Washington D.C., October 23rd, 2015.- Despite the absence of the State of Honduras, local and international human rights organizations denounced high levels of corruption and the lack of judicial independence currently assailing the country.
In an unprecedented move, the State of Honduras did not participate in two hearings convened by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), despite the pressing subject matter discussed and civil society's willingness to engage in dialogue with the State. It is important to not that, not even at the time of the coup d'état in 2009, did representatives ignore a call from the Commission.
During the first hearing, the Asociación de Jueces por la Democracia and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) outlined the challenges facing Honduras with regards to judicial independence. According to the report of Judicial Management Council of the Judiciary, in 2014 47 judicial officers were dismissed and 75 were suspended. Most of these judges experienced violations of their rights to a proper defense and due process, and only learned that they faced disciplinary proceedings through the press.
Throughout the process of resolution of disciplinary measures--which lasted 10 months on average--, justice operators were not paid, a fact which constitutes an anticipated punishment and violates the presumption of innocence. Additionally, these violations were stacked on to an absence of effective judicial responses to disciplinary decisions after the victims filed for protection before the Constitutional Court. While several of these petitions have been granted, the General Council reinterprets or fails to implement these decisions.
Likewise, the petitioners expressed their concern at the current choice of 15 judges and magistrates of the Supreme Court since the rules allowed broad discretion to the Nominating Board and Congress and did not guarantee objective selection criteria. It was reported that there are no clear rules exist to grade candidates on their qualifying professional or academic merit or suitability, ethics, independence and honor verification. This frequently generates judgments by Board members of the Board. Use of polygraph tests was also requested to show proof of an applicants trustworthiness.
Furthermore, the Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación de la Compañía de Jesús (ERIC-SJ), el Comité de Familiares de Detenidos y Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH), el Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia (MADJ) and CEJIL showed data on how corruption and impunity are damaging public institutions in Honduras.
According to the Social Forum on External Debt of Honduras, the Honduran government loses between 500 and 600 million dollars per year on corruption, an amount that strains budgets for health, education, housing, food security, employment , among others public service institutes.
As a serious example of corruption and embezzlement, the Honduran Institute for Social Security- in charge of providing public healthcare-saw a network of "ghost"companies walk away target 350 million dollars between 2010 to 2014. This embezzlement reduced the capacity to provide health care to people in centers and public hospitals between 2013 and 2014 by 25%. Despite this crime, only seven people have been punished by the law.
Other corruption cases involving institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture--the entity responsible for ensuring food security and sustainable rural-poverty reduction--were also mentioned. Approximately $ 6.5 million were diverted away from farmer capacity-building projects . Moreover, in the case of the Institute of Retirement and Pensions for Employees and Officials of the Executive Branch (INJUPEMP) embezzlement estimates reach $ 16 million .
Nevertheless, impunity in these cases seems to be the rule. Data from the Prosecutor's Office on Corruption showed that as of September 2014, there were 3,324 unresolved cases.
Given the context of weak judicial independence and high levels of corruption, the petitioning organizations urged the Commission to provide a series of recommendations to the Honduran government on both issues and provide permanent monitoring.
Finally, organizations lamented the absence of national authorities and considered that this attitude put into question the commitment of the State of Honduras to guarantee human rights and strengthening the rule of law. The Inter-American Commission is the continent's most important forum for the promotion and protection of human rights, so the absence of state violated its international obligations.