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The Truth Commission vs. the True Commission: a report from Witness for Peace in Honduras

By Brooke Denmark International Team – Nicaragua Witness for Peace

The official Honduran Truth Commission has finished its investigations into the events leading up to and surrounding the coup on June 28, 2009. The Commission is set to release its report shortly before the next meeting of the Organization of the American States (OAS) in June. The U.S. State Department has been pushing for the reintegration of Honduras into the OAS since last year, and the Truth Commission’s report will likely be used to support the reintegration- giving a final stamp of approval on the coup and its aftermath.

However, many Honduran human rights organizations claim little faith in the official Commission. Chief among the complaints is the fact that the Truth Commission was unilaterally imposed by a government widely considered to be illegitimate.

“Usually when you have a reconciliation, you wait until both sides are ready to sit down,” says Bertha Oliva, head of the Committee of Relatives of Detained and Disappeared (COFADEH, Honduras’ largest human rights organization). “But the Truth Commission was imposed and came pre-designed.”

To find justice, Honduran human rights organizations like COFADEH and international supporters formed the True Commission. The True Commission is in the midst of collecting testimony regarding human rights violations around the country. Throughout this period I am providing protective accompaniment to one of the mobile investigative teams.

Almost two years after the coup, the human rights situation remains grave. Just this past week

various sectors took to the street in protest, including the teachers’ movement. The repression of protesters was both public and violent. Cameras caught people running from tear gas, police making arbitrary detentions, and even the death of a demonstrating teacher. But the cameras have not been able to capture all the repression – which makes the True Commission all the more important.

“This is the precise moment to remind the authorities and the international community that for a very long time the Honduran people have been marginalized,” says Honduran lawyer David Shaw, a member of the True Commission’s investigative team.

The True Commission accepts testimonies related to all types of human rights violations. For example, in rural areas the team has spoken with communities being denied water rights. Following the coup, a government decree allowing the river privatization paved the way for the construction of massive hydroelectric dams. Nearby towns now struggle for access to a natural resource essential to life. Furthermore, the True Commission has found that people organizing to defend water rights face grave persecution.

The team recently visited an indigenous community center where murals of Honduran artist Javier Espinal cover the walls. In Espinal’s words, “impunity ends when there are more eyes watching.”

The True Commission aims to do just that – uncover the depth of this human rights crisis to lay the foundations for justice and peace. Day by day more stories come to the surface – and soon more and more eyes will be watching.


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