foto: Redacción ConfidencialHN: Juan Orlando Hernández and Ebal Díaz
The demand for an independent human rights commission to investigate post-electoral violence in Honduras continues to be rejected by Juan Orlando Hernández’s controversial government. A non-state committee is being requested by civil society, the political opposition and international human rights organizations due to the government’s notorious lack in investigating human right violations. This past Wednesday, Ebal Díaz, Honduras’ Executive Secretary of the Council of Ministers, reaffirmed that the ruling government will not support the creation of a commission designed to carry out the duty of the country’s Public Prosecutor’s Office.
In response to the national pre-dialogue’s demand for this initiative to be led independently, Díaz argued that “a report was presented where the 22 complaints filed for related deaths in political demonstrations were investigated and documented” by a state body. Though this minister sought to highlight his government’s efforts, Honduras’ National Commission of Human Rights (CONADEH), stated on December 29th, 2018 that it was able to “verify the death of thirty one people, whose deaths have a possible relationship with demonstrations or evictions”. To further challenge the state’s presumed conclusion, the Coalition Against Impunity (Coalición Contra la Impunidad) verified that 33 protesters died between November 26, 2017 and January 23, 2018. The disparity in these three findings, where two were conducted by two different government entities, immediately draws into question the state’s capacity to conduct an honest and thorough investigation.
Independent human rights commissions have a history of being rejected from Latin American government’s insecure about their electoral validation and approval rating. During the Cold War, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Argentine dictator Jorge Videla criminalized their presence and humanitarian work because it challenged the legality of their authoritarian governance. Consequently, this set an example for how Central American military junta’s would approach human rights investigations throughout the violent civil war period. Two days after Guatemala: Nunca más was published, Monseñor Juan José Gerardi was brutally murdered for his leading role in the publication that voiced testimonies exposing Guatemala’s military’s wicked nature.
This is menacing fate that threatened those who were courageous enough to speak on behalf of the massacre of El Mozote in El Salvador and political imprisonment in Uruguay; the Hondurans willing to verify every post-coup and post-electoral death their government is seeking to erase and repress.
A common argument utilized by these type of governments to discredit non-state commissions rests on the politicization of human rights. Díaz stated that they support “a commission of specialists not related to any political party or any ideological relation to the issue of human rights.” However, given the political context in which these murders occurred, it’s difficult to separate the underlying political differences embraced between the military police and protesters following a fraudulent election (not to mention, unconstitutional). Over forty people would not have been killed by the weapons of armed forces or violent National Party supporters if their human rights of political freedom and freedom of expression against the ruling regime would have been respected. Salvador Nasralla, presidential candidate for Alianza de Oposición contra la Dictadura (Alliance of the Opposition against the Dictatorship), has recently pulled out of the national dialogue with Hernández’s National Party over the inability to come to a solution where this sort of committee can be created.
Six months later, Hernández remains in power and is now seeking to launch an initiative that would have the United Nations and the world recognize that ‘non-state groups’ in Honduras also violate human rights. On Friday, Hernández emphasized that “not only do state agents undermine or damage fundamental rights” but also gang members and with enough alarming vagueness to also implicate social movements and global solidarity networks working to advance Honduran human rights.
The absence of an independent human rights commission to investigate the post-electoral violence in Honduras is not only extending institutional impunity, but prolonging the suffering being worsened by Hernández’s unconstitutional continuation in power. The Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) is an independent commission whose investigative work forced former president Otto Pérez Molina to resign and later be incarcerated in 2015. Juan Orlando Hernández fears the potential impact this could have for this national party and government.
*Feel free to reach out firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments or also doing similar research. This is an attempt to summarize briefly the political complexity and historical connotations this sort of government stance has in Honduras.