A Real Truth Commission for Honduras

My beloved and troubled country, Honduras, desperately needs a truth
commission. On June 28th of last year, a military coup d'etat shattered
our fragile democracy and ushered in a period of arbitrary and
repressive rule in which those who opposed the coup were subject to
violent attacks, illegal detentions and state-imposed media censorship.
Though a new government headed by Porfirio Lobo took power on Feb. 27
following highly controversial elections, there has been no real
investigation or prosecution of those responsible for the coup and for
the many killings, rapes, beatings and illegal detentions that occurred
after June 28. In fact, targeted extrajudicial killings and attacks
against coup opponents continue to regularly occur with complete

The Committee for the Families of the Detained and Disappeared of
Honduras (COFADEH), which has been documenting forced disappearances
and political violence in Honduras since the late '80s, has registered
47 assassinations of anti-coup activists, 14 of which have occurred
since the inauguration of Mr. Lobo. Respected international human
rights organizations like the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
and the Center for Justice and International Law have also voiced their
alarm regarding the ongoing attacks, but Honduras' state and judicial
authorities have failed to address or even recognize the problem.

Now the Lobo government, in an effort to regain international
legitimacy, is creating a Truth Commission, an initiative that is being
applauded by the United States administration. Yet COFADEH and the
other Honduran human rights defenders who have spent much of our lives
calling for a truth commission to investigate past political violence
are not applauding. We are protesting.

The fact is, Lobo's proposal in no way resembles our idea of a truth
commission, or indeed any other truth commission that has played a role
in healing the wounds provoked by repressive regimes, such as those of
El Salvador, Argentina or South Africa. If we were not dealing with
such a tragic situation, the Lobo proposal could be considered

To begin with, this so-called Truth Commission has been given no
mandate to examine the human rights violations that have taken place
since the coup. The presidential decree that establishes the commission
does not even recognize that a coup took place on June 28th and makes
no mention of the victims of the subsequent repression.

But the problems with the Lobo Commission go far deeper than the flawed
text of the founding decree. The experience of truth commissions in
Central America and elsewhere has demonstrated that they can only
achieve some measure of success if the victims of repression as well as
actors from both sides of the political divide are closely involved in
the design of the commission and the selection of the commissioners.
The Lobo Commission was created behind closed doors, without even a
public discussion, and its commissioners were handpicked by the Lobo
government. Eduardo Stein, the former Guatemalan vice president who
chairs the Commission, has also failed to identify the coup as a coup.

These facts appear to indicate that the only purpose of the Lobo
commission is to support the Honduran regime's continued efforts to
whitewash those responsible for the coup and its violent aftermath.
This would be consistent with other measures taken such as the blanket
amnesty of all the political crimes that took place before, during and
after June 28th, the decision to grant permanent immunity to coup
president Roberto Micheletti by appointing him Congressman for life,
and the Lobo government's decision to place the state
telecommunications company in the hands of the general who executed the

Again, there is a dire need for a truth commission in Honduras so as to
begin to mend the wounds suffered by Honduran society since June 28th.
That is why the Platform of Human Rights Organizations of Honduras is
presenting an alternative proposal that addresses the grave human
rights violations that have occurred and that calls for an open
discussion and a thorough consultation of the victims of these
violations. With the support of human rights defenders worldwide, we
hope and pray that this commission will see the day and begin to help
our country heal and move towards a more just and democratic future.

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