By Freddy Cuevas
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras—The Honduran government violated human rights by causing the deaths of 20 people in the seven months after the 2009 ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, an Organization of American States report said Thursday.
Eight of the 20 victims were assassinated and 12 others were killed during street protests, an OAS committee concluded.
The panel studied Honduran events between June 2009, when Zelaya was whisked out of the country at gunpoint in his pajamas, and January 2010.
The report did not identify the eight people assassinated, but it said high-ranking army and police officers ordered and covered up the killings.
As for the dozen people killed by police and soldiers during street demonstrations, seven were not even involved in the political rallies, the report said.
The committee made only 52 pages of its 800-page report public. It said 10 percent of the full report is being edited out and the remaining document will be deposited in a Canadian library and remain classified for 10 years.
Figures on the coup’s death toll in this Central American country vary widely.
The ousted president and his supporters claim more than 150 people were killed in the political crisis following the military coup, which was backed by Honduras’ political elite, including Zelaya’s own party. A human rights commission within the OAS documented seven fatal victims.
Zelaya returned to Honduras in May after nearly two years in exile but refused to speak before the OAS committee that issued Thursday’s report.
The coup was triggered after Zelaya defied court orders not to hold a referendum asking Hondurans if the country should establish an assembly to rewrite the constitution. Opponents accused Zelaya of trying to eliminate the constitution’s limit of a single presidential term. He denied that was his goal.
His return home paved the way for Honduras to re-enter the OAS but political fights persist.
Zelaya accused the government on Thursday of violating the internationally brokered agreement that allowed him to return, citing the prosecution of his ex-chief of staff on corruption charges.
Zelaya said current President Porfirio Lobo is violating the agreement by pursuing the case and urged OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza to send a committee to Honduras to look into the matter.
“Contrary to what we hoped, impunity continues to favor those who carried out the coup d’etat and restrictions and political persecution is still taking place against members of the opposition,” Zelaya told The Associated Press in an email.
Under the international accord, Honduran courts suspended all detention orders for Zelaya and his former aides, including ex-chief of staff Enrique Flores.
But the accord permits prosecutions on corruption charges. Flores is accused of illegally soliciting $2 million from a bank while in office.