U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and 20 of his Senate colleagues, today sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to work to support human rights in Honduras and free, fair and peaceful elections there this November. Given the "reported violence and impunity linked to state entities in Honduras," the letter questions the State Department's decision to certify that the government is implementing policies to protect due process of law and "prosecuting military and police personnel who are credibly alleged to have violated human rights" as called for under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012.
In addition to Cardin, the letter is cosigned by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Udall (D-CO), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
"U.S. taxpayers demand accountability at the highest levels when their resources are used for any purpose, especially in foreign assistance. I have been appalled at the stories of glaring human rights abuses coming from Honduras. We must ensure that U.S. funds are not enabling rampant human rights violations, including by members of the Honduran security forces who seem to rely on a system of impunity," Senator Cardin said.
The letter requests that the Department of State "provide Congress with a detailed assessment of the efficacy of current Honduran government efforts to protect freedom of expression and association, the rule of law, and due process, and to investigate extrajudicial killings and abuses allegedly involving police and military personnel," and that the Secretary "conduct a thorough review to ensure that no U.S. assistance is provided to police or military personnel or units credibly implicated in human rights violations."
The full text of the letter follows.
The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Kerry,
We are writing to express our concern regarding the grave human rights situation and deterioration of the rule of law in Honduras. As the November 2013 elections draw near, we are particularly troubled by reports of corruption and extrajudicial killings.
Since June of 2009, international and Honduran human rights organizations have documented a pattern of violence and threats against journalists, human rights defenders, members of the clergy, union leaders, opposition figures, students, small farmers, and LGBT activists. There are also recent reports of death squads working with police, and in some cases consisting of on- or off-duty police, to kill gang members even after they surrender. The Honduran Congress created a "Directorate for Investigation and Evaluation of the Police Career" in December 2011 to address corruption and criminality in the police force, but it has turned out to be a disappointing failure. Only a handful of the hundreds of officers recommended for dismissal have been removed. The Honduran judiciary routinely fails to prosecute human rights violations, and many other crimes go unpunished.
As you are aware, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 requires the State Department to investigate and report on whether the Honduran government "is implementing policies to protect freedom of expression and association, and due process of law," whether it is "prosecuting military and police personnel who are credibly alleged to have violated human rights," and whether the Honduran police and military "are cooperating with civilian judicial authorities in such cases" -- prior to obligation of 20% of the funds designated for the Honduran military and police, with exceptions for the promotion of transparency, anti-corruption efforts, and the rule of law. Given the reported violence and impunity linked to state entities in Honduras, we have serious questions regarding the State Department's certification that these conditions were met for Fiscal Year 2012.
We respectfully request that the Department of State provide Congress with a detailed assessment of the efficacy of current Honduran government efforts to protect freedom of expression and association, the rule of law, and due process, and to investigate extrajudicial killings and abuses allegedly involving police and military personnel, particularly in the Bajo Aguan area. We also request that you conduct a thorough review to ensure that no U.S. assistance is provided to police or military personnel or units credibly implicated in human rights violations, and that top Honduran law enforcement officials are persons of integrity dedicated to protecting the rights of the Honduran people and upholding the rule of law. Lastly, we request that you make every reasonable effort to help ensure that Honduras' upcoming November 2013 elections are free, fair and peaceful.
As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee you firmly denounced human rights abuses in Honduras. As Secretary of State, we hope you will continue to do the same.
Thank you for your consideration.