WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

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21 Oct 2019 | Publication

New Central America Monitor Report: Combatting Impunity in Honduras

Evaluating the Extent of Cooperation with the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras

In April 2016, the Organization of American States (OAS), at the request of the government of Honduras, launched the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Misión de Apoyo contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras, MACCIH or the Mission). This Mission is the second hybrid mechanism for strengthening the rule of law in the Central American region, the first OAS mission to fight corruption and impunity in a member state, and the only international mission with the power to help investigate corruption cases in Honduras.

The MACCIH was created following the embezzlement of more than 8.5 billion lempiras ($355 million) from the Honduran Social Security Institute (Instituto Hondureño de Seguridad Social, IHSS) between 2010 and 2014, and subsequent demonstrations by the Indignant (Los Indignados) citizen movement. President Juan Orlando Hernández (2014–present) admitted that he accepted 3.6 million lempiras ($147,000) of the stolen money to finance his electoral campaign in 2014, prompting thousands of citizens to demonstrate every week through September 2015. Protesters demanded the president’s resignation and the establishment of an “International Commission against Impunity in Honduras” similar to the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

To placate civic demonstrators, the Hernández administration proposed the establishment of a Comprehensive System to Combat Impunity and Corruption (Sistema Integral de Combate contra la Impunidad y la Corrupción, SICCIC) and began negotiations with the OAS over its mandate and funding, a process that resulted in the creation of the MACCIH six months later. The Mission was designed to operate for four years, with the possibility of extension, and to have the overall objective of improving the quality of services provided by the Honduran criminal justice system to better prevent and combat corruption and impunity.

Although the government presented MACCIH as an innovative experiment, it did not initially garner public trust. Many doubted the Mission because it stemmed from the OAS instead of the United Nations (as is the case of Guatemala’s CICIG), the Mission could not “co-prosecute” cases like the CICIG in Guatemala, and due to popular distrust of President Hernández. By 2017, initial sentiment of mistrust toward the Mission lessened. According to a poll by a Catholic Church-backed research center, the Team for Reflection, Research, and Communication (Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación, ERIC-SJ), 42.6 percent of Hondurans polled in 2017 assessed the MACCIH’s performance as “good” or “very good.”

The MACCIH was not created to supplant Honduran institutions, but to support the work of judicial officials and strengthen the judicial system. In this sense, the Mission is an innovative entity, acting as an international and independent criminal investigation body that operates in accordance with Honduran law and reports to Honduran criminal justice officials.

In this hybrid role, the MACCIH must work hand in hand with local entities. Therefore, its success hinges to a great extent on the collaboration and cooperation of Honduran government agencies and the officials who lead them.

This report focuses on the second core area of the Central America Monitor, which examines the extent of government cooperation with international commissions to combat corruption and impunity. The report uses qualitative and quantitative indicators to evaluate the extent of the Honduran government’s political will to collaborate with and ensure the effective operation of the MACCIH in the country, in accordance with the agreement signed by the OAS and Honduran government. It covers information between 2015 and 2017. More specifically, this report focuses on three main areas:

  1. Cooperation of local authorities on the approval and implementation of the regulatory and institutional reforms proposed by the Mission in accordance with international standards.
  2. Cooperation of government agencies on the creation and effective functioning of teams intended to work with the MACCIH, and the extent of their collaboration with the Mission.
  3. Progress made on investigation and criminal prosecution of emblematic cases of corruption.

Click here to read full report.