Honduras: We Can’t Pretend It Never Happened

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As National Party leader Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo is inaugurated president of Honduras, we can’t just pretend the June 28th coup and its bitter aftermath never occurred.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights just released a devastating 147-page catalogue of the violations of human rights and civil liberties that have occurred since the coup in Honduras.

The Commission writes, “Along with the loss of institutional legitimacy brought about by the coup d’état, during its visit the Commission confirmed that serious human rights violations had been committed, including killings, an arbitrary declaration of a state of emergency, disproportionate use of force against public demonstrations, criminalization of public protest, arbitrary detention of thousands of persons, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, poor detention conditions, militarization of Honduran territory, an increase in incidents of racial discrimination, violations of women’s rights, severe and arbitrary restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, and serious violations of political rights.  The Commission also established that judicial remedies were ineffective in protecting human rights.”

As the new government takes office, we should look back at these extensive series of abuses to get a feel for the ground that must be covered by the new administration in restoring human rights and civil liberties and repairing and improving the institutions of democracy, including judicial agencies and law enforcement, that so notably failed in their mission to protect the citizens’ rights.  Joe Eldridge and Vicki Gass spell out in the Huffington Post some of the steps that are needed to rebuild democracy in Honduras.

And the U.S. government, which condemned the coup but failed in the end to strongly defend democracy and human rights, has an absolute obligation to press the new government to fully restore the democratic rights that have been so severely eroded.  This includes restoring human rights protections and civil liberties, establishing a truth commission, investigating and prosecuting the abuses that occurred, and launching a meaningful national dialogue involving broad sectors of Honduran society.

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