Concern Mounts over Suspension of Rights in Honduras

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As international and domestic concern mounts over the suspension of constitutional rights declared by de facto Honduran President Roberto Micheletti on September 26th, the government promises to restore rights, but does not yet act to do so, and human rights violations continue.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights calls the decree issued by the de facto government suspending constitutional guarantees a “violation of international law”  and states that its provisions “arbitrarily restrict fundamental human rights and contain vague regulations that grant absolute discretion to the authorities, especially the Army and the Police forces…. The decree includes a 45-day suspension of constitutional guarantees related to personal liberty, freedom of association and assembly, freedom of movement, and freedom of expression, and establishes that the armed forces will participate in operations ‘to maintain the order and security of the Republic’ and to take audiovisual communications media off the air. The decree also prohibits any public meeting not authorized by police or military authorities….”

Reporters without Borders says that Honduran police evicted staff and confiscated equipment when they closed Radio Globo and Canal 36 television, and some journalists have been beaten. “Ronny Sánchez, a Guatemalan journalist employed by the Mexican TV station Televisa, said he was beaten by members of the police units that were present for the confiscation of equipment from Radio Globo. Another Guatemalan journalist, Alberto Cardona of Guatevisión, was also the victim of police brutality.”

Conflicting messages from the U.S. government clouded the picture, as W. Lewis Amselem, the acting American representative to the OAS, called Mr. Zelaya “irresponsible and foolish” for returning without an agreement, while State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said, “I think it’s time for the de facto regime to put down the shovel…With every action, they keep on making the hole deeper,”  according to the New York Times. Human Rights Watch’s José Miguel Vivanco “said that if the United States was trying to spread the blame, the strategy was not working. ‘It has the effect of defusing the pressure… Micheletti is the one who is taking away freedoms to an outrageous degree and the United States needs to be focusing all its attention on him.’”

Six influential democratic members of Congress wrote an open letter to the Honduran Congress, stating that in regards to the situation in Honduras, "The United States government has one position, which has been a repeated call for dialogue between both sides, and support for the San Jose Accords, as proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias." The letter cautioned that "should the de facto government continue to stall, we will encourage our government to not recognize your upcoming elections." Click here to read it in English. Haga clíc aquí para leerlo en español.

The Catholic social ministry office Caritas Honduras says the crisis is worsening, “further exacerbated by the extreme measures taken by those currently ruling the country, such as the declaration of a 45-day state of emergency, which we believe is a disproportionate imposition of illegitimate force and an obstacle in the path to dialogue, because it undermines basic human rights, such as freedom of expression, assembly, association and normal movement, and rights and guarantees enshrined in .. the Honduran Constitution.” Caritas called for an “honest and truthful dialogue that involves all sectors and excludes no one” and denounced death threats received by Father Ismael Moreno, S.J., and the blocking of transmissions of Radio Progreso, Radio SantaRosa and other media outlets.
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Honduran human rights group COFADEH says that fourteen people have been killed since the June 28th coup, and that Honduran soldiers and police have used torture against detainees.

The Honduran human rights group Centro de Investigacion y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH) says that human rights defenders since the coup have suffered threats, beatings, arbitrary detention, surveillance, and illegal searches.  CIPRODEH reports that the human rights unit of the Attorney General’s office, more than two months after the coup, had not even interrogated military and police chiefs regarding use of force against protestors, while other units of the Attorney General’s office were acting vigorously to prosecute protestors in ways which violated due process.

The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Institute Justice team and Quixote Center issued a report on a religious delegation to Honduras, describing human rights abuses and observing that “the pain of the victims of violence in these weeks needs to be listened to with great care.”