for human rights violations is facilitated by decisions of the CSJ that weaken the rule of law. In addition to the CSJ’s disputed role during the coup d’état, it subsequently decided, on the one hand, to dismiss charges against the members of the military accused of participating in the coup and, on the other, to fire judges and magistrates who sought to prevent the coup through democratic means.
With regard to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR in Spanish), it is important to emphasize the importance that such institutions have had in many countries of the region. The Commission has stated that the right to know the truth with respect to grave human rights violations, as well as the right to know the identity of those who participated in them, constitutes an obligation that every State party to the American Convention must meet, with respect both to the relatives of the victims and to society in general.
The CVR began operating only 14 days ago. It is currently in the process of issuing its own internal regulation, work plan, and methodology. It is essential that the CVR have sufficient resources, personnel, and independence to do its work effectively. It is also necessary that in defining its regulation, work plan, and methodology, it incorporate as a central focus of its work the investigation of complaints on human rights violations that occurred in the context of the coup d’état. The IACHR will closely follow the work of the CVR.
Whatever actions the Truth Commission ends up taking, these do not exempt the State from its international obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish through the judicial system those agents of the State who may have committed human rights violations.
The Commission welcomes the appointment of the advisory Minister on human rights. However, it notes that to date she has not received the resources, mandate, or structure that would make it possible to do an effective job, one that helps transform the State toward a culture that is respectful of human rights. With the current structure, it is practically impossible for the Minister to have a significant impact on the observance of human rights.
Finally, the IACHR would like to state that human rights violations particularly affect those sectors of the population that have been marginalized historically and are most vulnerable, such as children, the LGTB community, women, and indigenous and Garifuna peoples.
The IACHR visit had all the necessary facilities for the Commission to be able to carry out its mission. The IACHR also expresses its appreciation to the representatives of the State, civil society organizations, and international agencies for the information and cooperation they provided. The Commission recalls that, in accordance with the provisions established in the American Convention on Human Rights and the Commission’s Rules of Procedure, no reprisals of any kind may be taken against individuals or entities that cooperate with the Commission by providing information or testimony.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.
- Report Human Rights and Coup d’Etat in html and pdf (Honduras, December 30, 2009)
- Precautionary Measures granted by the IACHR to persons and groups of persons in Honduras, since June 28, 2009
- Press Release R45/10: Office of the Special Rapporteur Expresses its Concern at the Latest Murder of a Journalist in Honduras. April 22, 2010
- Press Release R39/10: Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns Murder of Honduran Journalists and Urges the State to Clear Up these Crimes and Adopt Protection Mechanisms. March 27, 2010
- Press Release 31/10: IACHR Deplores Murder of Journalist in Honduras. March 16, 2010
- Press Release R29/10: Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns the Murder of a Journalist In Honduras. March 15, 2009
- Press Release 26/10: IACHR Deplores Murders, Kidnappings, and Attacks in Honduras. March 8, 2010
- Press Release R24/10: Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns Murder of Journalist in Honduras. March 5, 2010
- Press Release 14/10: IACHR Expresses Concern about Amnesty Decree in Honduras. February 3, 2010
- Press Release R2/10: Office of the Special Rapporteur Expresses Concern at the Attack Against a Community Radio in Honduras. January 11, 2010