A national truth commission begins work in Honduras this week, investigating events before and after the June 2009 coup that removed former President Manuel Zelaya from office. The mandate of the panel, organized under the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord that helped settle the crisis, is to document human rights abuses related to the coup, address grievances where they are found and consider reforms to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
Honduras' new president Porfirio Lobo has made top priorities of promoting national reconciliation, strengthening respect for human rights and restoring constitutional order in his nation. At a recent conference in Miami, he reaffirmed his commitment to promote justice and respect for human rights and to thoroughly investigate alleged abuses that have occurred since the coup.
Even as the commission begins its work, the human rights picture in Honduras -- although improved since the time of the de facto regime -- remains a concern. A number of journalists and civic activists have been killed within the last few months, spurring worry over protections for journalists. President Lobo has responded to these concerns too, naming a special human rights advisor to ensure that these killings and other acts of intimidation are promptly investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice. He also welcomed a team from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to visit Honduras to evaluate the current human rights situation.
In an April 26 conversation with President Lobo, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his concern about the human rights situation in Honduras, in particular the killings of the journalists and activists. President Obama welcomed President Lobo’s plan to fully and transparently investigate these cases as well as his commitment to improve the overall human rights situation in Honduras. He also commended President Lobo on his leadership.
Confidence in Honduran democracy has been shaken since the events of last summer, and it is important that the new government there work to address the situation vigorously and transparently. This is best to reassure the Honduran people, Central America and the broader inter-American system, as President Lobo works to address the many challenges facing his nation.