The Decision Not to Investigate Post-Coup Crimes.

The decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, is an odd one. Earlier today Bensouda announced that she and the ICC will not be investigating crimes committed in the wake of the Honduran coup in 2009.

She conceded that there were human rights violations. But that they were not to the extent required to launch a full-scale investigation. Personally, that strikes me as a bit odd, that intention and clear human rights violations do not merit a full scale investigation. It is odd to admit that violations occurred but that somehow because they weren’t terrible enough they will not be investigated. This can be seen as minimizing the scales of the crimes, or the victims themselves, but Bensouda apparently sensing how this might be seen stressed that this decision is not meant to be seen that way, but rather that there is no reasonable basis for an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

The reality is, that the International Criminal Court is a carefully maintained legal entity that can only go into a situation when strict legal conditions are met. However this decision is important. This decision reinforces the untouchable nature of Hondurans in positions of power who will now see that provided they are careful in how they violate human rights, they might escape persecution in Honduras, and internationally, especially if it is done by groups of seemingly common criminals. We cannot afford to forget that the mayor of Sulaco is supposedly the head of a group of criminals. This is a situation unfolding in Honduras right this minute and if this is the case, is it not possible that there were instances of this during the administration of Zelaya? Such a possibility is not one that can be rightfully ignored. This sends a bad message to Hondurans in positions of power, when they have been affected by multiple protests demanding an end to corruption nationwide, and even been watched by the United States, to the extent that senators have sent letters to John Kerry asking that he reevaluate how aid is sent to Honduras. This is a reminder to them, that crimes committed by them, and openly acknowledged by the global community might not get investigated for legal reasons.

The report, by the ICC talks about the nature of the crimes supposedly committed by the post-coup administration. It concedes that many of these happened. But it states that the crimes fail to evidence a certain pattern of behavior, indicative of them being part of a larger and more repressive campaign.

The report itself is accessible online, and can and should be read by anyone interested in this subject. All in all, this is not the message that many in power in Honduras need to hear. This is a reminder of a period where terrible crimes were committed, either by a repressive government, or during a period of institutional instability wherein criminals saw an opportunity to make ambitious moves and were in some instances able to do so. But at a time in Honduras when everyone is questioning how to handle corruption and criminal activities committed by government authorities, this is not the sort of news that Honduras needs to be getting.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this decision by the ICC.

*This is an opinion about the decision by Bensouda, and her official statement can be found at: http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/press%20and%20media/press%20releases/Pages/otp-stat-28-10-2015.aspx If anyone wants to read the report, it is accessible at the cited article and can be found via. hyperlink.*

Logo of the International Criminal Court

Logo of the International Criminal Court


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