Preliminary Report by Int’l. Observation Mission on Human Rights in Honduras Issued Today
International Observation Mission for the Human Rights Situation in Honduras Preliminary Report
Written by International Observation Mission, Translation by Laura Jung, Lena Mortensen, and Adrienne Pine
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Confirmed systematic human rights violations in Honduras since the coup d’etat
An International Human Rights Commission composed of fifteen independent professionals (legal experts, journalists, anthropologists, political scientists, sociologists, and human rights experts) from Germany, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, Spain, Nicaragua, Peru, Sweden, and Uruguay, was formed in Honduras on July 17 to verify human rights violations that have occurred in Honduras during and since the coup d’état of June 28, with the aim of presenting observations and recommendations concerning the situation to the OAS, the UN the European Union and their member States.
Divided into four working groups, the mission has received testimony concerning human rights abuses in various parts of the Honduran territory: Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Olancho and Colón. With this aim, interviews have been carried out with different human rights organizations and experts; representatives of social movements, unions and media organizations, journalists, members of the National Congress, representatives from political parties, the General State Prosecutor, the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights, General Director of the National Police, international aid agencies, representatives from the United Nations, from the diplomatic corps, the President of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Public Defender, the Department of Immigration, and relatives of President Manuel Zelaya.
The International Mission is made up of fifteen individuals from the following human rights organizations and networks: International Human Rights Federation (FIDH), the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Copenhagen Initiative for Central America and Mexico (CIFCA), FIAN International, the Inter-American Platform for Human Rights, Democracy and Development (PIDHDD), the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES-Colombia), Austria-Suedwind, Human Rights Institute of the Universidad Centroamericana Jose Simeon Cañas (IDHUCA -El Salvador), Association Pro-Human Rights in Peru (APRODEH), the Institute for Policy Studies on Latin America and Africa (IEPALA, Spain), National Coordinator for Human Rights of Peru, Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ-Uruguay), Solidarity World (Belgium), and IBIS (Denmark), Continental Social Alliance, Alternative Connections, and the Center for Tricontinental Studies.
ii. Facts Confirmed by the Mission
1. On June 28, 2009 at 5:15 am, after violently overpowering the presidential guard charged with his protection, soldiers from the armed forces invaded the Presidential House and kidnapped the Constitutional President of Honduras, Mr. Manuel Zelaya Rosales. The capture of the president took place without the presentation of the corresponding court order. Immediately afterward he was transferred to an air base and then taken to Costa Rica, according to testimony taken from the President himself, by means of an airplane that took off at 6:10 am from Honduras.
The attack on the Presidential House was carried out using violence against the goods and occupants of the house. The facts described were reported by members of the guard of the overthrown Constitutional President, as well as by relatives of the President who were present in the Presidential House on the day of the coup.
2. On the morning of June 28, the Congress of the Republic issued a “condemnation of the conduct of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales for repeated violations of the Constitution and the law and failure to observe the resolutions and decisions issued by the relevant administrative bodies,” removing him from his charge as President despite the lack of a constitutional or legal norm that would permit such a removal, and designating Roberto Micheletti Baín as “Constitutional President of the Republic” (Congressional Decree No. 141-09).
3. On June 30 of 2009, although it was dated June 30 of 2008, Executive Decree No. 011-2009 was issued, signed by Mr. Micheletti, suspending the following constitutional rights: personal liberty, “detention and confinement for more than 24 hours” (sic), freedom of association and assembly, the right to freedom of movement, to leave, enter, and stay within the national territory. The aforementioned rights are detailed in articles 69, 71,72, 78, 79, 81, 84, 99 of the Constitution. The Decree established that these rights would be suspended from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am throughout the country – in accordance with a State of Emergency – for a period of seventy-two hours from the passage of the Decree.
The indicated rule, – which as of today and 23 days after it was enacted continues in force – not only does not include a mechanism to extend the suspension of said rights, but also to date the Decree has not been published in the official newspaper of the Honduran Republic. It should also be noted that article 211 of the Constitution of Honduras stipulates that regulations must be published in order to be valid. The Honduran Constitution (art 187) contemplates the restriction or suspension of rights exclusively in the case of invasion of national territory, serious disturbance of the peace, epidemics or other disasters.
4. The order for the suspension of these fundamental rights of the Honduran people continues to be applied despite their expiration after the 72 hours originally stipulated in the decree that issued these restrictions. No subsequent decree exists that has formally extended the suspension of these rights. Furthermore, the hours for the curfew imposed in the capital and in the interior of the country are changed randomly on a daily basis. These changes are communicated via announcements in various media.
5. There is uncertainty about the schedule of the curfew and the scope of the suspension of rights. In questioning people about the curfew, officials interviewed by the Mission reported varying hours and expressed differences about the content.
6. The Mission was puzzled by the attitude of support for the coup demonstrated by the highest ranks of the Honduran Catholic church and by representatives of various evangelical churches, as well as by the implication of their active involvement in organizing demonstrations of support convened by and for the de facto government.
7. The International Mission for Human Rights in Honduras has identified the existence of grave violations of human rights since the coup d’etat. It has also confirmed the lack of protection for numerous individuals as a result of the inadequate response from the institutions that are constitutionally responsible for monitoring respect for the fundamental human rights of Hondurans. In particular, the Mission calls attention to grave omissions in the fulfillment of the functional obligations of the National Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Ramón Custodio.
8. The fundamental rights violations reported to the Mission included a significant number of extrajudicial executions, hundreds of arbitrary detentions, multiple threats, curtailment of freedom of expression and information, as well as undue restrictions on the freedom of movement, altogether signaling a clear context of political persecution that especially affects political and union leaders, human rights defenders, social activists, journalists, foreign citizens, and others.
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