Honduran military and other security forces are under a spotlight after a renewed round of condemnation of human rights abuses allegedly committed during the five months after a June 2009 coup that toppled President Jose Manuel Zelaya and continuing to date.
This time the focus is on the government of President Porfirio Lobo, elected successor to Zelaya in a November 2009 election organized by coup leader Roberto Micheletti. Lobo’s conciliatory stance toward the coup regime has meant there has been no real progress on investigating the alleged crimes reported when the military and security forces sought to crush supporters of Zelaya and opponents of the military takeover.
Human rights group Amnesty International Monday cited evidence Lobo’s government had failed to act against military and police officers implicated in mass arrests, beatings and torture.
Instead, freedom of expression in the country has taken a dive, with at least seven journalists confirmed killed in the past three months, Amnesty International said.
Lobo has been seeking political and diplomatic rehabilitation for his regime but is still shunned by most of Latin American and international community. Successive U.S and European mediation efforts to help Honduras earn respectability have been thwarted by international resistance to Lobo’s inaction.
Last month the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited Honduras and reported that impunity for human rights violations continues, both in terms of violations verified by the IACHR and the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and those that continue to occur.”
The IACHR report made clear that not only past abuses were going unpunished but new violations were continuing.
Zelaya was forced from power June 28, 2009, in a coup authorized by the Honduran judiciary and backed by the military. Numerous attempts to have him reinstated were resisted by Micheletti’s administration, which proceeded to have Lobo elected as president.
Micheletti’s group received prompt amnesty when Lobo took office but it took months for a truth and reconciliation commission to get started.
“President Lobo has publicly committed to human rights but has failed to take action to protect them, which is unacceptable,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International’s Americas deputy director.
“He needs to show he is serious about ending the climate of repression and insecurity in Honduras — otherwise the future stability of the country will remain in jeopardy,” Marengo said.
The killings of seven journalists adds to a death toll of at least 10 people who were victims of violence during popular protests against the coup.
Human rights activists, opposition leaders and even judges suffered threats and intimidation, media outlets closed and journalists were censored.
There were also reports of security force personnel committing acts of sexual violence against women and girls, Amnesty International said.
Judges viewed as critical of the coup suffered a series of arbitrary transferals and unfair disciplinary proceedings. Most of the judges targeted belonged to Judges for Democracy, which promotes principles of fairness and transparency.
“It is a sad fact that no redress has been provided to the numerous victims who suffered serious abuses at the hands of the police and military during the de facto government’s time in power,” said Marengo.
“These grave human rights violations must not be forgotten or go unpunished. Victims have the right to truth, justice and reparation.”
The IACHR cited the role played by the Supreme Court of Justice in instigating the coup and in orchestrating repression and condoning measures against critics.
“The generalized impunity for human rights violations is facilitated by decisions of the CSJ that weaken the rule of law,” IACHR said.
“In addition to the CSJ’s disputed role during the coup d’etat, 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.”
Both Amnesty International and IACHR want the government to use its influence to halt the wave of suppression of independent voices in Honduras.
RELATED: Honduras Failing to Tackle Coup Rights Abuses (Amnesty International), IACHR Concerned about Human Rights Violations in Honduras (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights)