Dear President Obama,
We urge you, in your capacity as temporary president of the United Nations Security Council, to support Brazil’s request for an emergency session of the Security Council to address the political and human rights crisis in Honduras.
As you know, the situation in Honduras is very dangerous for both the Honduran people and Honduras’ democratic institutions. Early Tuesday morning, police and military forces violently dispersed thousands of demonstrators that spent the night in front of the Brazilian embassy to peacefully support ousted President Manuel Zelaya following his return to Honduras. Water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, beatings, and, according to some reports, live ammunition were used to dislodge the crowd, resulting in numerous injuries according to independent press accounts. At least two demonstrators have been killed, according to Honduran police, and a large number of demonstrators have been detained (the de facto Minister of Interior acknowledged 174 detentions), some of whom are being held in stadiums in a chilling reminder of the 1973 coup d’etat in Chile. The regime’s violent attacks on the crowd followed its imposition of a curfew Monday, originally for 16 hours, but later extended Tuesday and Wednesday.
The coup regime has repeatedly cut power, water, and phone service to the Brazilian embassy, and has mounted a six block solid cordon around it. It has posted sharp-shooters nearby, and is blasting loud music at the building in a clear effort to force President Zelaya to leave the embassy premises.
Furthermore, the few independent media outlets that continue to operate in Honduras are reporting similar incidents of violent repression in other parts of the country, particularly Honduras’ second-largest city, San Pedro Sula, where peaceful demonstrators have been attacked and detained by police. Police and troops continue to brutally beat demonstrators in a tactic documented and condemned by Amnesty International.
The regime has suspended constitutional guarantees to freedom of assembly and the press, and has repeatedly shut down the broadcast signal of radio outlets Radio Globo and Channel 36. Meanwhile, the regime is targeting human rights groups – the human rights monitor Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH) reported that their offices have been attacked with tear gas.
These violations of human rights have been denounced by human rights organizations including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at the Organization of American States (OAS), Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International.
The regime continues to rebuff all calls from the international community for a solution to the crisis and to respect human rights. It is highly likely, then, that it will escalate repression against Zelaya’s supporters, and may well violate the rights of Zelaya himself and others in the Brazilian embassy in a show of force. A coup regime official appeared to claim that international law would not prevent them from raiding the embassy.
It is important to note that some of the regime’s worst violence against Zelaya’s supporters over the past three months has taken place during curfews – especially when the regime has cracked down on demonstrations and marches. Under the current circumstances, the regime can be expected to confront new peaceful demonstrations with brutal violence, resulting in new deaths, beatings, rapes, and detentions, as international human rights groups have documented since the coup took place on June 28.
The OAS and the UN General Assembly have previously passed resolutions supporting Honduras’ return to democracy and constitutional order, but these were not binding. Now that Zelaya has returned to Honduras, and the de facto regime has responded to his mere presence with an assault on his supporters and severe harassment of the embassy itself, it is time for action by the UN Security Council to force the dictatorship to respect basic human rights and freedoms, including freedom of assembly and of the press, and to agree to the restoration of the elected government.
Professor of History
University of California, Santa Cruz
Department of History
New York University
Assistant Professor of Political Science/Int’l. Relations
Universidad de los Andes (Colombia)
Just Foreign Policy
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Center for Economic and Policy Research