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Honduras: OAS annual report cites violations

On April 15 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), a Washington, DC-based agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued its 2009 report on human rights in the hemisphere. For the first time the IACHR included Honduras among the countries that it "believed warranted special attention." The inclusion of Honduras is based on a report, "Honduras: Human Rights and the Coup d'État," by an IACHR commission that visited Honduras in August 2009 to investigate the human rights situation following a June 28 military coup.

According to an IACHR press release from April 15, the commission "confirmed during its visit to Honduras that…there have been grave human rights violations, including deaths, arbitrary declaration of a state of siege, repression of public demonstrations using disproportionate force, criminalization of social protest, arbitrary arrests of thousands of people, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and poor conditions of detention, militarization of the territory, an increase in instances of racial discrimination, violations of the rights of women, serious and arbitrary restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, and grave violations of political rights."

The four other countries cited in the 2009 report have been criticized in previous IACHR annual reports: Colombia for a "persistent pattern of violation of the rights to life and to humane treatment"; Cuba for "structural situations that seriously affect the full enjoyment of human rights"; Haiti for "structural situations that seriously affect the enjoyment of the fundamental rights of its inhabitants"; and Venezuela for problems including the absence of "conditions…for human rights defenders and journalists to freely perform their occupations." The report also criticized the US for its 50-year-old trade embargo against Cuba.

In remarks published on April 16 the Honduran government's national human rights commissioner Ramón Custodio said the IACHR had the "bad faith to want to damage the interests of the Honduran state and people." It has "stopped being an ethical organization," he said. "It's an organization that serves political interests. Its president is a Venezuelan professional of recognized political membership." Apparently Custodio was implying that IACHR president Luz Patricia Mejía Guerrero had acted in support of Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chávez, despite the report's criticisms of Venezuela.