“Honduras remains a country in crisis,” said WOLA’s Senior Associate for Rights and Development, Vicki Gass, during a hearing today on the next steps for Honduras at the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
Speakers at the hearing included Craig A. Kelly, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and WOLA's Vicki Gass, who has been one of the most sought out analysts on the Honduran coup.
"The Honduran government's ability to end human rights abuses, facilitate the work of a Truth Commission that will bring real reconciliation, and implement a meaningful process of national dialogue, will depend in many ways on the support of the international community," said Gass during her testimony at the hearing. "The U.S. needs to both press the government to carry out these steps and offer its assistance. WOLA urges Secretary Clinton to not release all U.S. aid at once but gradually, pending significant progress in these three key areas."
During her testimony, Gass said that WOLA, along with other human rights organizations, is concerned that a blanket amnesty signed by President Lobo on the day of his inauguration, the stay of proceedings granted to military officers that participated in the forced exile of the former president, and the appointment of military officers involved in the coup to high civilian government offices will only serve to strengthen the impunity of armed forces. She also said that WOLA is concerned that those responsible for human rights abuses will not be investigated or brought to justice.
"Continued human rights violations will undermine the new government's stated goal of rebuilding trust in democratic institutions and ending the pervasive impunity that emboldens perpetrators of political violence," said Gass during her testimony. "If President Lobo wants international recognition and aid reinstated, then he needs to get the military back in the barracks, rein in the police forces, and bring justice to those responsible for abuses."
Lastly, Gass said that the popular reaction against the coup has to be understood, not only in terms of the disruption to constitutional order, but also in the context of the ongoing poverty and inequality in Honduras.
"The new government faces a crisis of credibility, not only for the events leading to the elections, but also because the thirty years of democracy in Honduras has done too little to reduce the poverty and inequality that plague the country eroding citizen belief in the democratic system," Gass concluded.
For more information, contact:
Kristel Mucino, WOLA's Communications Coordinator
[email protected]; 617-584-1713