Author: Lisa Haugaard
Tegucigalpa, November 25, 2013
International Mission of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
with the Support of CIPRODEH on the Honduran Elections
The purpose of this mission, made up of 11 dignitaries and representatives of international human rights and civil society organizations, was to reduce human rights violations, political persecution, and impunity and to prevent further deterioration of political rights. After several days of work and observation in the city of Tegucigalpa:
- The mission salutes the widespread participation of the Honduran people in the general elections held on Sunday, November 24, 2013.
- The mission reiterates its deep concern over the attacks and threats made against the human rights defenders mentioned in its November 23, 2013 press release, including journalists and those who work to defend women, indigenous and Garifuna territories, natural resources, and the lesbian, gay, transsexual, bisexual, and intersexual community. The mission had access to two blacklists targeting leaders of social and labor organizations, human rights defenders, journalists, and members of the Libertad y Refundación political party and indicating they would be murdered.
- The mission is also concerned by the recent and apparently arbitrary transfer of public prosecutors who had been working in the Special Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Prosecutors’ Offices and the impact of these transfers on the work necessary to overcome the high level of impunity in the country.
- After inspecting more than 100 polling stations and having spoken with authorities and with many sectors of civil society, the mission has seen evidence of a number of irregularities identified through multiple reports from diverse sectors of Honduran civil society.
- Many citizens were deprived of their political rights—in particular the right to suffrage—because they were listed as dead on the voter rolls, including some who had participated in the primaries of one particular political party the previous year. Some had the opportunity to go before the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) during election day in order to show that they were alive and well, but the mission was able to verify that their full rights as citizens were not restored in time for them to vote. In other cases, people were denied the right of suffrage when their polling stations were moved to other areas, far from the places where they have regularly voted, an action that effectively kept them from voting.
- The mission was also able to observe that representatives of the Partido Nacional were giving out personalized discount cards offering discounts for businesses and service providers (cell phones, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, restaurants, etc.) for those voters that provided their personal data and contact information to that party.
- As evidenced by numerous videos, photos, and testimonies, booths and distribution points for the activities mentioned above were set up in places near the polling stations (the Cerro Grande School, the Jose María Casco School, and others…) where the cards and other objects were made available without interruption while the distributors called out, “bargains here, bargains here.”
- Because of the way the above initiative was designed and carried out, the activities may have influenced the election results and should be subject to criminal investigation, clarifying the relationships and connections of the initiative´s promoters with the companies that funded the initiative and the sources of those funds.
- The mission has determined that there has been a lack of transparency around the funding of political campaigns and the sources of political party funding.
- The mission reiterates its concern over the strong presence of the Armed Forces during the course of the elections. We recognize that the Constitution and Honduran law give the Armed Forces a significant role in election processes. However, the presence of the Armed Forces in front of polling stations can create an atmosphere of intimidation, and the Army’s role in the custody of the ballot boxes is a cause for concern especially because of the Armed Forces’ role in the 2009 coup d’état.
- The mission also reiterates its concern over the use of the Armed Forces for internal policing functions, a situation that can contribute to the violation of human rights.
- The mission has received reports that during the course of the last few days, four people linked to the Partido Libertad y Refundación have been murdered. These numbers are over and above the 39 murders that have taken place since May of last year, mostly of members of the same party.
- The mission believes that a winner cannot be proclaimed until 100% of the votes have been counted, and it notes that several political parties, including the Partido Liberal, the Partido Libertad y Refundación, and the Partido Anti-Corrupción have yet to concede the results of the elections.
- The mission calls on authorities to fully guarantee human rights, to prevent acts of violence, and to protect the human rights of the entire population. Authorities must take special care to ensure the rights of those who have received threats or news that there are plans to attack them. These people are particularly vulnerable and their rights to life and to physical and psychological integrity must be protected. Authorities must also guarantee the freedom of information and the free speech rights and safety of journalists and social communicators. The mission calls on authorities to prevent the use of repressive measures against peaceful protests.
- The mission asks the Attorney General of Honduras to reinstate the prosecutors of the Special Prosecutor’s Offices for Human Rights and Against Corruption who were recently transferred to other positions in an apparently arbitrary move. Measures must also be taken to ensure the independence, autonomy, and suitability of all public prosecutors and to make resources available to their offices so they can carry out their role of putting an end to impunity.
- In light of its November 23 press release and now that the elections are over, the mission calls on the corresponding authorities to investigate and effectively sanction those responsible for the incidents related to human rights violations that were reported by civil society in the context of the elections.
- Pursuant to Article 212.16 of the Elections Law, which establishes the buying and selling of votes as a crime, the mission understands that the mere fact that there are indications of the occurrence of such activities as those mentioned above requires that an investigation be opened by the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Electoral Crimes.
- The mission calls on competent judicial authorities to process the election appeals and complaints being lodged and urges them to do so swiftly, effectively, and with all of the guarantees necessary for ensuring transparency and impartiality.
- With regard to the Armed Forces, the mission reiterates its belief that they should not be involved in tasks that are more appropriately under the jurisdiction of the National Police. We believe the Constitution and Law of Honduras must be reformed to keep such powers from being conferred to the Armed Forces in the context of elections.
- The mission recommends that an office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCR) be opened in Honduras and have the authority to advise and monitor matters related to comprehensive respect for human rights. It also calls on the relevant special rapporteurs and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Forced Disappearances to visit Honduras as soon as possible.
- The mission calls on the European Union and other actors in the international community to join forces with human rights organizations and social movements in Honduras to guarantee the protection and defense of human rights organizations and social movements and the ability of these groups to participate in decisions and processes that affect their personal and legal security. We also ask them to demand that Honduran authorities give these matters the same priority.
- The mission reiterates its invitation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to visit Honduras in the framework of its preliminary examinations; ICC presence can contribute to preventing additional acts of the same nature that are under examination.
 The mission was made up of: Baltasar Garzón, a Spanish jurist and human rights defender; Luis Guillermo Pérez Casas, attorney and head of the FIDH mission; Lisa Haugaard of the Latin America Working Group; Annie Bird of Rights Action; Mirna Perla, former magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador; Julieta González from APRODEV-Advocacy Program for Central America in Brussels; Susanna Daag from the Copenhagen Initiative for Central America (CIFCA) in Brussels; Hollman Morris, Colombian journalist and human rights defender; Enrique Santiago of the Foro de Abogados of Spain; Beatriz Gil from the Institute for Political Studies on Latin America and Africa (IEPALA) in Spain; and Pascal Paradis from Lawyers without Borders, Canada.