United States Calls for Restoration of Honduran Civil Liberties
By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Washington — The United States expressed grave concerns after the Honduran de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti suspended fundamental civil liberties and political rights in its ongoing efforts to suppress opposition and arrest ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
“The freedoms inherent in the suspended rights are inalienable and cannot be limited or restricted without seriously damaging the democratic aspirations of the Honduran people,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said late on September 28.
“At this important moment in Honduran history, we urge all political leaders to commit themselves to a process of dialogue that will produce an enduring and peaceful resolution of the current crisis.”
Zelaya, who was arrested by the Honduran army June 28 and flown to Costa Rica, re-entered Honduras and took asylum in the Brazilian Embassy in the capital, Tegucigalpa, about a week ago.
Micheletti since has ordered Zelaya’s arrest; suspended civil liberties; shut down Radio Globo and television station Cholusat while confiscating equipment; and warned Brazil on September 28 that it had 10 days to decide if it will turn Zelaya over to Honduran authorities or face closure of its embassy.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said he will ignore the deadline and is calling on the United Nations, Organization of American States (OAS) and international community to put diplomatic pressure on the Honduran regime to end its unconstitutional actions.
The United States urged the de facto regime and Zelaya to use this time to build goodwill and solidarity that has been extended by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who crafted the San Jose Accord to end the stalemate and return Honduras to constitutional order.
“We remind the de facto regime of its obligations under the Vienna Conventions to respect diplomatic premises and personnel, and those under their protection,” Kelly said in Washington.
“I must say the situation there took a seriously bad turn with the threats on the Brazilian Embassy,” U.N. Undersecretary-General Lynn Pascoe told a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York September 28.
“It’s a very serious problem for all of us. It would be a disaster if any action were taken to violate international law on the inviolability of the embassies. We’re also concerned to see the worsening situation as the de facto government has been turning up the screws internally, closing media outlets and also taking state of emergency measures against the population,” Pascoe said.
At a September 28 briefing, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he told the Micheletti regime to restore full civil liberties and cease threatening closure of the Brazilian Embassy, which would be a serious breach of international law.
“I am deeply concerned about developments in Honduras. A state of emergency has increased tensions,” he said. “I urge all political actors to seriously commit to dialogue and regional mediation.”
Under the terms of the San Jose Accord moderated by Arias, Zelaya would be reinstated for the remainder of his term of office, which ends in January 2010, and with limited powers; a general amnesty would be issued for crimes before and after June 28 when Zelaya was ousted; a government of national unity and conciliation would be created; international economic sanctions would be lifted; general elections would be held; and the Honduran armed forces would be placed under the authority of the national electoral commission one month before the elections. The presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for November 29.
The United Nations, OAS, European Union and international community have urged acceptance of the accord worked out by Arias, a Noble Peace Prize laureate.
At a press briefing September 21, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, “We just want to see this matter resolved peacefully, with an understanding that there will be the remainder of President Zelaya’s term to be respected, that the elections can go on, that there will be a peaceful transfer of power.”
“I think everyone knows what the milestones need to be. It’s just a question of persuading and convincing and using our best efforts to try to get both sides to reach that point,” she added. (See “Clinton, Arias Call for Calm, Talks Among Honduran Leaders ( http://www.america.gov/st/peacesec-english/2009/September/20090922104736dmslahrellek0.1878931.html ).”)
Micheletti has indicated that he may restore civil liberties soon and that he would welcome an OAS mission on October 7, but not before.
The United States and several other nations have said that if the national elections proceed in the current environment, they might not recognize the vote and the winners.
The United States halted nonhumanitarian aid to Honduras until the mediation process is completed and there is a resolution of the critical issues.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)