Human Rights Flashpoints – September 22, 2009

HONDURAS – Surprise Return of Ousted President Sparks Protests
Following the surprise return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya on Monday, thousands of protestors gathered in support outside of the Brazilian embassy where Zelaya is currently seeking refuge, defying a city-wide curfew. As reported by the AP, a 26-hour curfew in the capital began Monday afternoon, with the international airports closed and road blocks erected to prevent future protests. According to the BBC, police have surrounded the Embassy, wearing riot gear and firing tear gas into the crowd in order to dissolve the protesters.

De facto President Roberto Micheletti, initially unaware of Zelaya’s return, has now asked the Brazilian Embassy to hand over Zelaya to stand trial on 18 counts of corruption and treason. However, both the US and the EU have urged both leaders to remain calm and encourage respective supporters not to resort to violence.

With the upcoming elections on November 29th just a little over two months away, the possibility for increasing violence in the country continues to exist. A recent Amnesty International Report (pdf) stated:

Concerns include the increasingly disproportionate and excessive use of force being used by the police and military to repress legitimate and peaceful protests across the country. Female protestors are particularly vulnerable and some women and girls taking part in the demonstrations are reportedly suffering gender based violence and abuse at the hands of police officers.

The de facto government now faces pressure to enter into talks with the ousted President, which could lead to further human rights violations of supporters and crack downs on media as previously documented by AI and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission reports. Although some have argued that Zelaya’s presence may be helpful to resolving the current governing dispute, analysts warn that the president’s presence in the city is likely to move the conflict into the streets.

Must Reads

Overheard

It’s imperative that dialogue begin … (that) there be a channel of communication between President Zelaya and the de facto regime in Honduras, It’s also imperative that the return of President Zelaya does not lead to any conflict or violence but instead that everyone act in a peaceful way to try to find some common ground - Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State

I was traveling for around 15 hours using different routes and different methods of transport to arrive here and call for dialogue, which is my role as the elected president of Honduras – Honduran President Manuel Zelaya

Upcoming

  • September 22: Amnesty International launches its new report on maternal mortality in Sierra Leone in Freetown: Out of Reach: The cost of maternal health in Sierra Leone (pdf)
  • September 22: President Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the UN General Assembly in New York.
  • September 22: Save Darfur Coalition Darfur/Darfur opening event in midtown Manhattan.
  • September 23: Transparency International launches its Global Corruption Report 2009: Corruption and the Private Sector.
  • September 23-26 & 28-30: UN General Assembly general debate.
  • September 23: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the UN General Assembly.
  • September 24: Commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
  • September 24-25: G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, PA.

Jennifer Ferreri contributed to this post.

Human Rights Flashpoints is a weekly column about countries at risk of escalating human rights violations and is brought to you by AIUSA’s Crisis Prevention and Response team.

This entry was posted in Americas and tagged , , by Christoph Koettl. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christoph Koettl

Christoph Koettl is the Emergency Response Manager at Amnesty International USA and works on urgent human rights situations such as armed conflicts. In his work he focuses on exploring the intersection of technology and human rights, specializing in utilizing satellite imagery or citizen video for human rights research and advocacy. He previously worked and studied in Austria, the Netherlands and Italy and holds an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His expertise is in International Humanitarian Law, conflict analysis, crisis mapping, video validation and social media forensics and he is a regular speaker on technology and human rights. He has testified on war crimes in Sri Lanka before the United States Congress and his work is covered regularly by numerous national and international media, including Associated Press, BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and Reuters.
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18 thoughts on “Human Rights Flashpoints – September 22, 2009

  1. Take action for human rights defenders and protestors in Honduras!

    Police officers fired tear gas into the office of Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (Comite de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras, COFADEH). The incident occurred amid increasing tension and concern for human rights following the break-up of a demonstration celebrating the return of deposed President Manuel Zelaya on 21 September.
    http://www.amnestyusa.org/actioncenter/actions/ua

  2. Take action for human rights defenders and protestors in Honduras!

    Police officers fired tear gas into the office of Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (Comite de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras, COFADEH). The incident occurred amid increasing tension and concern for human rights following the break-up of a demonstration celebrating the return of deposed President Manuel Zelaya on 21 September.
    http://www.amnestyusa.org/actioncenter/actions/ua

  3. Take action for human rights defenders and protestors in Honduras!

    Police officers fired tear gas into the office of Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (Comite de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras, COFADEH). The incident occurred amid increasing tension and concern for human rights following the break-up of a demonstration celebrating the return of deposed President Manuel Zelaya on 21 September.
    http://www.amnestyusa.org/actioncenter/actions/ua

  4. Take action for human rights defenders and protestors in Honduras!

    Police officers fired tear gas into the office of Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (Comite de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras, COFADEH). The incident occurred amid increasing tension and concern for human rights following the break-up of a demonstration celebrating the return of deposed President Manuel Zelaya on 21 September.

    http://www.amnestyusa.org/actioncenter/actions/uaa25109.pdf

  5. Christoph:

    Should we also take action to defend Manuel Zelaya regarding his claims that his throat is sore from toxic gases suposedly being pumped into the Brazilian embassy by "Israeli mercenaries'' who are also suposedly torturing him with high-frequency radiation and will any moment storm the Brazilian embassy where he has been holed up and assassinate him, as Zelaya claimed last week to the Miami Herald as reported in this article here:
    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/5min/story/124882

    Or should we just assume Zelaya is nothing more than a paranoid lunatic since that is what this kind of crazy talk makes him sounds like?

  6. Christoph:

    Should we also take action to defend Manuel Zelaya regarding his claims that his throat is sore from toxic gases suposedly being pumped into the Brazilian embassy by "Israeli mercenaries'' who are also suposedly torturing him with high-frequency radiation and will any moment storm the Brazilian embassy where he has been holed up and assassinate him, as Zelaya claimed last week to the Miami Herald as reported in this article here:
    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/5min/story/124882

    Or should we just assume Zelaya is nothing more than a paranoid lunatic since that is what this kind of crazy talk makes him sounds like?

  7. Christoph:

    Should we also take action to defend Manuel Zelaya regarding his claims that his throat is sore from toxic gases suposedly being pumped into the Brazilian embassy by "Israeli mercenaries'' who are also suposedly torturing him with high-frequency radiation and will any moment storm the Brazilian embassy where he has been holed up and assassinate him, as Zelaya claimed last week to the Miami Herald as reported in this article here:
    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/5min/story/124882

    Or should we just assume Zelaya is nothing more than a paranoid lunatic since that is what this kind of crazy talk makes him sounds like?

  8. Christoph:

    Should we also take action to defend Manuel Zelaya regarding his claims that his throat is sore from toxic gases suposedly being pumped into the Brazilian embassy by “Israeli mercenaries” who are also suposedly torturing him with high-frequency radiation and will any moment storm the Brazilian embassy where he has been holed up and assassinate him, as Zelaya claimed last week to the Miami Herald as reported in this article here:

    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/5min/story/1248828.html

    Or should we just assume Zelaya is nothing more than a paranoid lunatic since that is what this kind of crazy talk makes him sounds like?

  9. Honduran authorities just shut down two pro-Zelaya news agencies that regularly broadcast calls from Mr. Zelaya: Radio Globo de Tegucigalpa and Channel 36 TV. The government also issued a decree on Sunday that instituted a suspension of free speech, a ban on unauthorized public meetings and have extended police powers to cover the arrest of anyone deemed to be a threat.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/world/americas/… day

    The de facto Honduran government has also threatened to expel Brazilian diplomats for allowing Zelaya to seek refuge in its Embassy. http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2009/0

  10. Reports that several protestors were killed or severely beaten by Honduran authorities in response to the political unrest caused by the ousted President Zelaya's return. There

    Amnesty International understands that police raided poor residential neighbourhoods in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, searching for opponents of the authorities who had taken part in protests.

    Police reportedly fired live ammunition and tear gas into homes of suspected protestors before beating and detaining individuals. There hae also been reports that young people were especially targeted by police forces.

  11. Honduran authorities just shut down two pro-Zelaya news agencies that regularly broadcast calls from Mr. Zelaya: Radio Globo de Tegucigalpa and Channel 36 TV. The government also issued a decree on Sunday that instituted a suspension of free speech, a ban on unauthorized public meetings and have extended police powers to cover the arrest of anyone deemed to be a threat.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/world/americas/… day

    The de facto Honduran government has also threatened to expel Brazilian diplomats for allowing Zelaya to seek refuge in its Embassy. http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2009/0

  12. Honduran authorities just shut down two pro-Zelaya news agencies that regularly broadcast calls from Mr. Zelaya: Radio Globo de Tegucigalpa and Channel 36 TV. The government also issued a decree on Sunday that instituted a suspension of free speech, a ban on unauthorized public meetings and have extended police powers to cover the arrest of anyone deemed to be a threat.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/world/americas/… day

    The de facto Honduran government has also threatened to expel Brazilian diplomats for allowing Zelaya to seek refuge in its Embassy. http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2009/0

  13. Reports that several protestors were killed or severely beaten by Honduran authorities in response to the political unrest caused by the ousted President Zelaya’s return. There

    Amnesty International understands that police raided poor residential neighbourhoods in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, searching for opponents of the authorities who had taken part in protests.

    Police reportedly fired live ammunition and tear gas into homes of suspected protestors before beating and detaining individuals. There hae also been reports that young people were especially targeted by police forces.

  14. Honduran authorities just shut down two pro-Zelaya news agencies that regularly broadcast calls from Mr. Zelaya: Radio Globo de Tegucigalpa and Channel 36 TV. The government also issued a decree on Sunday that instituted a suspension of free speech, a ban on unauthorized public meetings and have extended police powers to cover the arrest of anyone deemed to be a threat.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/world/americas/29honduras.html?hpa day

    The de facto Honduran government has also threatened to expel Brazilian diplomats for allowing Zelaya to seek refuge in its Embassy. http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2009/09/200992723133276467.html

  15. WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States blasted ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya for his "irresponsible and foolish" return from exile before a settlement was reached in the Central American country's political crisis.

    At an emergency meeting of the Organization of American States to discuss the Honduran face-off, Lewis Anselem, the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, criticized Zelaya for fueling violence by slipping back into Honduras last week and holing up in the Brazilian Embassy, from where he has called on his supporters to take to the streets.

    "The return of Zelaya absent an agreement is irresponsible and foolish … He should cease and desist from making wild allegations and from acting as though he were starring in an old movie," Anselm said.

    Anselem called on Zelaya to "exercise leadership" and urge his supporters to express their views peacefully.

    He said the United States had urged Zelaya on several occasions not to return to Honduras before a political settlement was achieved because of the potential for unrest.

    "Having chosen, with outside help, to return on his own terms, President Zelaya and those who have facilitated his return, bear particular responsibility for the actions of his supporters," the U.S. official said.

  16. WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States blasted ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya for his “irresponsible and foolish” return from exile before a settlement was reached in the Central American country’s political crisis.

    At an emergency meeting of the Organization of American States to discuss the Honduran face-off, Lewis Anselem, the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, criticized Zelaya for fueling violence by slipping back into Honduras last week and holing up in the Brazilian Embassy, from where he has called on his supporters to take to the streets.

    “The return of Zelaya absent an agreement is irresponsible and foolish … He should cease and desist from making wild allegations and from acting as though he were starring in an old movie,” Anselm said.

    Anselem called on Zelaya to “exercise leadership” and urge his supporters to express their views peacefully.

    He said the United States had urged Zelaya on several occasions not to return to Honduras before a political settlement was achieved because of the potential for unrest.

    “Having chosen, with outside help, to return on his own terms, President Zelaya and those who have facilitated his return, bear particular responsibility for the actions of his supporters,” the U.S. official said.

  17. BRASILIA, Sept 29 (Reuters)

    Government and opposition legislators in Brazil's Congress have urged President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to stop Zelaya from using the embassy as a political theater.

    "Zelaya's political activities are unacceptable. They weaken Brazil's position and international image," Eduardo Azeredo, head of the Senate foreign relations committee, told Reuters.

    Former president and current Senate chief Jose Sarney, one of Lula's most influential allies, also criticized the government's position.

    "There's a certain exaggeration in transforming the embassy into a campaign headquarters. This excess is not good for Brazil or Manuel Zelaya," said Sarney, adding that the embassy must abide by international rules on nonintervention in a country's domestic affairs.

    Major Brazilian newspapers have run critical editorials and almost daily caricatures, mocking Lula's perceived leniency with Zelaya.

    Brazilians are upset that Brazil may have been put into this bind by Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez, with whom the more moderate Lula has friendly though sometimes uncomfortable relations.

    Chavez had been fiercely advocating Zelaya's return and is rumored to have provided an airplane for the fellow leftist to fly to El Salvador for his overland return to Honduran.

    A front-page caricature in Tuesday's O Globo newspaper showed Lula, Chavez and Amorim singing Zelaya a lullaby as he dozed under his signature cowboy hat, boots propped up on a chair in his embassy refuge.

    In an editorial, O Globo said it was "deplorable that Brasilia allowed itself to be entangled in a Chavez trap."

  18. BRASILIA, Sept 29 (Reuters)

    Government and opposition legislators in Brazil’s Congress have urged President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to stop Zelaya from using the embassy as a political theater.

    “Zelaya’s political activities are unacceptable. They weaken Brazil’s position and international image,” Eduardo Azeredo, head of the Senate foreign relations committee, told Reuters.

    Former president and current Senate chief Jose Sarney, one of Lula’s most influential allies, also criticized the government’s position.

    “There’s a certain exaggeration in transforming the embassy into a campaign headquarters. This excess is not good for Brazil or Manuel Zelaya,” said Sarney, adding that the embassy must abide by international rules on nonintervention in a country’s domestic affairs.

    Major Brazilian newspapers have run critical editorials and almost daily caricatures, mocking Lula’s perceived leniency with Zelaya.

    Brazilians are upset that Brazil may have been put into this bind by Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez, with whom the more moderate Lula has friendly though sometimes uncomfortable relations.

    Chavez had been fiercely advocating Zelaya’s return and is rumored to have provided an airplane for the fellow leftist to fly to El Salvador for his overland return to Honduran.

    A front-page caricature in Tuesday’s O Globo newspaper showed Lula, Chavez and Amorim singing Zelaya a lullaby as he dozed under his signature cowboy hat, boots propped up on a chair in his embassy refuge.

    In an editorial, O Globo said it was “deplorable that Brasilia allowed itself to be entangled in a Chavez trap.”