Washington. D.C. May 6, 2010
The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) strongly condemned action by the Honduran Supreme Court to fire four judges and one public defender for having criticized last June’s coup and the Supreme Court’s support for it.
The action by ten of the fifteen magistrates of the high court in Honduras punishes the court personnel for exercising their guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and association, CEJIL stated. Moreover, it sends an intimidating message to any other judicial employee who challenges the authorities who supported the coup. The court’s decision seriously weakens the independence of the judiciary in Honduras.
“The dismissal of the court personnel demonstrates yet again the tremendous contradictions within the Honduran government, which on the one hand announces the creation of a controversial truth commission while simultaneously firing judicial employees for exercising their rights and acting with independence,” said Alejandra Nuno, CEJIL director for Central America and Mexico. “It makes clear that in Honduras, instead of room for a free exchange of ideas, there is only intolerance and repression of those who think differently from the authorities,” she added.
Those dismissed are judges Adán Guillermo López Lone, Luis Alonso Chévez de la Rocha, and Ramón Enrique Barrios, appeals court judge Tirza Flores, and public defender Osman Fajardo Morel.
López, Chévez, and Fajardo are accused of having participated in demonstrations against the coup. Barrios was dismissed for publishing a newspaper article in which he used legal arguments to challenge the Supreme Court’s position that the ouster of elected President Manuel Zelaya was constitutional. Judge Flores was dismissed for having presented an appeal on behalf of Zelaya and other officials who were overthrown.
All four officials are members of the Association of Judges for Democracy, of which López is president.
“This marks a reversal in the process of building judicial independence,” said Magistrate Flores. “The Court is sending the message that judges had better not be critical, but instead submissive and obedient, and that honest, responsible, and independent judges only get in the way,” she added.
CEJIL will push for the restitution of the dismissed court personnel at all available judicial, political, and diplomatic levels, to avoid the consolidation of a new blow to democracy and the independence of the judiciary in Honduras.
For more information, please contact:
Mauricio Herrera Ulloa