WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
2 Jul 2009 | News

WOLA Strongly Condemns Suspension of Civil Liberties in Honduras

The Washington Office on Latin America is extremely concerned by a “state of exception” decree which was declared by acting president Roberto Michiletti in Honduras yesterday.  The state of exception imposes a nighttime curfew and during that curfew suspends a number of civil liberties, including freedom of association and the right of peaceful protest.  It also permits authorities to detain citizens administratively, without time limits.  The decree expands on restrictions that have already been placed on freedom of expression since the coup on Sunday. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has reported that some broadcast media outlets were closed and some international cable news channels such as CNN en Español and Telesur were banned from transmitting. 

The new restrictions are being imposed as WOLA and other international observers receive continuing reports of government violence against protesters, civil society leaders and opposition parties that opposed the coup.  On Tuesday, June 30th, the Inter-America Commission for Human Rights, an autonomous body of the OAS, sought permission from Honduran authorities to visit the country to assess the human rights situation.  The Commission requested information on the safety of several persons, including several state authorities and popular leaders.  It also ordered the government to provide protective measures for several individuals believed to be at risk. 

“Honduran officials are arguing that their actions in overthrowing President Zelaya were constitutional.  We strongly disagree.  But whatever the legal situation, actions by Honduran authorities to revoke civil liberties should not be tolerated,” said Joy Olson, Executive Director of WOLA.  “It is outrageous that Micheletti, who claims to be acting in defense of the constitution, would now suspend Hondurans’ constitutional rights.”

The Inter-American Convention on Human Rights establishes in article 27 that a State cannot suspend, among others, the right to life, personal integrity, freedom of conscience and religion, protection of the family, political rights and indispensable judicial guarantees for the protection of these rights.  The state of exception announced last night is a clear violation of this convention. 

In light of these developments, WOLA reiterates its call for the US government to halt all aid to Honduras immediately.  “WOLA welcomes the Pentagon’s announcement yesterday that it has put all cooperation with the Honduran military on hold; however, only the suspension of all U.S. foreign assistance will send the unequivocal message that affronts to democracy will not be tolerated,” said Geoff Thale, WOLA Program Director.    

WOLA congratulates the OAS for the lead it has taken in resolving this crisis.  Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza will lead an OAS delegation to Honduras this weekend to seek to resolve the crisis.  On the morning of July 1st, the OAS General Assembly, with the support of the United States and all member states, agreed to invoke Article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, suspending Honduras’ membership should the country fail to restore democracy within a 72 hour time-frame.  


Joy Olson, Executive Director, [email protected], 202-468-3413
Geoff Thale, Director of Programs, [email protected], 202-664-7887