Honduran Democracy Crisis

On March 9, 2010, HRF published a 300-page legal report entitled, The Facts and the Law behind the Democratic Crisis of Honduras 2009-2010. The report has two parts that cover all relevant events between March 23, 2009, and January 27, 2010.

  • OAS meeting in Santiago, Chile on the Tenth Anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Photo El Salvador Noticias.net
    OAS meeting in Santiago, Chile on the Tenth Anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Photo El Salvador Noticias.net

Part One of HRF's legal report analyzed whether President Zelaya’s premature termination was in accordance with Honduran Law. The general conclusion of this part was that both his expatriation to Costa Rica by the armed forces, as well as the removal from office by Congress that ensued, were unconstitutional. After a detailed analysis of the steps that should be followed in the case of a presidential criminal trial in Honduras, Part One also found that the Honduras Supreme Court could have used its constitutional powers to successfully try, suspend, and, eventually, remove President Zelaya from office—particularly under criminal charges for abuse of authority—but chose instead to validate the unconstitutional actions taken against Zelaya by Congress and the armed forces. This part includes a detailed review of the legal evolution of presidential trial provisions since the 1825 Honduran constitution and a comparative legal analysis of impeachment trials under 17 different Latin American constitutions.

Part Two examined whether the actions taken by the OAS, before, during, and after June 28, were in accordance with the OAS Charter or the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The general conclusion of this part was that, throughout the democratic crisis in Honduras, the OAS acted as an international agent of the executive power of Honduras, rather than an organization with the duty to promote and protect democracy in its member states. Before reaching this conclusion, the legal report evaluated in detail all actions by the OAS in response to the three anti-democratic events that took place in Honduras throughout the crisis: (1) the erosion of democracy carried out by President Zelaya from March 23 to June 28; (2) the coup d’état carried out by the armed forces in the morning of June 28; and (3) the unconstitutional removal effected by Congress —also referred to as impeachment coup— that took place later that same day. According to international democracy law, each one of these anti-democratic events should have triggered the application of the democracy clause by OAS organs.

HRF’s 300-page legal report was considered as evidence by the Honduran Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR-H). HRF’s report was quoted numerous times in the 800-page final report published by the CVR-H in June 2011, and the commission based its main conclusions on HRF’s report. For example, in perhaps the most important paragraph of its entire report (at page 202), the CVR-H stated:

The commissioners (…) agree with the analysis made by the Human Rights Foundation, in defining what happened in Honduras as a coup d’état, [namely that] a coup d’état would refer to a scenario with the following four concurring elements: “first, that the victim of the coup is the president or other civil authority with full control of executive power in that country; second, that the perpetrator of the coup has used violence or coercion to remove the victim from his post; third, that the action or actions that constitute the coup are abrupt or sudden and rapid; and fourth, that this action occurs in clear violation of the constitutional procedure to remove the president, or chief executive.” In the case of Honduras, all of the four aforementioned elements were present.