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Wednesday, 23rd April 2014

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Honduras: proposed amnesty serves to whitewash military coup

Vote expected next week to absolve Honduran military of crimes, even as murders continue

Washington, D.C. - The international community should offer no support for planned amnesty for the perpetrators of the Honduran coup, Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said today. Noting that both ousted President Manuel Zelaya and coup leaders previously agreed on a deal to resolve the crisis that did not include amnesty for crimes, Weisbrot cautioned that current efforts to grant amnesty to the coup leaders would be merely an attempt to "whitewash the coup."

"The international community should remember that this is a regime that not only dealt a deadly blow to Honduran democracy through a military coup, it has also attempted to turn back time to a dark period of bloody dictatorships, death squads, disappearances, tortures, and murders," Weisbrot said. "Only international pressure will stop these abuses."

The Honduran congress is expected to vote early next week to approve amnesty for the perpetrators of the June 28 coup d'etat that ousted President Manuel Zelaya - who is still recognized as the legitimate president by the international community - and then imposed a dictatorship. This week the Attorney General, Luis Rubi, stated that armed forces head General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez and other military chiefs had violated Honduras' constitution by forcibly deporting Zelaya, but stopped short of charging them for removing Zelaya from power or for other crimes including the killing of unarmed demonstrators and other serious human rights violations.

In reaction to the Attorney General's charges against the military leaders, President Zelaya issued a statement Wednesday saying that Rubi is supporting the "impunity of the military by accusing them of lesser crimes and abuse of authority, and not for serious crimes they have committed: treason, murder, human rights violations, torture," and that "it is clear what is being done are preparatory acts for the impunity of the military and to avoid punishment for the material and intellectual authors of the military coup."

Since seizing power, the dictatorship has committed an array of human rights abuses including killings, beatings of demonstrators, detentions of hundreds of people, and attacks on media outlets. International human rights groups including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and press freedom groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders have documented and condemned these human rights crimes since the dictatorship seized power.

This violence continues to the present. As recently as January 6, the Garifuna radio station Faluma Bimetu was burned down in an arson attack. Reporters Without Borders stated that the station "has often been threatened because of its opposition to last June's coup d'état and to real estate projects in the region." On December 28, independent journalist César Silva was kidnapped, interrogated, beaten, and threatened with death before being dumped in a deserted lot the next day; he has since left Honduras. The week before, Edwin Renán Fajardo Argueta, a member of Artists in Resistance [to the coup] was found strangled to death in his apartment; Fajardo had reported receiving death threats just days before. The attackers removed computers in both the Fajardo murder and the Faluma Bimetu arson.

The October 30 accord agreed to by Zelaya and Micheletti, which was intended to lead to the creation of a unity government and resolution to the crisis, notably did not include an amnesty deal.

"The Honduran regime is hoping to receive amnesty for its crimes, even as it continues to murder resistance activists," Weisbrot said. "To allow this would be a green light for more killings."