Honduras: Crimes committed following the 2009 military coup must be investigated even without ICC

Press release
en es

(The Hague) FIDH and its member organisations in Honduras, COFADEH and CIPRODEH, deeply regret the announcement today that the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) will no longer examine allegations of crimes against humanity committed in Honduras after the military coup in 2009 and in Bajo Aguan.

Victims of these crimes currently have little to no recourse at a national level, and must not be left without access to justice and redress. Since the authorities have shown no intention of investigating these crimes at the national level, our organisations call for the urgent establishment of an effective and independent mechanism, such as a UN-backed International Commission against Impunity (CICIH, in Spanish).

“Political persecution, killings, enforced disappearances, sexual and gender-based crimes and forcible displacement were systematic in the aftermath of the 2009 coup d’Etat. The coup destroyed the rule of law in Honduras, decimating the population’s trust in its judicial and security institutions. Accountability for grave crimes is not only necessary for victims and their family members, but for the wider Honduran community to restore its faith in its own government’s ability to serve and protect its citizens.”

stated the FIDH member organisations

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC announced today that it will not continue its preliminary examination in Honduras because the situation is not within its jurisdiction. The ICC only holds jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and the Prosecutor concluded that, based on the information available to her, the legal criteria for those crimes had not been met. In 2012, FIDH, in partnership with other NGOs, has sent two communications to the ICC OTP to contribute to the preliminary examination, asserting the commission of crimes against humanity.

Our organisations regret the OTP’s narrow interpretation of its mandate regarding structural violence, and of the standard of proof necessary to identify the existence of a plan or policy to commit an attack against a civilian population. We believe that the necessary elements could have been established by the OTP during the investigation stage, when its investigative mandate is expanded.

The Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, stated that serious human rights violations committed in the aftermath of the 2009 coup were “directly attributable to authorities of the regime which had seized power in the coup,” and must be investigated and prosecuted. She also reiterated that she would not hesitate to reopen an examination if her office received additional compelling evidence of the commission of crimes against humanity in relation to the coup, its aftermath, or in the Bajo Aguan region where ongoing violence has taken a heavy toll on campesinos and human rights defenders.

FIDH stands with its member organisations in the call for national investigations and prosecutions of serious crimes, including political and social persecution, extrajudicial executions, enforced disapperances, sexual and gender-based crimes and forced displacement.

“In the absence of ICC involvement, the Honduran government, with the support of the international community should urgently take the required actions to establish a hybrid mechanism such as an International Commission against Impunity and Corruption in Honduras (CICIH), composed of national and international experts, to effectively investigate and prosecute grave crimes,”

insisted the organisations.
Honduras ratified the Rome Statute on 1 July 2002. The ICC therefore has jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed on Honduran territory or committed by its nationals from 1 September 2002 onwards.

On 28 June 2009, the Honduran military, with the support of the political and judicial system, ousted democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya. In the ensuing months and years, the subsequent governments allegedly subjected the Honduran population to repressive acts involving the excessive and illegal use of force against peaceful demonstrators, extrajudicial and targeted killings, torture, rape and other sexual crimes, illegal detentions and political persecution.

On 18 November 2010, the Office announced the opening of a preliminary examination into the situation in Honduras.

FIDH, in partnership with other NGOs, has sent two communications to the ICC OTP to contribute to the preliminary examination, asserting the commission of crimes against humanity which fall under ICC jurisdiction.

FIDH and its member organisations have also filed complaints against the State of Honduras before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) for human rights violations and noncompliance with State obligations recognised in the American Convention on Human Rights, particularly in the aftermath of the 2009 coup. FIDH and CIPRODEH supported the submission of a complaint by former president Manuel Zelaya and his team of former ministers establishing the facts surrounding the coup. COFADEH also represents victims of the repression against demonstrators in the days following the coup.

Crime rates in Honduras, already some of the highest in the world, spiraled out of control in the wake of the coup, as security forces and government functionaries succumbed to corruption and collaboration with organised crime. By 2012, Honduras had become the murder capital of the world with 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people.

Political dissidents, human rights defenders, indigenous and land activists, members of the LGBTI community, journalists and lawyers are among the groups that have been most affected by these crimes.
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