VI.       CONCLUSIONS


551.     During its visit, the IACHR was able to confirm that since the coup d’état in Honduras, serious violations of the human rights of its inhabitants have occurred, including deaths, an arbitrary declaration of a state of emergency, suppression of public demonstrations through disproportionate use of force, criminalization of public protest, arbitrary detentions of thousands of persons, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and grossly inadequate conditions of detention, militarization of Honduran territory, a surge in the incidents of racial discrimination, violations of women’s rights, serious and arbitrary restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, and grave violations of political rights.  The IACHR also established that the judicial remedies were ineffective in protecting human rights.


552.      As a consequence of the disproportionate use of force by the security forces to suppress public demonstrations, at least seven people were killed.  According to the information received, there is no indication that the internal investigations have made any significant headway in terms of identifying and punishing those responsible.


553.       The security forces conducted thousands of unlawful and arbitrary detentions, without an order from a competent authority.  The detainees were not brought before a judge to review the lawfulness of their detention, were not told of the reasons for their detention and were not read their rights.  Furthermore, many were held incommunicado.  The majority of the detainees were released in under 24 hours, but no record was ever made of their detention, a fact that in many cases made execution of the writs of habeas corpus difficult and provided an opportunity for violations of the detainees’ physical, mental and moral integrity, especially sexual abuse of women. 


554.       The materiel and strategies that the Army, the Police, and the Cobra Special Strike Force deployed revealed a disproportionate use of force.  This, combined with the conditions under which the persons were detained, meant that thousands of them were subjected to inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment and even torture.  In this context, the aggression took a much heavier toll on women, who in many cases were victims of sexual violence.  Other minority groups, like the Garifuna, members of the gay community and foreign nationals were subjected to discriminatory practices. 


555.        The IACHR confirmed serious violations of political rights, such as the right to participate in political life and the right to serve in public office.  Ministers, governors, members of Congress and mayors were targets of reprisals, threats, acts of violence, budgetary cuts and military occupation of their offices.  Also, de facto and de jure restrictions were imposed on the activities of the political parties, groups and leaders of the opposition to the de facto government.  The family of President Zelaya reported the harassment and smear campaign being waged against everyone in the family. 


556.        The state of emergency illegitimately decreed in the country was used as a justification for the control mechanisms that the de facto authorities introduced and that the security forces put into practice.  The IACHR repeats that no de facto government has legitimacy ab initio to declare a state of emergency.  Furthermore, under Article 27 of the American Convention, the scope of the suspensions must be that strictly necessary to relieve the emergency situation, and this implies limiting the scope of time and space, and the rights that are suspended.


557.        The IACHR also confirmed that dissonant or critical opinions were prohibited and the security forces were authorized to search and confiscate broadcasting and transmission equipment when, in the opinion of the de facto authorities, the media were engaging in behavior prohibited under existing laws.  These measures are an egregious, arbitrary, unnecessary and disproportionate restriction, in violation of international law, of the right of every Honduran to express himself or herself freely and to receive information from a plurality and diversity of sources.  The IACHR repeats that any restriction on the right to freedom of expression, even in a state of emergency, must be adopted by a legitimate government and be proportionate and strictly necessary to protect the democratic institutions of government. 


558.          The violations of the rights to life, humane treatment, freedom of assembly and association, personal liberty, judicial guarantees, freedom of expression, political rights, the rights of women and the rights of minority groups were exacerbated by the absence of democratic institutions capable of processing complaints, investigating facts, punishing those responsible and making reparations to the victims.  Those sectors of Honduran society that condemn the coup d’état told the Commission of their fear of reprisals on the part of security agents and their mistrust of institutions that did not energetically condemn the interruption of the democratic order and have not responded to public outcries.


559.          Based on the American Convention on Human Rights, which the state of Honduras ratified in 1977, the state has an international obligation to prevent violations of human rights and, should they occur, to investigate, try and punish those responsible.  Nevertheless, the de facto authorities and the Supreme Court of Honduras consistently deny the existence of those violations. Inactivity and tolerance enable the repetition of human rights violations with impunity


560.          The organs of the inter-American system for the protection of human rights have repeatedly held that the democratic system of government is the best guarantee of the exercise and enjoyment of human rights.  Indeed, this report reveals how the human rights violations reported in Honduras are a direct consequence of the interruption of constitutional order.  The Commission therefore considers that the restoration of democratic institutions in Honduras is a condition sine qua non for effective protection and observance of the human rights of all inhabitants of Honduras.