Honduras: A New Supreme Court with the Same Old Flaws
Honduras’s Supreme Court, controlled by the ruling party and elected with the same old flaws, will rule on a number of human rights issues.
Honduras has a new Supreme Court. It was elected through political bargains between the old bipartisanship — made up of the National Party and the Liberal Party — and the support of Christian Democratic parties, Democratic Unification, and representatives who were unable to sustain the will of the Honduran people because they weighed heavily on their backs.
- Honduras has one of the world’s highest murder rates. It is also one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism, ranking 129th out of 180 in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index. Journalists are regularly threatened, attacked, and killed for their work. The Honduran government fails to punish those who use violence against reporters, essentially granting them impunity. This space will be dedicated to examining the lack of protection for Honduran journalists exercising their profession. Topics will include the use of state-sponsored advertising as a mechanism to reward or punish publications, and censorship and self-censorship as hindrances to democratic progress.
- Born in Cofradía, Honduras, Dina Meza has been recognized by PEN International, Amnesty International, Index on Censorship and Reporters without Borders for her work as a journalist and human rights advocate. Currently, Dina is the driving force behind the creation of Honduras PEN Centre. In 2013, she wrote “Reign of Terror,” an in-depth report on threats to Honduran journalists for Index on Censorship’s magazine. In 2014, she was named one of Reporters Without Borders’ “100 Heroes and Heroines of Information.”
The representatives in the Liberty and Refoundation (aka “LIBRE”) Party, and the Anti-Corruption Party, (aka “PAC”) decided to adhere to the status quo. According to the complaint filed by the former president of Honduras and Coordinator of the FREE caucus, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, they won in most cases with what is commonly referred to as the “ding ding” in Honduras, or selling to the highest bidder. As of January 25, 2016 the Supreme Court should have been appointed. Things were not easy for the traditional parties, who are used to dividing judicial power like a pie. The Court consists of 15 judges, and the distribution is from eight to seven. It contains more of the party that is governing and thus justice is pinched.
From the beginning the National Party, currently in power and led by President Juan Orlando Hernández, intended to impose magistrate figures, with the objective of having absolute control over the nation: the judiciary, the parliament, and the executive branches.
After four attempts—because a direct vote was practiced–the National Party achieved their goal. The PAC and LIBRE parties, new political forces that came to unbalance bipartisanship, forced them to go through vote by vote to ensure that each magistrate should have a qualified majority voting. The imposition had to go undergo four attempts.
In 2013, it was been noted by international election observers that the right wing had 100 million lempiras available to buy the votes they needed when choosing the Supreme Court. It was evidenced that public money was used to take advantage of a situation in order to control the country.
This situation exposed the blatant way in which all available methods were used to achieve the goal: imposition of a court in service of power rather than the people and the rule of law.
Trying to soften the national consciousness of these strategies was an old method used since the coup. Using the manipulation of faith, churches produced an affinity for the government of the day. The activists of the National Party also took to the streets. Taking advantage of impoverished people’s situation, they paid public funds of about fifty lempiras, the equivalent to a little over two dollars, to go scream whatever message the current president wanted to broadcast.
And I cannot forget about the intrusion of the United States Embassy in Honduras, whose ambassadors walk into the country as though it was their own backyard.
Another thing which has become very clear, is that although complaints about the Public Prosecutor regarding the buying of MP votes were presented, this institution has not lifted a finger to assign responsibility, which also shows the control from the president over the Republic of judicial officers.
The President’s cravings for reelection have led to control over all branches of government and judicial officials. The next few months will be crucial for the people of Honduras, who will no longer be persuaded by the media campaigns of the government spokespersons; churches and corporate media dancing around the official line to get juicy advertising contracts, or other perks.
The new Supreme Court, elected with the same old flaws, will cover crucial topics that need to be addressed. This include an appeal of unconstitutionality to annul the presidential election; a remedy of cessation in favor of women’s rights defender, Gladys Lanza. Lanza was sentenced to a year and six months in prison for representing the case of a victim of sexual harassment who denounced the husband of a liberal congresswoman. In this case, influence peddling resulted in Lanza’s conviction for defamation.
The Supreme Court will also rule on cases of corruption, such as the forwarding of about seven billion lempiras of social security funds towards the campaign of the current president, among others.
Power wants control in order to sustain itself. But there is a bigger force than the government, one that surpasses the bullets, imprisonment, persecution, and threats. That is the power of the people when they are pushed to reclaim what belongs to them.
Only in this way will we prevent the politicians in power from coming to office and seizing national assets without consequence. The day the people decide to act, larceny and impunity will end. Justice will regain lucidity to act with impartiality. That day, I’m sure, will come sooner rather than later!