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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How Can it be Legal to Revoke the Right Of Assembly?

The Radio America website has the only news story I've found in Honduras about the new "law" explained by police spokesperson Danilo Orellana to the gathered press at the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa today.

To recap, the law requires anyone who wants to organize a public rally, march, or meeting, to notify the police 24 hours in advance, and such notification must indicate the reason for the gathering, the identity of those organizing the event, the start and end time for the event, and in the case of a march, the route to be taken. Gatherings on public roadways must not block traffic.

The Radio America article goes on to explain that the measure is based on Article 62 of the constitution, articles 22 and 24 of the "Ley Organica de la Policia" and articles 1, 52, and 54 of the "Ley de Policia y Convivencia Ciudadana".

Hmm, lets examine the law they cite to justify this new decree.

Article 62 of the constitution reads, in its entirety:
The rights of every person are limited by the rights of others, for the security of all, and the exigencies of public well being.
While, in a general sense this might apply, one cannot ignore Article 79 which says a citizen has the right of free association without having to get prior or special permission. This article does allow for the establishment of special permission for open air meetings of a political character, but only to guarantee the public order.

According to Radio America, the law also cites as justification the "Ley Organica de la Policia Nacional" (decreto 67-2008), articles 22 and 24. Article 22 is about the professional and apolitical nature of the National Police and does not seem to have any relevance here. Article 24 is a very long listing of the duties of the police, which includes things like, obeying and causing others to obey the constitution, be professional and well behaved, and so forth. There's nothing here that could serve as a justification for the law. Its not quite clear why they cite this as justification for it.

Finally, the Radio America article indicates the regulation cites the "Ley de Policia y de Convivencia Cuidadana" but in truth, I couldn't find a law with that name. What I found was the "Ley de Policia de Convivencia Social" (decreto 226-2001), but the content seems to indicate this is the Law at issue here.

Articles 1, 52, and 54 are cited as support for the new decree. Article 1 has to do with the function of the police. Article 52 says if an altercation puts the public security in danger, or blocks a road, the police can break it up. Article 54 has to do with temporary restrictions on free circulation because of delinquency or organized crime.

So, they seem to be basing this on the fact that protests tend to block streets, limiting the rights of others to drive around the city. This appears to be the case., a Spanish news website, reported that the national police prevented the march today by the Frente, but did not stop a vehicle caravan parade by the same group. The dictator Mousolini wanted to keep the trains running on time; I guess this one wants to drive.

The regulation appears to be illegal because it is so broadly written, as explained to the press, and violates the provisions of article 79 of the constitution, which only gives police the right to limit political gatherings. As it stands, this regulation restricts gatherings like outdoor concerts, church processions, even model railroad clubs, in violation of article 79 of the constitution.

It just got that much harder to hold an election. All political gatherings need to be pre-approved. The UN Human Rights Commission currently taking testimony in the country should be very interested in this new law.


TITO said...

This an indication to me that a "secondary law" has the power to overwrite the "constitution". I'll be very interesting the Supreme Court reaction to a challenging of the police laws mentioned in this post. ....wait a sec... There is no Supreme Court that might want to hear such a case.

Anonymous said...

So, in other words, the coupistas are playing musical decrees, announcing that they're revoking one so that the press can say they're not behaving like tyrants while in fact they are ruling by decree.


RNS said...

Can you say "Public relations plan"? Can you say, delivering, if rather clumsily, on what Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter, et al. have already been paid to devise.

Its like the TSE visit to Washinton, D.C.; who paid for that? Its all part of a publicity campaign.

I can't wait for the website they're supposed to deliver....