Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Honduran Congressional Opinion, Part 2

There have been persistent claims that the decisions taken June 28, to illegally remove from office the constitutionally elected President, Jose Manuel Zelaya, and replace him with the head of Congress, were unanimous decisions of the Honduran Congress.

From the very first day, these claims have been falsified by statements by Honduran Congressional diputados, starting with the open letter by Edmundo Orellana in which he withdraw from participation in the post-coup Congress.

While the apologists for the coup are quick to claim "unanimity", and assert a respect for the elected government (clearly not real, given their eagerness to remove the highest elected official without any due process), they have been silent about the repeated protests by Congress members of the coup and its aftermath.

Now, anti-coup members of the Honduran Congress have taken communication directly to the US Congress, sending a letter to their counterparts. The particular spur to this letter was the deeply flawed "analysis" by the US Law Library of Congress.

As readers will remember, that remarkable document, alone of all legal analyses in the world, concluded the coup was constitutional. It did so without citing any of the abundant legal analyses in English or Spanish; and without consulting any of the Spanish, US, or Honduran law professors who have commented extensively on the coup. The sole Honduran whose input was cited is a known supporter of the coup.

Now this group of Honduran congress members, who should be treated as particularly knowledgable about procedure and about the actions of Congress on June 28, have told their counterparts that the Library of Congress report
is contradictory and suffers from a series of errors and biases that disqualify it as a correct and objective analysis of what has happened in our country.
They go into detail about the errors and problems, identifying the same flaws previously discussed here. But their explanation is worth examination on its own, because, as we might expect, they provide slightly different perspectives on the issues raised.

For example, everyone has commented on the absurdity of saying that the section of the Constitution that allows approval or disapproval of the administrative actions of a President somehow extends to removing him or her from office. But these Congress members qualify this power as a
censure measure of sorts with no legal consequences
That is, it is a formal mechanism to disapprove of actions. For high government officials, there is no immunity, so trial before the Supreme Court is the means to pursue serious accusations with legal consequences. Removal from office can only be the result of a legal trial ending in a guilty verdict following due process.

The Congress members state that the law library report
erroneously asserts that interpretations of our Constitution can be implicit
noting that no constitution of Honduras has ever allowed implicit interpretation.

Most extraordinary, these members of the Honduran Congress reject the US law library's claim that they themselves could reinterpret this constitutional provision in this way. Read this paragraph carefully and remember-- they are rejecting a power they themselves would benefit from:
There is ample precedent within the Supreme Court of Justice establishing that: “The ultimate and definitive interpreter of the Constitution of the Republic is the Supreme Court through its Constitutional chamber. ” Article 72 of the Law of Constitutional Justice stipulates the express and exclusive authority of the Constitutional Chamber to interpret the Constitution and this is manifest in each and every ruling issued by said tribunal. To take one example, the first ruling concerning the matter of who is responsible for interpreting the Constitution, handed down by the Constitutional Chamber on May 7, 2003, categorically established that, in accordance with the principle of the separation of powers, the National Congress lacks the authority to interpret the Constitution.
In explaining why they take that Supreme Court decision as binding on them now, even though a previous Congress, engaged in a confrontation with the court, refused to publish it and went ahead to ratify a proposed amendment that asserts this power, these Honduran Congress members add an example of recent legal action based on rejecting the Congressional claim of a power to interpret the Constitution.

And guess who was the plaintiff asking the Supreme Court to set aside the Congress's actions, based on their using a non-existent power to interpret the founding charter?
four years after this historic ruling of May 7, 2003, the current de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, asked the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional a constitutional amendment that prohibited him from running for president, arguing that Congress had overstepped its powers
Finally, the Congress raises the thorny issue of the Law Library's reliance on one Honduran for "confirmation" of the idea that Congress implicitly interpreted disapproval as meaning removal from office:
We regret that in the course of its research for this analysis, the Library of Congress only interviewed the lawyer Guillermo Perez Arias, who in Honduras is not considered an academic authority on the subject of constitutional law, and neglected to consult other experts on the subject. By choosing to only interview Perez Arias, who has also publicly stated his support for the coup, the Library of Congress has severely undermined the balance and objectivity that form the basic normative criteria of any academic and
journalistic inquiry.
There you have it. No doubt pro-coup members of the Honduran Congress might be found to endorse the "findings" of the law library report. But there is no unanimity about this in the body whose actions on June 28 supposedly made legal the military coup that began with an illegally early raid on the private residence of the president, and his equally illegal expatriation from the country.

It is time to stop trying to justify the unjustifiable, and remedy what should have been set right months ago.

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