Concerns regarding the possible readmission of Honduras to the OAS

Letter to the OAS Ambassadors endorsed by 50 organizations
06-01-11

ORIGINAL IN SPANISH

 

May 16, 2011

Distinguished Ambassadors

Permanent Missions to the Organization of American States

 

Ref: Readmission of Honduras to the OAS

 

 

Your Excellencies:

 

We would like to bring to your attention our concerns regarding the possible readmission of Honduras to the Organization of American States (OAS).

 

Through media accounts, we have learned that several governmental representatives have commented on the need to evaluate the immediate reinstatement of Honduras into the OAS. One issue that may have been instrumental in their political evaluation is the cancellation of outstanding lawsuits against former President Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

 

In this regard, it is first important to clarify that the judicial authorities' decision only involves a cancellation of judicial proceedings resulting from procedural irregularities and does not pertain to the definitive termination of the process. This means that the prosecution could file the same charges against the former President when he returns to Honduras (provided they have not expired).

 

In addition, we consider that in evaluating the need to readmit Honduras to the OAS, priority should be placed on the adherence to democratic principles, which are the raison d'être of the OAS and should guide its actions. And in this sense, the resolutions adopted by this body in relation to the situation in Honduras, like those of the OAS-sponsored mission, are particularly important.

It is important to remember the condemnation of the coup d’Etat that occurred on June 28, 2009, which led the General Assembly of the Organization to resolve not to recognize any government that would arise from this unconstitutional breach, and to reaffirm that the representatives appointed by the constitutional and legitimate government of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales are the representatives of the State of Honduras to the Organization of American States.

The breakdown of the constitutional order that took place in June 2009 had the backing of   high ranking officials belonging to institutions, which are key for the rule of law. Thus, the Supreme Court, the National Congress of the Republic, the Attorney General's Office and even the National Commissioner for Human Rights endorsed, or had an active and decisive participation in the execution of the coup. Nevertheless, today these individuals remain in their positions, creating serious doubts about the independence and impartiality with which they perform their functions, and the existing guarantees for democratic life.

 

Additionally, under the administration of Porfirio Lobo, far from there being any establishment of accountability, high-ranking military officers who were directly involved in the coup now enjoy key positions within the government. This has led the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to express its concern in its preliminary observations regarding its visit to Honduras ​​from May 15-18, 2010:

124.          In this effort to restore democratic institutions, the Commission observes with concern that high-ranking Army officers or former members of the Army against whom complaints were brought for their participation in the coup d’état, are occupying executive positions in government offices under the administration of Porfirio Lobo. Thus, Division General

Venancio Cervantes is Director General of the Bureau of Immigration and Alien Affairs (he was Deputy Head of the Joint Chiefs at the time of the coup d’état); Brigade General Manuel Enrique Cáceres is Director of Civil Aeronautics; former General  Nelson Wily Mejía is in charge of the Bureau of the Merchant Marine, and former General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez is manager of the Honduran Telecommunications Company (Hondutel) (he was Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces at the time of the coup d’état).

 

Moreover, in the context of the coup d’etat and its aftermath, countless human rights violations have taken place, mainly affecting people who protested the overthrow. In this sense, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and personal freedom were arbitrarily and unduly restricted. In addition, many people lost their lives while advocating for democracy. However, none of these violations have actually been punished.

In assessing the possible reinstatement of Honduras to the OAS, it is essential to not only address the persistence of the structures that made the coup possible, as well as the lack of an adequate response to human rights violations, but to  also take in to account the effective implementation of the conclusions and recommendations made by the High-Level Commission appointed by the General Assembly to analyze the situation in Honduras.

As you are aware, in its report on July 29, 2010, the High Level Commission noted the importance of observing real progress in areas including the following:

1.  To put an end, in accordance with Honduran law, to the legal actions initiated against former President Zelaya and his associates during the de facto regime

2. Steady progress in the investigations into the murder of several people, including journalists and human rights defenders

3. The adoption of measures to put an end to  threats and harassment against human rights defenders, journalists and other media personnel, teachers and members of the National Popular Resistance Front, and judges who took part in  activities against the coup d´état

4. The effective implementation of mechanisms for enforcement of precautionary measures issued to protect the lives and safety of many people who are at risk

5. The cessation of impunity for human rights violations, including those verified by the IACHR and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

However, to date there has not been full compliance with the points above; that is to say, there has been a failure to comply with the minimal conditions established by the OAS to justify the lifting of Honduras’s suspension. Any dialogue that takes place within the OAS to discuss the reinstatement of Honduras should consider, as a minimum, the points established by the High Level Commission.

From the perspective of human rights and the defense of the right to democracy, we believe that repairing the damage caused by the events that took place in the context of the Honduran coup does not only include the restitution of Manuel Zelaya’s rights-- though these rights certainly need to be restored --but also the restoration of the rule of law. For this to happen, it is essential to have an autonomous, unbiased and efficient system for the protection of rights, which takes concrete actions to combat impunity, and ensure an immediate end to acts of persecution and repression against sectors critical of the government.

 

Any assessments regarding Honduras cannot ignore the country’s international human rights obligations, or the statements and recommendations issued by various international bodies, particularly the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the High Commissioner and the Human Rights Council under the UN’s Universal Periodic Review.

Undoubtedly, this discussion goes beyond the reinstatement of a country that disrespected the basic principles governing the OAS, but Honduras’s readmission to the OAS may in fact become an unfortunate precedent, endorsed by an inadequate response to a coup d’état, with ongoing consequences for democracies in the Americas. We therefore believe that this is an historic opportunity for the OAS to provide a sound response to the guarantee of rights under the Inter-American Democratic Charter. We trust that it will not be wasted.

Sincerely,

 

Asociación de Jueces por la Democracia - Honduras

Asociación para una vida mejor de las personas infectadas/afectadas por el VIH-SIDA en Honduras (APUVIMEH)

Centro de Derechos de Mujeres de Honduras (CDM)

Centro de Investigación y Promoción de Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH) - Honduras

Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos - Perú Equidad

Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL)

Colectiva de Mujeres Hondureñas (CODEMUH)

Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos de Honduras (COFADEH)

Comité por la Libre Expresión C-LIBRE - Honduras

Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES) - Colombia

Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación de la Compañía de Jesús (ERIC) - Honduras

Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos (FIDH)

Frente de Abogados y Abogadas en Resistencia - Zona Norte - Honduras

FIAN Internacional

GMB – General Union of Great Britain

Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” (IDHUCA) - El Salvador

Instituto de Estudios Políticos para América Latina y África (IEPALA) - España

Organización Fraternal Negra (OFRANEH) - Honduras

Red Lésbica Cattrachas - Honduras

Wereldsolidariteit/Solidarité Mondiale – WSM, Belgium

ADDITIONAL SIGNATURES RECEIVED ON OR BEFORE MAY 20, 2011:

Asociación LGBT Arco Iris - Honduras

Asociación Americana de Juristas (AAJ)

Asociación de Capacitación e Investigación para la Salud Mental (ACISAM) - El Salvador

Asociación de Jueces para la Justicia y Democracia (JUSDEM) - Perú

Asociación para el Estudio y Promoción de la Seguridad en Democracia (SEDEM) - Guatemala

Asociación Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos (PRO-BÚSQUEDA) – El Salvador

Centro de Estudios de la Mujer (CEM-H) - Honduras

Centro de Prevención, Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de las Víctimas de la Tortura y sus familias (CPTRT) - Honduras

Centro Europeo y Latinoamericano para el Diálogo Social (CELDS)

Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH) – Nicaragua

Centro para la Promoción de Derechos Humanos "Madeleine Lagadec" - El Salvador.

Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)

Colectivo de hondureños en resistencia del norte de California

Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH) – Honduras

El Centro Internacional de Investigación en Derechos Humanos (CIIDH) - Guatemala

Foro de Mujeres por la Vida – Honduras

Friendship Office of the Americas

Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho (FESPAD) – El Salvador

Fundación Hermano Mercedes Ruiz (FUNDAHMER) – El Salvador

Fundación Salvadoreña para la Reconstrucción y el Desarrollo (REDES) El Salvador

Hermanas de la Misericordia de las Américas - Equipo de Justicia

Instituto de Estudios de la Mujer “Norma Virginia Guirola de Herrera” (CEMUJER) – El Salvador

Judges for Judges (Rechters voor Rechters) – The Netherlands

La Asociación Internacional por la Paz en Colombia y el Mundo (AIPAZCOMUN)

La Coordinación Ecuménica de la Iglesia de las y los pobres en El Salvador

(CEIPES)

Mesa Nacional Consejo Latinoamericano de Iglesias CLAI - Honduras

Movimiento de Mujeres por la Paz "Visitacion Padilla" - Honduras

Movimiento de Profesionales y Técnicos Patria Exacta – El Salvador

Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos (WOLA)

Servicio Internacional Cristiano de Solidaridad con los pueblos de América Latina “Oscar Romero” (SICSAL)