Honduras NLG/AAJ/IADL Delegation Returns: Op Ed from NLG’s Emily Yozell

A joint delegation of the Guild, AAJ and IADL returned on August 30 after a busy five day mission to Tegucigalpa. Their report will be posted at the Task Force on the Americas website in English and Spanish as soon as completed.

Press Release

August 31, 2009

Fact-finding mission of international jurists returns from Honduras

The mission concludes that on June 28, 2009, the rule of law and the constitutional institutional order in Honduras were interrupted by an illegal coup d’etat. Furthermore, since that date serious and systematic violations of fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, physical integrity, freedom of expression and association, rights to health and work, have been committed in violation of the United Nations Charter, the UN Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Democratic Charter and other international instruments and covenants ratified by Honduras.

The joint mission of the American Association of Jurists (AAJ), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), and the International Association Against Torture (IACT) carried out their observer mission from August 26 to 30 regarding the crisis in Honduras. Mission members met with government officials, diplomats and representatives of various sectors and social movements.

The delegation also received reports of excessive use of force by the National Police and Armed Forces against civilians who have expressed opposition to the coup and de facto government, and who have advocated for the return of President Manuel Zelaya Rosales, the restoration of the Rule of Law and the convening of a Constituent Assembly to review the Honduran Constitution.

The mission received specific testimony of harassment and cruel and degrading treatment to women who have exercised their rights to freedom of expression and to peacefully dissent against the coup. These acts included sexual insults, threats, beating of breasts and genital areas and rape. In addition the delegation heard testimony regarding abusive treatment of children including illegal arrests and the arbitrary detention and forced military recruitment by security forces in violation of Honduran law and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The mission will report preliminary findings in coming days and then produce a detailed report.

Mission participants: Vanessa Ramos (President of the Continental AAJ, member of the Bureau of IADL), Arthur Fournier Facio (President AAJ-Costa Rica), Emily Yozell (NLG and AAJ-Costa Rica), Gustavo Cabrera Vega (AAJ-Costa Rica and Service for Peace and Justice in Latin America, SERPAJ), Lucy Rodriguez (NLG –SF Chapter), Kevin Breslin (NLG—LA Chapter) and Roger Wareham (NLG—NY Chapter, International Association Against Torture-IACT, December 12th Movement). Contacts:
Vanessa Ramos (VRamos1565@aol.com) Tel. 1-212-206-1090
Roger Wareham (rwarehamLaw@aol.com) Tel. 1-718-230-5270
Emily Yozell (eyozell@racsa.co.cr) Tel. 011-506-2244-3385

Vanessa Ramos Jeanne Mirer
President AAJ Continental President IADL (mirerfam@earthlink.net)
Marjorie Cohn President NLG (Libertad48@aol.com)

Emily Yozell’s Op Ed for Submission to US Press September 3, 2009
I have just returned from one week in Honduras, accompanied by six other lawyers from the American Association of Jurists, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the International Association Against Torture, and the National Lawyers Guild. I am even more concerned now, after having visited the country, about the present consequences of the military coup and removal of President Manuel Zelaya from the country by the armed forces. I now fear conditions could easily escalate to increased violence and more extensive violations of fundamental human rights.

As a US attorney based in Central America for 20 years, I have been working to strengthen respect for human rights, independent judiciaries and an end to impunity. I have personally witnessed the many advances that have been made since the civil wars of the 1980’s, but being in Honduras this past week was like travelling back in time to the military repression and climate of fear prevalent in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. We interviewed many victims of recent government repression, and I attended the August 30th commemoration ceremony for the Disappeared in Tegucigalpa.

That yesterday’s Batallion 3-16 death squad leader Billy Joya is serving as today’s security adviser in the defacto regime is extremely disconcerting and should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who thinks this coup is a benign event.

I am encouraged that Secretary Clinton took the time Thursday to meet personally with President Manuel Zelaya at this crucial juncture and welcome the DOS’ decision to selectively revoke more visas and halt $30 million dollars of additional funding. But after meeting with US Embassy personnel Simon Henshaw and Nathan Macklin, as well as the Supreme Court President Jorge Rivera and other constitutional law experts and political leaders, it is clear to me that much stronger political and financial measures must be taken by the United States in order to apply effective pressure upon those now in power.

That lobbyist and Clinton insider Lanny Davis is currently contracting with Honduran business leaders to plead the case of the de-facto regime in D.C. is worrisome and may explain what appears to Latin Americans as a weak and almost complicit posture.

Pending completion of our delegation’s report (which will be available in the next few days at www.nlginternational.org) here are a few important conclusions and recommendations of our mission:

• There was no legal constitutional transfer of power to Roberto Micheletti, nor was there any legal basis to remove President Zelaya from Honduras.

• The Honduran Armed Forces have exercised illegal and excessive repressive measures of force and kidnapped young men for forced military conscription.

• Among the serious violations of human rights committed against the civilian population there are both civil and political as well as economic and social breaches, including: extra-judicial assassinations; arbitrary detentions including of minors; torture; closing of independent free press (radios and tv) and detentions, threats, and assassinations of journalists; restricting access to information and communication; militarization of public services including Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, INAM – National Institute for Women and public schools; inhibiting free movement and transport; illegal firings of public sector workers opposed to Coup, among other violations.

• The de facto government and pro-coup media’s insistence upon initiating electoral campaign propaganda and process under the present conditions is also a violation of right to free and fair elections.

In order for a restoration of institutional and democratic order, the first step is to allow President Zelaya and members of his administration a prompt and safe return to Honduras without conditions.

Effective steps to immediately stop human rights violations and restore human rights protection to all Hondurans, especially political opponents and human rights defenders are fundamental to be able to carry out legitimate activities without fear of reprisals. Trade sanctions, freezing of coup backers’ bank accounts, denial of tourist visas and cessation of IMF, Millennium Fund and other US non-humanitarian funding is essential and long overdue. That the U.S. did not stand in the way of the recent $ 163.9 million IMF disbursement to the defacto regime, is inconceivable and only fuels the overwhelming belief among Latin Americas that the U.S. is complicit in this coup.

The U.S. is in a unique position to help restore democracy to Honduras and to improve our image in the region by standing firmly to protect human rights and regional peace.

Emily J. Yozell emyozell@gmail.ocm FAX 011-506-2244-3385

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