Honduras' Most Prominent Human Rights Expert Calls on Obama Adminstration to Denounce "Grave Human Rights Violations"
Too Late to Have Free Elections This Month, She Says from Washington
For Immediate Release: November 5, 2009
Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460
Washington, D.C.- Bertha Oliva, the head of Honduras' most well-known and respected human rights organization, called on the Obama administration to denounce the "grave human right violations" in Honduras.
"How can it be that the United States government is silent while Hondurans are subjected to arbitrary arrest, the closure of independent media, police beatings, torture and even killings by security forces?" asked Oliva.
Oliva is the General Coordinator of COFADEH, the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras. She is currently in Washington, D.C., to brief Members of Congress, their staff, and other policy makers on the situation in Honduras.
Oliva's grim assessment of human rights and civil liberties under the more than four months of coup government is shared by major international human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and others.
"And now the U.S. government says we can have free elections in less than three weeks," said Oliva. "That is a sick joke." On Tuesday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon announced that the United States would recognize the November 29 elections even if President Zelaya, who was overthrown in a coup d'etat on June 28, had not first been restored to office. The vast majority of other countries in the hemisphere, including South American nations and Mexico, have stated that they will not recognize the November 29 elections unless Zelaya is back in the presidency.
Oliva noted that Honduran law provides for a three-month election campaign period, but that more than two thirds of it was gone. "People cannot have an electoral campaign when they don't even have the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, or freedom of the press," she said.
"It's too late to have elections on November 29," said Oliva. "If the coup government goes ahead with this, these elections will have no credibility."
Oliva recommended that the elections be postponed until at least three months after civil liberties and democracy - including the elected president - had been restored.
COFADEH and the Washington based Center for Justice and International Law have presented the following documented cases to the IACHR: nine deaths of demonstrators at the hands of police or military; 1228 arrests in just the last 45 days under the suspension of civil liberties; 546 cases of degrading and inhumane torture and cruel treatment.
Bertha Oliva is available for interviews with the press today and Friday - contact Dan Beeton at 202-239-1460 for arrangements.