Commissioner Antoine addresses the petitioners (Photo courtesy of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights via Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Commissioners: Tracy Robinson, Rose-Marie Antoine, and Felipe Gonzalez

Petitioners: Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH) Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación de la Compañía de Jesús en Honduras (ERIC-SJ) / Comité de Familiares de Detenidos y Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH)/ Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)

State: Honduras (not present)

Petitioners, at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on October 22, 2015, argued that corruption in the Honduran government impacts not only the economy, but also the most vulnerable populations in the country. As a result, Petitioners requested that the IACHR address the issue, create an independent body that will check up on the government once per year to make sure it has taken up the problem, and disseminate those results through social media.

Petitioners argued that corruption in Honduras’ most important public institutions undermines the government’s legitimacy overall. They noted that Honduras loses 500-600 million dollars in resources per year, with corruption draining ten percent of the nation’s budget while seventy percent of the population lives in poverty. Petitioners stated that Honduras’ absence at the hearing was indicative of the culture of blatant, unapologetic corruption in the state. They noted that in 2014, the state prosecuted only a handful of the 300,000-plus cases of corruption pending in Honduras.

Among the institutions allegedly stained by government corruption is the nation’s social security system, which provides support for the country’s healthcare needs. Petitioners argued that the system has lost 350 million dollars due to misappropriation. As a result, in 2012, Honduras spent only an average of 101 dollars per-person on healthcare, a significant departure from the 600 dollars per-person averaged in the rest of Central America. From 2013-2014, Honduras experienced a twenty percent drop in healthcare coverage.

Petitioners also alleged corruption on the part of the Honduran Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, which contributes to food security and the reduction of rural poverty, and on the part of the Honduran judiciary. Petitioners noted that a key problem in the country is a lack of independent oversight, as the parties responsible for investigating the corruption are also the parties stealing the most money.

After explaining the plight of the Honduran people in the face of government corruption, Petitioners shifted their focus to obstacles that hinder reforms or prevent remedying the issue. Petitioners requested that Honduras make expenditures transparent so that institutions can respond accordingly. Currently there are citizen oversight boards, but they cannot function because they cannot access the information they need to investigate. Most institutions are infiltrated by criminals. As a result, over eighty percent of corruption cases go uninvestigated. Petitioners proposed that Honduras create an independent ad hoc investigative body similar to the one in Guatemala to prosecute and dismantle corrupt institutions.

Petitioners concluded by requesting the IACHR address the issue by creating a body that will check in with the country once per year to make sure that the nation is working to address the problem of corruption. They also requested that IACHR create an independent body to prosecute corruption and to remove structures of impunity within Honduras. Finally, Petitioners called on Honduras to not restrict access to public information and to disseminate the information through social spheres.

Commissioner Robinson wanted to know more about the implications of citizen security and wanted evaluation of mechanisms to structurally address corruption within the police force and the administration of justice. In addition, she wanted to know more about current laws that govern the collection of data. Commissioner Gonzalez asked about the security and whether reallocation of funds could have led to Honduras’ budget problems. He also wanted know if there was any mechanism that could be strengthened, and if not, what did the Petitioners recommend? Commissioner Antoine expressed concern over the impact corruption had on indigenous people and about the protections for whistleblowers.

Author’s Legal Analysis

Honduras could potentially be liable under the American Convention on Human Rights, Article 23 and Article 25, which discuss the right to participate in government and the right to judicial protection, respectively. According to Petitioners, with corruption reaching into every part of the government and judiciary, citizens do not have the freedom regulate their government, nor do they have confidence in the equality of the judicial system. Petitioners note that corruption can have a significant effect on public institutions and can impact an individual’s participation in those institutions.

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