Tegucigalpa, Honduras, August 21, 2009 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today concludes its on-site visit to Honduras, which took place August 17-21, 2009, and presents its preliminary observations. The purpose of the visit was to observe the human rights situation in the context of the coup d’état of June 28, 2009. The final report will be published in the near future. The delegation was composed of the IACHR President, Luz Patricia Mejía; the First Vice President, Víctor Abramovich; the Second Vice President and Rapporteur for Honduras, Felipe González; Commissioner Paolo Carozza; and Executive Secretary Santiago A. Canton. The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Catalina Botero, was also part of the delegation.
During its visit, the Commission confirmed the existence of a pattern of disproportionate use of public force, arbitrary detentions, and the control of information aimed at limiting political participation by a sector of the citizenry. The Commission confirmed the use of repression against demonstrations through the placement of military roadblocks; the arbitrary enforcement of curfews; the detentions of thousands of people; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and poor detention conditions. Particularly serious is the fact that four persons died and several others were injured by firearms. An exhaustive investigation of these deaths is needed, considering that the Commission received information that could link the deaths to actions of agents of the State.
The Commission was also informed about demonstrations that have for the most part been peaceful, with the exception of some cases in which there have been acts of violence, some of them serious, against persons and against property. These include the burning of a restaurant and of a bus, and attacks against a congressional deputy and several journalists.
Information control has been exercised through temporary shutdowns of some media outlets, the military occupation of their installations, a ban on the transmission of signals by certain cable TV stations that were reporting on the coup d’état, the selective use of power outages, which affected the transmissions of audiovisual media reporting on the coup, and attacks and threats against journalists from media outlets with different editorial stances.
The Commission was also able to verify during its visit that the interruption of the constitutional order brought about by the coup d’état has been accompanied by a strong military presence in various spheres of civilian life; the suspension of guarantees through the implementation of a curfew that does not meet the standards of international law; and inconsistency in the effectiveness of judicial remedies to safeguard people’s fundamental rights.
The bodies of the inter-American human rights system have maintained on repeated occasions that the democratic system is the principal guarantee for the observance of human rights. In this regard, the Commission considers that only the return to the democratic institutional system in Honduras will make it possible for the conditions to be in place for the effective fulfillment of the human rights of all people of Honduras.
The Commission considers it imperative that the de facto government adopt urgent measures to guarantee the right to life, humane treatment, and personal liberty of all persons. It is essential that serious, exhaustive, conclusive, and impartial investigations be done of all cases involving human rights violations. The Commission underscores the need for those who are responsible to be duly prosecuted and punished, and for adequate reparations to be made to the family members and victims of violations that are attributable to agents of the State. To this effect, it is critical that the Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor continue and expand the task it must carry out to investigate the totality of violations that have occurred in the context of the coup, and that no obstacles are placed in the way.
The Commission would especially like to call attention to the valuable work of human rights defenders. They have played a key role in obtaining information and in working to protect people’s rights, under conditions of personal risk.
The Commission will continue to observe the human rights situation in Honduras in the context of the coup d’état and will make its final report on this visit public in the near future.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.
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