Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Delegation probes human rights abuses in Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) — A delegation from the Organization of American States arrived to look into possible human rights violations in Honduras since the June 28 coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya.

The three-member delegation, whose identities are kept secret for security reasons, will for two weeks meet with top officials of interim leader Roberto Micheletti's administration and those opposing the coup, a human rights official said.

Micheletti's de-facto regime recently suspended civil liberties in the country to stem anti-coup demonstrations and unrest that it admits have left four dead since the coup. The regime also closed Radio Globo and TV Channel 36, both opposition outlets.

The Committee for Missing Prisoners in Honduras, however, puts the number killed in the same period at 12, while Human Rights Defense Committee president Andres Pavon told AFP that another 25 people were wounded by military gunfire during the protests.

Micheletti reinstated civil liberties and lifted a curfew before an OAS mission came here October 7 to shepherd crisis-solving negotiations, but observers said the move is only cosmetic since the measure has not been published in the official newspaper.

"The dictatorship's idea was to show that normalcy was being restored in the country, but the decrees are still being enforced," Front of Resistance to the Coup leader Juan Barahona told reporters.

Micheletti's Human Rights Commissioner Ramon Custodio said those accusing the interim administration of human rights violations lived "glass houses" of their own, adding that he was interested to see "what methodology the UN will use to gauge the situation."

The OAS delegation will stay here until November 7 to prepare a report for the UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay commissioned October 1 by the UN Human Rights Committee, Human Rights Research and Promotion Center director Reina Ribera told AFP.

United Nations officials here refused to provide details of the OAS mission.

Human Rights Watch, which visited Honduras in August, accused the Micheletti regime of blocking any investigation into alleged human rights abuses in the country.

Negotiations between Micheletti and Zelaya are deadlocked over the key question of whether the deposed leader will be reinstated and how that would be decided.

The negotiations passed a Friday deadline imposed by Zelaya, who immediately threatened to break off talks if agreement is not reached by Monday.