Washington, D.C.—On September 28, Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), announced the proposal to create the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Misión de Apoyo contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras, MACCIH). The proposal was developed in response to the request by the President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, and amid massive public protests over a million dollar corruption scandal within the Honduran Social Security Institute (Instituto Hondureño de Seguro Social, IHSS) and acknowledgement by the president that a portion of those funds had supported the National Party’s presidential campaign.
The proposal focuses on five action areas that include establishing a group of international judges and former prosecutors whose task would be to monitor and provide technical support to the Public Prosecutor’s office and other relevant state institutions in the investigation and prosecution of corruption. Additionally, the proposal includes an evaluation of the current state of the Honduran justice system, assistance in the implementation of the recommendations of the Follow-Up Mechanism for the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (Mecanismo de Seguimiento de la Implementación de la Convención Interamericana contra la Corrupción, MESICIC), and support in adopting the recommendations of the evaluation of the National Public Security System done by the OAS. Finally, it will include the creation of a Justice Observatory.
As various Honduran sectors and civil society organizations have correctly stated, the OAS proposal lacks the necessary scope to effectively root out corruption and impunity in the country. Many are calling for the creation of an international body similar to the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión International contra la Impunidad en Guatemala, CICIG), given its transcendental results in investigating emblematic cases of illicit structures, equipping the country with much needed modern investigative tools and techniques, and strengthening the investigative capacity of local institutions in the neighboring country.
Certainly, each country has its particularities, and any international mechanism to help combat institutional corruption and the criminal infiltration or cooptation of state institutions must be adapted to a country’s specific realities. However, experience shows us that an effective international instrument for strengthening the rule of law must include the following key elements:
- The ability and independence to select, initiate, and carry out investigations of emblematic cases and, in conjunction with the Public Prosecutor’s office or Public Ministry, bring forth prosecutions.
- A mandate to direct investigations to where the body of evidence leads.
- The financial and political independence to be able to act with autonomy and avoid any potential barriers or obstruction of its work.
- Leadership with integrity and honesty.
- The ability to develop strategies and proposals that contribute to the reform and strengthening of the national criminal justice system.
The corruption scandals that have recently been unearthed in Honduras have clearly proven the urgent need to tackle the problem and address the demands of the Honduran people, who for months have expressed their deep rejection of corruption and impunity. High levels of violence, endemic levels of corruption and impunity, and the lack of access to justice have contributed to the weakening of the Honduran state’s ability to meet the basic demands of the public and build strong, transparent, and accountable democratic institutions to serve its citizens.
Therefore, WOLA urges that whichever international mechanism is adopted, it must have the aforementioned key elements in order to be successful in supporting the country in effectively overcoming the problems of corruption and impunity. The MACCIH proposal must be strengthened and equipped with these key elements if it is to be successful in generating the needed systematic reforms to effectively tackle the endemic levels of corruption and impunity in Honduras. In addition, it is imperative that the strategy moving forward includes the active participation of a wide range of sectors of civil society, as well as a serious process directed at generating broad public support.
Communications Director, WOLA
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