Thursday, November 3, 2016

Rep. Johnson introduces “The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act”


PRESS RELEASE

Contact:  Andy Phelan at 404-593-9126
June 15, 2016

Rep. Johnson introduces “The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act”

Congressman leads effort with five colleagues to withhold U.S. funds from Honduran police & military until gross human rights violations are addressed

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the wake of the tragic killing of the Honduran environmental and indigenous leader Berta Cáceres on March 2, 2016, Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) introduced legislation that would suspend U.S. funding to the Republic of Honduras for their police and military operations, including funds for equipment and training, until the Honduran government investigates credible reports indicating the police and military are violating citizens’ human rights.

The U.S. Department of Defense is sending the Honduran government $18 million in 2016 for security assistance. 

The “Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act” (H.R. 5474) would suspend those funds – and prohibit international loans providing for security assistance – from being dispersed unless Honduras makes serious inroads to addressing blatant human rights violations by police and military forces.

“We provide millions of dollars in security assistance to Honduras every year but these same forces have been found to attack and kill environmental, labor and human rights activists like Cáceres without any effective response from the Honduran authorities,” said Rep. Johnson. “It’s time for our government to send a stronger message by leveraging security assistance and multilateral loans in order to put real and lasting pressure on the Honduran government to protect its activists and pursue those responsible for these outrageous crimes.”

In March, Rep. Johnson and Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05) penned a letter signed by more than 60 Congressional colleagues calling for an independent, international investigation into the murder of Cáceres with backing from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

The State Department, The New York Times, the Associated Press and numerous human rights groups have documented that the Honduran police and military are widely believed to be deeply corrupt and commit gross human rights abuses – including torture, rape, illegal detention, and murder – with impunity.

The bill – cosponsored by Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (MI-13), Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) and Rep. José E. Serrano (NY-15) – requires investigations into a series of suspicious killings of human rights activists and demands the Honduran government protect the rights of trade unionists; journalists; human rights; defenders; Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous, small farmers and LGBTI activists; critics of the government and other civil society activists so they may operate without interference from the police or military.

“Like so many across the globe, I was deeply saddened to hear that beloved human rights activist Berta Cáceres became the latest victim of violence and impunity in Honduras earlier this year,” said Rep. Conyers. “I am proud to support this bill that will ensure that U.S. military and police aid is dispensed only when Honduran institutions have demonstrated a firm commitment to bring perpetrators of violence to justice.”

“Berta Cáceres willingly risked her life to fight for equality and justice in Honduras,” said Rep. Ellison. “In the wake of her death, and the continued violeNew Postnce against organizers, activists, and civilians, it is time to finally address human rights in Honduras. Members of Congress have written letters on this for years, but the situation continues to deteriorate. It’s time to take stronger action. This bill would suspend security aid to Honduras until human rights are protected, members of the Honduran security forces are held accountable, and justice is achieved for the victims.”

“There are rampant abuses of human rights in Honduras by security forces, and unanswered, enduring questions about the murder of Berta Cáceres and other activists,” said Rep. Kaptur. “As President Truman remarked, ‘Once a government is committed to the principal of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go.’ These abuses have led to a climate of fear and intimidation, and until law and order are restored, we have a moral obligation to suspend all police and military aid to Honduras.”

“I am proud to stand with Representative Hank Johnson in calling for a suspension of U.S. aid to Honduran military and police forces,” said Rep. Schakowsky.  “The Honduran government has stood by while environmental activists like Berta Cáceres and trade unionists have been murdered for speaking up to protect workers, the environment and their country.  It has allowed its law enforcement officials to violate the legal rights of its people and use violence in an attempt to intimidate activists into silence.  U.S. taxpayers should not be asked to fund those anti-democratic actions.  Until and unless the Honduran government puts an end to those practices and works with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to conduct an impartial and thorough investigation of past abuses, it does not deserve U.S. support.”

“A number of reports from credible human rights organizations establish the extent to which the Honduran police and military are engaging in corrupt practices and gross human rights abuses in Honduras,” said Rep. Serrano. “When these abuses occur, Hondurans often do not have access to a strong and fair judicial system. Impunity cannot and will not be tolerated. Cutting U.S. security assistance to Honduras will send a strong message, limit funding for institutions that are broken, and serve as leverage to force the Honduran government to investigate these crimes, tackle corruption, and restore law and order.”

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