Honduras military chiefs charged with 'coup.' Will Supreme Court take case?
Top military officers in Honduras are being charge with “abuse of power” in the expulsion of President Manuel Zelaya June 28. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it would be the first legal action against the armed forces since Mr. Zelaya’s ouster. Will it resolve the political crisis?
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The attorney general now says that, while Zelaya was rightfully removed from office, the military overstepped Supreme Court orders in exiling Zelaya to Costa Rica. Under the Honduran constitution, civilians cannot be thrown out of the country.
The motive to bring charges now may be one of “buck-passing,” says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a consultant group based in New York, “so that someone can say there was an overstep.”
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Even though the interim government has brushed off international condemnation, holding presidential elections in November without restoring Zelaya first to power as was demanded by most nations, charges brought against Honduran generals could clear some political space for the new administration of Porfirio Lobo, set to take office on Jan. 27.
The decision to charge the military officers now might reflect international pressure from Washington. It comes as Craig Kelly, diplomat for the US State Department, returned to Honduras this week to foster national reconciliation.
Amnesty for all?
But it would be a departure from earlier international demands, says Mr. Casas-Zamora, and could amount to little action. When the international community, most notably Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, was trying to bring the two sides to a negotiated settlement, they floated amnesty for all parties involved.
Both Mr. Micheletti and Zelaya rejected amnesty then, but lawmakers are set to take up the issue again in coming days. Amnesty would allow Zelaya to leave the Brazilian embassy, which he cannot do now without risking arrest, Honduran officials say.
Even if the Supreme Court decides to take on the case against military officers, any amnesty agreement would also include protection for the military. “No one knows what the contours of the amnesty will be. But it is only to be expected that whatever amnesty deal is agreed upon, it will certainly include the military,” says Casas-Zamora. “We know from the history of democratic transition in Latin America that the one issue the military [demands] is securing impunity for whatever abuses they may have committed.