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CCR: Parents of Activist Teen Shot and Killed after Illegal Honduras Coup File Suit against Micheletti

Parents of Activist Teen Shot and Killed after Illegal Honduras Coup File Suit against Micheletti

Extrajudicial Killing, Crimes against Humanity and Other Human Rights Violations Occurred under Post-Coup Leader’s Authority and Direction

CONTACT: press@ccrjustice.org

Para leer esto comunicado de prensa en espanol, haga clic aqui.

June 23, 2011, Houston – Today, almost two years after the military coup in Honduras, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a complaint in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas, on behalf of David Murillo and Silvia Mencías, the parents of 19-year-old Isis Obed Murillo who was shot and killed by Honduran military forces during a peaceful demonstration against the military coup d’etat of June 28, 2009. The defendant is Roberto Micheletti Baín, former president of the Honduran National Congress who assumed the role of head of the de facto government immediately following the coup d’état ousting President Zelaya. The complaint details extrajudicial killing, crimes against humanity of murder and persecution, wrongful death and other gross human rights violations that occurred in Honduras under the authority and/or direction of Micheletti.

“I want no more bloodshed,” said Silvia Mencías, mother of the killed teen. “I don’t want any other mothers to suffer the way I have.”

“I was Isis Obed’s friend, teacher and father. We carry our pain like a cross, but Isis Obed’s legacy – the principles with which we raised him – will always be alive in our minds,” said David Murillo, Isis Obed’s father. “In life and in his work with social organizations, he was committed to defending the rights of others.”

On July 5, 2009, President Zelaya attempted to return to Honduras and restore the democratically-elected government. Zelaya intended to fly by airplane to Honduras and land at Toncontin International Airport in the capital of Tegucigalpa . Nineteen-year-old activist Isis Murillo and his family joined thousands of other coup opponents at the airport for a non-violent, peaceful gathering to welcome Zelaya back and support the restoration of the government. When Zelaya’s plane attempted to but was blocked from landing, Isis Murillo was shot in the head by Honduran military and died just moments after.

“The forces of Micheletti’s de facto government killed Isis Murillo as part of the severe crackdown and repression that ensued immediately following the coup,” said Center for Constitutional Rights staff attorney Pamela Spees. “Our clients’ son was a casualty of the systemic attacks on fundamental rights under this illegitimate regime.”

Subsequent to Isis ’ killing, the plaintiff and his family were subjected to surveillance and harassment by police and other authorities. This harassment took place in the context of what lawyers describe as an intense repression and political persecution that began under Michiletti’s regime that targeted the National Front of Popular Resistance, which formed in opposition to the coup, as well as journalists and other groups standing in opposition.
“How is forgiveness possible if there is no investigation, sanction nor reparation – when there is impunity?” said Bertha Oliva, Director of El Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH), Center for Constitutional Rights’ partner in bringing this complaint. “As family members of people who were forcibly disappeared for political and ideological reasons, we know full well that reconciliation is not reached through forgiveness and forgetting of atrocities. We need truth and justice to move forward.”

To view the complaint or for more information on the lawsuit, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Honduras page or www.ccrjustice.org/honduras-coup. For information on the Center for Constitutional Rights Freedom of Information Act litigation around Honduras , visit http://ccrjustice.org/honduras-foia.

 

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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June 14th: U.S. Congress to Hear from Honduran Military Coup Leader Under False Premises

Rights Action – June 10, 2011

HONDURAS REPRESSION & IMPUNITY WATCH

U.S. CONGRESS TO HEAR FROM HONDURAN MILITARY COUP LEADER UNDER FALSE PREMISES

The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs is to hear from the “Honorable Roberto Micheletti Baín (Invited)”, who is, they say, the “Former President of Honduras”.

Micheletti was a key leader of the June 2009 military coup in Honduras, and was a ‘de facto’ leader of the military-backed regime that carried out widespread repression against the Honduran people.

It is false to say Micheletti is a “Former President” of Honduras.  The so-called swearing in process by the pro-coup Honduran Congress, one day after the illegal military coup, was based on a forged resignation letter of President Zelaya.

The ‘dishonorable’ Micheletti should be tried in court in Honduras for his role in the coup, not received by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as “former President” of Honduras.

WHERE & WHEN

 

HEARING NOTICE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20515-0128

Connie Mack (R-FL), Chairman

June 7, 2011

You are respectfully requested to attend an OPEN hearing of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, to be held in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building (and available live, via the WEBCAST link on the Committee website at http://www.hcfa.house.gov):

DATE: Tuesday, June 14, 2011

TIME: 3:00 p.m.

SUBJECT: Holding Honduras Hostage: Revoked Visas and U.S. Policy

WITNESSES:

The Honorable [sic] Roberto Micheletti Baín (Invited), Former President [sic] of Honduras

Mrs. Sandra Martínez de Midence, President, Central Bank of Honduras

Mr. Leonardo Villeda Bermudez, Former Executive Secretary, National Convergence Forum (FONAC)

*NOTE:  Further witnesses may be added.

By Direction of the Chairman

The Committee on Foreign Affairs seeks to make its facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. If you are in need of special accommodations, please call 202/225-5021 at least four business days in advance of the event, whenever practicable.  Questions with regard to special accommodations in general (including availability of Committee materials in alternative formats and assistive listening devices) may be directed to the Committee.

WHAT TO DO

Write to your own Member of Congress, and other government officials, demanding that Micheletti – a dishonorable military coup plotter and leader – NOT be invited to speak at this hearing.

WHITE HOUSE: http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT/, 202-456-1111, Comment Line: 202-456-1414

CONGRESS: Go to http://www.house.gov/ to get info for your member of Congress, and call:  202-224-3121

SENATE: Go to http://www.senate.gov/ to get contact for your Senator, and call: 202-224-3121

STATE DEPARTMENT: 202 647-8947

STATE DEPARTMENT – Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs: 202 647-0834, WHAAsstSecty@State.Gov

AMBASSADOR CRAIG KELLY, Principal Deputy Asst. Secretary, Western Office of Hemisphere Affairs: KellyC@state.gov

MARIA OTERO, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs; c/o Laura Pena, Assistant: PenaL@state.gov

BENJAMIN GEDAN, Honduras Desk Officer, (202) 647-3482

DR. ARTURO VALENZUELA: ValenzuelaAA@state.gov

PAUL MONTEIRO, Office of Public Engagement, Darron_P._Monteiro@who.eop.gov

AMBASSADOR HUGO LLORENS, U.S. Embassy in Honduras, LlorensH@state.gov, 504 2236-9320 ext. 4268, 2236-9037; Silvia Eiriz, Eirizs@state.gov

*****************

FOR MORE INFORMATION about the brutal military-backed regime in Honduras, headed by Roberto Micheletti, contact:

Annie Bird, annie@rightsaction.org, 202-680-3002

Grahame Russell, info@rightsaction.org, 860-352-2448

Karen Spring, spring.kj@gmail.com, 011-504-9507-3835 [in Honduras]

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[en] Juan Almendares: The Electoral Theater of the Military-Political Coup

'The National Constituent Assembly is Not Negotiable' - Photo: Sandra Cuffe

The Electoral Theater of the Military-Political Coup

by Juan Almendares

Translation by Doug Zylstra; originally posted on Quotha.net


“The world is a theater curtain behind which are hid the deepest secrets.”  – Rabindranah Tagore

Here we examine the scene of the 2009 Honduran elections and its relationship with the military-political coup. The theater has two components: the text and the show. The first covers the history, context, time and space, whether real or imaginary. The second the protagonists, antagonists and both active and passive spectators. The military coup is the staging of electoral theater. The curtain opens with the electoral campaign and ends with legal and legitimate elections for the people; if there is electoral fraud, it does not.

On January 27, 2006 the Liberal Party candidate Manuel Zelaya Rosales assumed the Presidency of Honduras,. It is obvious that Zelaya never did have control of the government since the economic, political, religious and military oligarchy has a hegemonic control of the various branches of government, as well as the political, ideological and media apparatus. Consequently Zelaya could never have brought about a coup and become a dictator.

The military coup was strategically focused on Zelaya himself and tried to reduced the problem, through a barrage of propaganda, to the person of the President himself.

But the coup is not about him, it is larger, it is now against the advance of the historical struggle of the Honduran people, currently represented by the National Resistance against the Military Coup.

The coup hegemony is fed by two means: the illegal war of aggression and drama of the elections in November 2009. The political-military coup responds to a joint national and international program designed to use our territory and to sacrifice the civilian population as an experimental theater of incursions and coups in Latin America. It intends to turn Honduras and Mesoamerica into the Vietnam or Afghanistan of the Americas.

Is it legal to have the electoral process under the almost absolute control of the coup forces? Is the Supreme Electoral Tribunal legal? An organism that violates the content of paragraph 2 of Article 52 of the Constitution of the Republic stating that “judges who are nominated for or hold elective office may not be elected to Supreme Electoral Tribunal; a prohibition mentioned as a specific part of the precept challenged as unconstitutional.”

The election of citizens as Magistrates and Deputy Magistrate Judges of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal is contrary to the Constitution of the Republic under which citizens hold elected positions of popular election, the first as third alderman of Tegucigalpa, the second as Congressman to the National Congress from Francisco Morazán and the third as stand-in Congressman. As stated by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal under Agreement No. 24-2005 published in the Official Gazette number 30,886 on 27 December 2005.

And if the Supreme Electoral Court is not legally composed, will the election be legal? Is it legal for the armed forces, who tortured the legitimate President of the Republic Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who expelled him from the country, who violated the Constitution of the Republic? Their history as supporters of the coup is an indicator of the lack of credibility that the Honduran people have on the outcome of future elections.

And couldn’t panic develop in those voters, men, women and youths who faced persecution, torture and whose relatives were killed by military and police forces?

Can elections be legal when the candidates, presidential, Congressional and mayors of both independent groups and the Democratic Unification Party (UD) have been subjected to torture, persecution and murder of some of its members?

And do not they now have more advantage as far as participation and campaigning those that supported the coup, the Liberal, National, and PINU party over the candidates opposed to the military coup?

Are elections legals in which free speech has been gagged? How can you justify the attacks on Diario Tiempo, the bombings against Canal 11, the militarization and closure of Radio Globo, Cholusat Sur, and the death threats against the director and staff of Radio Progreso and the newspaper El Libertador as well as widespread firings of those honest journalists that worked at media outlets that back the current coup government?

The crux of this story that precedes the vote has been violent, dehumanizing, cruel, degrading and blessed by both the evangelical and Catholic hierarchy, with the false message of the invocation of God, dialogue, democracy and peace while at the same time they beat, torture and persecute massively Members of the Resistance, as well as priests, pastors and nuns.

Behind the scenes of the theatrical scene of elections have operated the local oligarchy, international financial capital, material and intellectual authors of the doctrine of National Security, Low Intensity Conflict War and the Irregular War plans of the Pentagon.

The active international spectators of the electoral theater have condemned the Military Coup and have declared that they will not send observers or recognize the election results.

For passive or neutral viewers, Bertolt Brecht once stated: “The worst illiterate is politically illiterate. He hears, speaks, does not participate in political events … The political illiterate is such a donkey that he takes pride in saying that he hates politics. He does not know that from his ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child and the worst of the bandits who are the corrupt politician, punk and lackey of national and multinational companies. ”

The theater curtain has not yet fallen and the future outcome of Honduras are the scenarios which lead to the return of constitutional order, legal and legitimate elections, the installation of the Constituent Assembly and the transformation of the constitution of the Republic to guarantee respect for human rights, food sovereignty and climate justice.

The other scenario is war. In this regard, the same Brecht added “In wartime, virtues become crimes, religion and honor are used precisely to disguise the real purpose of the war, which is to maintain at all costs the exploitation of the people by the aristocracy and the church .. With war, the rancher’s properties increase, alongside the misery of the pool; The General’s speeches increase, and the silence of the common man grows as well.”

Our human and planetary love and the principles of Non-Violence force us to fight so that on our Mother Earth no Honduran woman or man or citizen of the world is the subject of crimes against humanity or violations of human and planetary rights.

The urgent task is to unite all organizations and individuals that make up the resistance and build the most significant political force in Honduras, to fight for a new people, a new society where true democracy of socio-economic equality prevails; mobilize the conscience of peace and social and climactic justice and against irregular warfare and warring nature that plans more coups and irregular warfare in Latin America.

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[en] Dr. Juan Almendares – The Honduran Resistance: A New Hope is Born

National Resistance Movement in Honduras. Photo: Sandra Cuffe

THE HONDURAN RESISTANCE: A NEW HOPE IS BORN
By Dr. Juan Almendares, October 2009

The military coup in Honduras of 28 June, 2009, has been stripped of its democratic facade. The watchwords of the ‘de facto regime’, that have emerged from the violence, are: “God, Law and Order”.

The regime has openly adopted the methods of Stroessner, the late dictator of Paraguay, on declaring a State of Emergency – in reality a State of Siege – that aims to suppress all resistance and silence all opposition. It has closed down Radio Globo and CHOLUSAT SUR, two principal media houses that have continuously and valiantly provided news on the real situation in Honduras.

The legitimate president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, together with his family and associates, have been subjected to physical and psychological torture; and for all practical purposes deprived of their liberty in the embassy of Brazil, in violation of international treaties.

International pressure has forced the de facto regime to dialogue with President Zelaya. But this is a solipsistic dialogue that is being prolonged cynically and endlessly, with the aim of legitimising the forthcoming [November 29th] `presidential elections´ being conducted by the illegal regime under their `democracy´.

The country is divided between the coup forces and the anti-coup forces. The two sides have completely different and antagonistic philosophies, discourses, practices and methods.

“GOD, LAW AND ORDER”

The golpista (coup) philosophy assumes that it is the owner of reality, by right, and by inheritance. This ‘reality’ is fixed and immutable.  It is established and sanctified by the god of the powerful and the theology of armed and violent oppression; a reality in which the gilded world of the rich is in confrontation with the oppressive world of the poor and with those who have no right to justice and to love.

The golpistas´ conception of the world is based on an a-historical, ontological vision; one in which the social being has no place and the people do not exist.

It is this frame of reference which justified the military coup that aborted the holding of a non-binding poll – the “Fourth Ballot” – in which the people were to be asked their opinion on the installation of a National Constituent Assembly.

The golpista ideology holds that the “Constitution is God.” It’s advisors and practitioners are disciples of the Pentagon’s ‘School of the Americas’ and of the extreme right in the United States and Latin America.

The epistemology underlying the vision of the golpistas is one that totally ignores the potential of the people as subjects, capable of understanding and changing social reality.

Knowledge and education are a function of the market and of capital accumulation. The regime´s assumptions of its own validity and political legitimacy go along with a kind of legal formalism in which the law is completely separate from social life.

This view is not only perverse but false, for it flagrantly distorts the truth. It denies that a military coup took place, falsifies records and ignores the systematic violations of human rights and corruption.

The method of the golpistas is to promote a “syndrome of attrition and of physical, mental and political exhaustion”. The strategy seeks to defeat the opposition by means of irregular warfare; media, religious and military terrorism; detentions, beatings and torture. It includes assassinations of leaders, teachers, artists, youth and women – femicide has increased by 60 percent.

The economic cost of the military coup, in the first three months, has been over $800 million, implying a loss of nearly $30 million a day.

A GIANT HAS AWOKEN

But in the face of all this pain and suffering a giant has awoken; a new hope has been born. The Honduran people has rediscovered itself. Moved by its dreams of freedom, it acts in defiance of those who have hitherto sought to shut it out from the making of history.

The myths of media power have been shattered. The powerful, with their technology of manipulation, have failed to deceive the people. The walls of silence have collapsed. Charcoal burners, the colours of the earth, have served as tools for the working people and artists in the making of their own history: in writing, painting, dancing, acting, singing the poetry of freedom; confronting tanks, shrapnel, toxic gases and treacherous daggers with shouts of pain and anger: “!Golpistas! Golpistas!”.

NATIONAL FRONT AGAINST THE COUP

A people have been born, a new hope, in the form of the National Front Against the Military Coup. Its objectives are organized mobilization to struggle against injustice, to build political power through genuine participation of the citizenry in the National Constituent Assembly and to profoundly transform the Constitution of the Republic.

Its principles are based on “Non-Violence”. It has sustained over one hundred days of heroic marches under the sun and the rain of bullets, beatings, stabbings and the terror of noxious gases.

However, in a country still under military occupation by the United States, where the cowardly Honduran armed forces and police spend huge amounts of money at the expense of hunger and disease of children and environmental destruction by multinational corporations; they will never extinguish the courage and the voices of nonviolence shouting in every corner of Honduras: ‘Long Live the Resistance!’

The martyrdom and heroism of the Honduran Resistance is a call to all peoples of the world for no more military coups and no more military bases in Latin America.

It is a call for human and world peace; for respect for the dignity of our peoples and for their history; for social and environmental justice in the heart of Mother Earth.

The path of hope and liberation, in the face of crimes against humanity, is through full consolidation of the Resistance as a nonviolent political, cultural and spiritual force that builds and leads the taking of power.

No change that is genuinely democratic can occur if it excludes the National Front Against the Coup as the largest and most significant political force in Honduras. It is the most indisputable historical fact of our present and of the future; a force with which the people dream and are constructing the dawn of a new day for our country.

Juan Almendares, Tegucigalpa, October, 2009
juan.almendares@gmail.com
http://www.movimientomadretierra.org/
www.dignidaddelospueblos.hazblog.com
http://dignidaddelospueblos.wordpress.com/
Landline: 504-237-5700; Cell-phone 504-9985-4150
(Google translation revised by Norman Girvan)

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Jennifer Moore: Lawyers Question Basis of Zelaya Ouster

Manuel Zelaya Rosales. foto: Sandra Cuffe

HONDURAS: LAWYERS QUESTION BASIS OF ZELAYA OUSTER

http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/2132/1/

Written by Jennifer Moore
Friday, 25 September 2009

Since June 28 when the Honduran military shot their way through the backdoor of President Zelaya’s private residence, kidnapping and forcibly expatriating him to Costa Rica, the de facto regime has maintained that Zelaya’s removal was a constitutional transfer of power. For its part, the Obama Administration has condemned the ouster, but stopped short of defining the events as a military coup. By US law, this would require the suspension of the majority of aid to the Central American country.

However, a preliminary report by an international delegation of lawyers that visited Honduras in late August affirms that a military coup is what took place. The report considers the lack of an independent judiciary in Honduras as part of the context in which this occurred and points to powerful economic and political groups opposed to social advances promoted by President Zelaya as the driving force behind the coup.

The report, drafted by members of the American Association of Jurists, the National Lawyers Guild, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the International Association Against Torture, further states that the military overthrow was a clear violation of Honduras’ 1982 Political Constitution. Among various constitutional articles that the report claims were violated includes Article 102, which states: “No Honduran may be expatriated nor delivered by the authorities to a foreign state.” [1]

Building upon observations pertaining to human rights violations detailed in the report, the National Lawyers Guild released a press bulletin on Tuesday concerning the de facto government’s most recent abuses since Zelaya arrived at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa on Monday. Coup leader Roberto Micheletti used Zelaya’s reutrn as a pretext to unleash a new wave of aggression by his security forces against Hondurans opposed to the coup. The Guild also expressed special concern for threats to the life of the democratically-elected president.

Zelaya’s arrival, it concludes, should motivate the US to denounce the violence, further isolate the de facto regime and “no longer avoid officially declaring a military coup d’etat.” The Guild also urges UN bodies, including the UN Security Council and the UN Economic and Social Council, to “initiate proceedings for an economic blockade” and to “consider deploying a peacekeeping mission to facilitate the return to power of the legitimate constitutionally elected government.” The UN already announced Wednesday that it would withdraw all support for upcoming elections on November 29th.[2] The UN Security Council is also anticipated to make an announcement this week.[3]

Dangerous Territory: Constitutional Reform

The most immediate trigger for the coup was a non-binding, national opinion poll scheduled for June 28. It was decreed by Zelaya under the Citizens’ Participation Law, notes the delegation report, and would have taken place the same day as he was ousted. Hondurans would have answered the following question: “Are you in agreement that during the 2009 general elections that a fourth ballot box be installed in which the people will decide whether to strike a Constituent Assembly? Yes/No.”

According to the report, the opinion poll was a “determining factor” in the coup. They explain that “powerful economic and political sectors including those who control the Honduran media vehemently opposed the move and recurred to the courts and the legislature to put in motion a very accelerated lawsuit, lacking assurances of due process in order to justify actions without grounds against President Zelaya, who they intended to try.” Other reforms Zelaya was enacting which enraged to the business class included the rise in the minimum wage, the exclusion of intermediaries from state fuels purchases and the decision to purchase oil from the cheapest provider – the Venezuelan oil company Petrocaribe.

The speed with which the Supreme Court processed legal measures to block the survey raised suspicions among the delegation. “In contrast to the speed with which they acted against the constitutionally elected President Zelaya, [the Supreme Court] has not made any decisions with regard to any legal process since then – up until this report was drafted [on September 12th] – to sanction those responsible for violations of the constitution and legal order [as a result of the coup].”

Furthermore, one delegation member comments, “the de facto government clearly avoided using its legal power to arrest Zelaya when he tried to re-enter Honduras, compounding the violation of rule of law and furthering the appearance that there is no basis for claims that Zelaya committed crimes justifying his removal from office and claims that he lacks support within Honduras.”

Concerns over weaknesses in Honduras’ judiciary have been raised before. The Inter American Human Rights Commission has criticized the country for lack of an independent and efficient judiciary, notes another member of the delegation. Furthermore, a report from Freedom House states, “The judicial branch of government in Honduras is subject to intervention and influence by both the elected branches and wealthy private interests.” [4] The US State Department profile of Honduras also mentions that “Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judicial system was poorly funded and staffed, inadequately equipped, often ineffective, and subject to patronage, corruption, and political influence.” [5]

Also worrisome to the delegation was the contrast found between the ease with which Zelaya’s ouster was executed and the delays in addressing civil society requests for habeas corpus and constitutional protection as a result of police and military excesses over the last three months.

Human Rights Commissioner Compromised

Human rights abuses have escalated again this week since Zelaya’s arrival on Monday. The de facto regime has enforced a continuing military curfew, while state security forces have arbitrarily detained, beaten and even killed people. The security of the Brazilian Embassy where Zelaya is staying has also been threatened. The international group of lawyers raises deep concerns about the significant rise in human rights violations since June 28 and observes the lack of attention to such grievances by state institutions such as the Office of the Public Prosecutor and the Human Rights Commissioner’s Office.

While visiting Honduras, the delegation received complaints about violations of political and civil rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. Among those they report are violations of the right to life, physical integrity, liberty of expression, access to information, the freedom of association and due legal process. They also received testimonies concerning cruel and degrading treatment against women and abusive treatment of minors, including forced military recruitment among poor sectors of the population.

Additionally, they note at least four deaths since the coup, although other estimates were up to about 11 at the start of this week. [6] In this context, they point out, “A lack of will on the part of the public attorney’s office to immediately and diligently investigate what took place in order to bring those responsible to justice, which contrasts with the swiftness and efficiency with which governmental organisms processed claims against the deposed president.”

They also concluded that many people have avoided presenting complaints to the National Human Rights Commissioner’s office given that the Commissioner is an open supporter of the coup. Instead people were forced to file reports to civil society organizations such as the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH) because of a lack of confidence that their cases would be properly addressed.

Seeing such weaknesses in human rights protection by the state since the coup, the lawyers’ report recommends that “organisms such as the National Human Rights Commissioner, whose mandate is specifically to protect human rights, be led by persons committed to the defense of human rights and not by those who have declared themselves in favor of the coup, such as is the case with Commissioner Dr. Ramón Custodio.”

Custodio was quoted by Europa Press this week openly criticizing international human rights delegations, accusing them of having political interests in trying to make a victim out of Honduras and stating that they, including participants of an upcoming mission from the UN, “are looking for a mechanism to once again aggrieve the Honduran people.” [7]

Serious human rights violations and the use of excessive force by state forces have been documented and denounced in recent months by the International Federation of Human Rights, the Inter American Human Rights Commission (an autonomous body of the Organization of American States), Amnesty International and now Human Rights Watch (HRW). Yesterday, the Spanish news agency EFE reported that HRW “asked the OAS to demand the government of Robert Micheletti to desist in applying force against protesters and to guarantee fundamental human rights.” They noted one confirmed death this week and at least 150 arbitrary detentions. A HRW representative also mentioned four unconfirmed deaths as a result of police violence in Tegucigalpa. [8]

Whereas coup leaders lacked constitutional grounds upon which to oust Zelaya, those in Honduras who oppose the coup do have the right to insurrection. Article 3 of their 1982 Political Constitution states, “No one owes obedience to a government which usurps power nor those who assume public functions or employment through the use of arms or through means or processes that break or fail to recognize what the constitution and laws establish. The verified acts of such authorities are null. The people [of this country] have the right to recur to insurrection in defence of constitutional order.”

The pro-democracy movement, perhaps the least anticipated outcome of the coup, has now managed to sustain itself for almost 90 days.

The World’s Turn

Finally, members of the American Association of Jurists, the National Lawyer’s Guild, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the International Association against Torture conclude their report by calling upon the international community to echo efforts toward the restoration of democratic order in Honduras, and ultimately the region, by concertedly promoting the unconditional return of President Manuel Zelaya.

Indicating the need for ongoing human rights vigilance and accompaniment in the current period, they insist that upcoming elections not be recognized and that much stronger economic sanctions be implemented.

They further add that resulting abuses “cannot remain in impunity” and recommend that an international tribunal be established to try those responsible. Furthermore, given the brutality with which state forces have come down on Honduran people in recent months, they propose that reforms be considered “to assure the subordination of the armed forces to civil society, including that proposals that could result in the elimination of the armed forces and their permanent abolition be studied such as has taken place in Panama and Costa Rica.”

Notes:

1. For news and updates from the delegation: http://www.nlginternational.org
2. “ONU suspende asistencia a elecciones en Honduras” Prensa Latina, 23 September 2009; http://www.prensa-latina.cu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=119683&Itemid=1
3. “Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU se pronunciara sobre el Golpe en Honduras” Pulsar, 23 September 2009; http://www.agenciapulsar.org/nota.php?id=15869
4. “Countries at the Crossroads 2007: Honduras” Freedom House; http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,FREEHOU,,HND,4562d94e2,47386925c,0.html
5. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100644.htm
6. “The Road to Zelaya’s Return” Ben Dangl, Truthout, 22 September 2009; http://www.truthout.org/092209A
7. “Gobierno ‘de facto’ denuncia que los relatores de DDHH de la ONU ‘buscan un instrumento para agredir'” Europa Press 19 September 2009; http://www.europapress.es/latam/honduras/noticia-gobierno-facto-denuncia-relatores-ddhh-onu-buscan-instrumento-agredir-20090919235625.html
8. “Human Rights Watch pide a la OEA que exija el cese de la represion en Honduras” EFE 23 September 2009; http://es.noticias.yahoo.com/9/20090924/twl-human-rights-watch-pide-a-la-oea-que-e1e34ad.html

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[en] Jennifer Moore: ‘What is Minister Kent Waiting for?’

Honduran First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya argues with Honduran army Coronel Ayala at the Arenal military-police blockade. El Paraiso, July 24, 2009. Photo: Sandra CuffeHonduran First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya argues with Honduran army Coronel Ayala at the Arenal military-police road blockade the night of July 24th, 2009. Hundreds of Hondurans were detained for days at various blockades along the highway to the Las Manos border crossing with Nicaragua, where elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Rosales attempted to re-enter the country for a second time since the June 28th military coup. Photo: Sandra Cuffe, http://flickr.com/photos/lavagabunda

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‘What Is Minister Kent Waiting for?’

As beatings and killings mount in Honduras, President Zelaya’s wife joins critics of Canada’s approach.

By Jennifer Moore

http://thetyee.ca/News/2009/08/21/KentWaiting/

Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Peter Kent has repeatedly urged
“restraint” until a negotiated solution can be achieved regarding the
return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya to Honduras. He has said that
Zelaya was subject to an illegal coup, but suggests that if he were to
return too soon there would be an outbreak in violence. But more than
seven weeks since the coup, human rights violations are mounting in
the democratically-elected leader’s absence.

First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, during an interview with The Tyee
last week, showed the back door of her Tegucigalpa home that was shot
at sixty times on the morning of June 28 when military officers hauled
President Zelaya away in his pyjamas to Costa Rica. She also spoke
with dismay about repression against protesters and the lack of
medicine in hospitals for people who have been beaten or shot by
police.

Human rights violations mount

Most recently, last week, police and military brutally repressed
demonstrations calling for the return of Zelaya. On Wednesday, August
12, armed forces cracked down on a protest in front of the National
Congress building where legislators were debating if they would
reinstate obligatory military service or not. International observers
and press watched as police chased protesters and beat men, women and
youth. Various testimonies indicate that they attacked people who had
not even been participating. Police were also photographed hitting a
reporter who had been filming the protest.

Dozens were detained and sent to various police dispatches across the
capital city. Most notably, a group of people, many bleeding or
otherwise injured, were taken to a post belonging to the Special
Police Forces, called COBRAs. In the 1980s, their headquarters were
associated with numerous cases of disappearances and torture.

Later the same day, hundreds of soldiers and police locked down the
Pedagogical University, which became a virtual holding cell for dozens
of people who were forced to give declarations as a result of Molotov
cocktails that had been found on location. Strangely, the lock-down
occurred after those inside had already reported the presence of
home-made explosives to a public attorney.

Other organizations also came under attack. The offices of a farmer’s
organization and a union hall belonging to groups integrally involved
in the opposition to the coup were shot at during the night. In one
case, the shooting took place after curfew, at which time only police
and military are permitted to be in the streets.

In this context, and in response to Kent’s position to keep urging
patience on the part of Hondurans, the First Lady exclaims, “How can
this not be the moment to restore constitutional order and respect of
this people? How can it not be the moment to restore democracy to my
country?”

Negotiations drag on

But Kent has remained hopeful in ongoing negotiations led by Costa
Rican President Oscar Arias.

Negotiations began in early July, despite that fact that they help
legitimate the de facto government and go against the spirit of a July
5th OAS Declaration which demands Zelaya’s return “so that he may
fulfill the mandate for which he was democratically elected.”
President Arias presented the current proposal, called the San José
Accord on July 22. Zelaya has accepted the agreement even though it
strips him of power and provides amnesty for political crimes taking
place before and after his ouster. Coup leader Roberto Micheletti
Bain, however, has so far refused.

Since August 5, Hondurans have been anticipating the visit of an OAS
Commission in which Kent is expected to participate and which is meant
to pressure Micheletti to concede to Arias’ proposal. But the high
level visit has yet to happen.

Meanwhile, violence and human rights violations have been racking up
and Kent has failed to take his own advice.

In a July 19 statement, the Minister said, “We call on all parties to
condemn any and all incitement to violence in this ongoing crisis and
to respect the right of Hondurans to peace, order and good
governance.”

To date, around 10 assassinations have been registered in relation to
the coup. There have also been various attacks on the press, thousands
of arbitrary arrests, about 150 documented cases of mistreatment or
abuse, and at least one young man who is the son of a long-time social
activist has been missing for more than a month. Human rights
organizations in Honduras are also questioning who is responsible for
roughly 100 assassinations that have taken place during curfew.

Kent has not issued another official statement since July 24, and has
not condemned these incidents. Nor has he suggested, considering
Micheletti’s intransigence, that Canada could take further measures to
pressure the de facto leader to accept any negotiated agreement.

Back to the ’80s

Independent Presidential Candidate Carlos H. Reyes, whose hand is
severely fractured after being struck by police and falling from a
five-meter high wall during a march two weeks ago, thinks that Kent
has things backwards when the Minister suggests that Zelaya’s return
will lead to violence. “Those using repression and violence are not
the protesters,” he states.

“Your minister of foreign relations is poorly informed,” says Reyes,
also president of the Bottling Workers Union (STIBYS, by its initials
in Spanish). “The disinformation is so great at the moment that even
our cardinal of the Catholic Church in Honduras has said that if
Zelaya returns that there would be blood spilled. But whose blood?
Those who are governing? We are not armed.”

The repression and violence have been so intense that activists and
human rights advocates are seeing links with the past to a time when
government-supported death squads disappeared, tortured and murdered
hundreds of suspected leftists. Not only do they say that the degree
of repression is comparable, but they recognize many of the same
actors.

Micheletti’s security advisor is Billy Fernando Joya Améndola. Billy
Joya is recognized as a former operative of Batallion 3-16, a group of
military officers who received training at the School of the Americas,
and which is associated with hundreds of cases of kidnapping, torture
and murder. Joya himself has numerous unresolved charges, most notably
for the illegal detention and torture of six university students in
1982. He recently told the New York Times that, “The policy [in the
80s] was, ‘The only good Communist is a dead Communist,’ and ‘I
supported the policy.'”

However, the de facto government and most coverage by corporate media
presents Zelaya and opposition to the coup as representing the threat.
“They say that they’re investigating,” notes Reyes, “whether I or
another leader in the resistance is receiving money from
narco-trafficking, Chávez or the FARC.” The labour activist raises his
right arm to help stop the swelling in this hand, revealing bruising
all along the soft tissue of his upper arm. “The idea of a ‘red scare’
has not changed since the ’80s,” he says, when leftist activists were
supposedly receiving funding from Moscow.
He suggests that Kent’s position is off-base, and offers that he would
be happy to meet with him to clarify anything that the Minister might
like to know.

‘Waiting for another coup?’

“One makes the conditions, one doesn’t wait for them,” says Bertha
Oliva, Director of the Committee for the Families of the Detained and
Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH). “Positions like this do not help at
all.”

Not only has the delay in Zelaya’s return led to a rise in human
rights violations, the de facto government has also had time to
install its supporters throughout the state. Notably, she points out,
they are seeing a growing military or retired military presence in
public institutions.

She is also critical of negotiations with a coup government that the
international community has presumably not recognized. Beyond
conditions in the San José Accord that would leave Zelaya as a
decorative leader for the brief remainder of his term, she is
concerned about the possibility of an amnesty. For Oliva, who has been
working since the 1980s to ensure that those who were disappeared are
not forgotten and that their cases are not dropped, she says,
“Impunity is non-negotiable.”

Other critics of the delay in restoring Zelaya to the presidency raise
questions about why Minister Kent has not taken a tougher position.
They note that Canadian companies such as Gildan Activewear and
GoldCorp have important interests in the country, and it could be that
they were not pleased with the recent hike in the minimum wage or with
growing pressure for mining law reforms. If not, why has Canada not
withdrawn support for its Military Training Assistance Program or been
considering other economic sanctions that could help advance the
negotiation process? And why, some ask, has Canada not vigourously
condemned human rights violations taking place given Honduras’s
important position as the second largest recipient of Canadian aid
money in the Americas after Haiti?

First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya has questions of her own for
Minister Kent: “Is he waiting for another country to suffer a coup? Or
until they kill who knows how many people? He says it is not the right
moment. But this is not about President Zelaya. The President
represents the restoration of rights to the people.” His return, she
says, “is a mechanism to find peace and tranquility.”

# # #
Jennifer Moore is a free-lance journalist covering Latin America. She has
previous reported for The Tyee on Ecuador and Canadian mining interests.

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[en] New York Times: A Cold War Ghost Reappears in Honduras

“It was never my responsibility to detain people, to torture people or to disappear people. But if those had been my orders, I am sure I would have obeyed them, because I was trained to obey orders… The policy at that time was, ‘The only good Communist is a dead Communist.’ I supported the policy.” – Billy Joya Amendola, former member of Battalion 3-16

[Photo: Edgard Garrido for The New York Times]

Published: August 7, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras

THE coup here has brought back a lot of Central America’s cold war ghosts, but few as polarizing as Billy Joya, a former police captain accused of being the former leader of a death squad.

He didn’t sneak quietly back into national politics. He made his reappearance on a popular evening talk show just hours after troops had rousted President Manuel Zelaya out of bed and loaded him onto a plane leaving the country.

Mr. Joya’s purpose, he said, was to defend the ouster and help calm a public that freed itself from military rule less than three decades ago. Instead, he set off alarms among human rights activists around the world who worried that the worst elements of the Honduran military were taking control.

“The name Billy Joya reverberated much more than Micheletti,” Mr. Joya protested, perhaps a little too strenuously, referring to the head of the de facto government, Roberto Micheletti, installed by the military. “Instantly, my image was everywhere.”

Mr. Joya’s conflicting images — a vilified figure who portrays himself as a victim — are as hard to reconcile as his life story. Human rights groups consider him one of the most ruthless former operatives of an American-backed military unit, known as Battalion 316, responsible for kidnapping, torturing and murdering hundreds of people suspected of being leftists during the 1980s.

Today, Mr. Joya, a 52-year-old husband and father of four, has become a political consultant to some of the most powerful people in the country, including Mr. Micheletti during his failed campaign to become president last year. Now that Mr. Micheletti has effectively secured that post, Mr. Joya has resurfaced again as a liaison of sorts between Mr. Micheletti and the international media.

Mr. Joya looks straight out of central casting, though not for the role of a thug. He has more of the smooth, elegant bearing of a leading man. And in the 14 years since he was first brought to trial on charges of illegally detaining and torturing six university students, he has undertaken a solitary quest — one that can at times border on obsession — aimed not only at defending himself, but also at vindicating the government’s past fight against Communism.

In 1995, he released a 779-page volume of newspaper clippings, government records and human rights reports meant to substantiate the military’s narrative of the cold war, which essentially accuses its opponents of having blood on their hands as well. And in 1998, after living for a couple of years in exile in Spain, Mr. Joya said he was the first and only military officer to surrender himself for trial.

“Not once in 14 years has there been a single legitimate piece of evidence linking me to these crimes,” he said. Referring to human rights organizations, he said, “What they have done is to condemn me in the media, because they know if they proceed with these cases in court, they are going to lose.”

The odds would appear to be on Mr. Joya’s side. In 1989, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights determined that the Honduran military was responsible for systematic abuses against government opponents. Still, in the 27 years since this country returned to civilian rule, authorities say, Honduran courts have held only two military officials — Col. Juan Blas Salazar Mesa and Lt. Marco Tulio Regalado — accountable for human rights violations.

ONLY about a dozen other officers ever faced formal charges. And most of those cases, like Mr. Joya’s, remain unresolved by a judicial system that remains crippled by corruption.

Meanwhile, Mr. Joya has not suffered silently in legal limbo. In some ways, he has hardly suffered at all. His business as a security consultant and political adviser to some of the most powerful elected officials and businessmen in the country has been lucrative.

“He is like one of those guys who went to Vietnam,” said Antonio Tavel, president of Xerox in Honduras. “He had an ugly job to do once upon a time, and now he’s a regular family guy.”

Mr. Joya is the son of a businessman who helped start several successful companies in Honduras but gambled away more money than he made. Mr. Joya, one of four children, said he enrolled in the military academy at 14, mostly as a way to gain early independence.

He was expelled from the academy, he said, when a teacher caught him cheating on an exam. But instead of giving up his dream to be a soldier, he enlisted as a private and within two years had risen to become the youngest sergeant in the army.

Mr. Joya joined the military police, and in 1981 — as the Reagan administration spent tens of millions of dollars to turn this impoverished country into the principal staging area for a covert war against the region’s left-wing guerrilla groups — Mr. Joya said that he and 12 other Honduran soldiers received six weeks of training in the United States.

He acknowledged that he went on to become a member of Battalion 316. But that’s where his version of events diverges from those of his accusers. He has been charged with 27 crimes, including illegal detention, torture and murder.

The most noteworthy case involved the illegal detention and torture of the six university students in April 1982. The students said they were held in a series of secret jails for eight days. During that time, the students testified, they were kept blindfolded and naked, denied food and water, and subjected to beatings and psychological torture.

Among those detained was Milton Jiménez, who later became a lawyer and a member of Mr. Zelaya’s cabinet. In 1995, Mr. Jiménez told The Baltimore Sun that officers from the battalion stood him before a firing squad and threatened to shoot him.

“They said they were finishing my grave,” he said at the time. “I was convinced I was going to die.”

Edmundo Orellana, the former Honduran attorney general who was the first to try to prosecute human rights crimes, said it was “absurd” that Mr. Joya remained free.

“Billy Joya is proof that civilian rule has been a cruel hoax on the Honduran people,” Mr. Orellana said. “He shows that ignorance and complicity still reign inside our courts, especially when it comes to the armed forces.”

Absurd, Mr. Joya countered, are the charges against him. After his television appearance, he said he received so many threats that he took his wife and youngest daughter to the United States. Now he returns to Honduras only intermittently to meet with clients.

PORING over dozens of newspaper clippings and court dockets during an interview, he argued that Battalion 316 was not established until two years after Mr. Jiménez’s detention, and that it was a technical unit specializing in arms interdiction, not counterinsurgency.

He also argued that the former students’ testimony against him is rife with contradictions. He said Mr. Jiménez, for example, later recanted his charge that Mr. Joya was involved in his interrogations.

“It was never my responsibility to detain people, to torture people or to disappear people,” Mr. Joya said. “But if those had been my orders, I am sure I would have obeyed them, because I was trained to obey orders.

“The policy at that time was, ‘The only good Communist is a dead Communist,’ ” he continued. “I supported the policy.”

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Published online. A version of this article appeared in print on August 8, 2009, on page A5 of the New York edition.

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