Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Honduras: the Supreme Court's case

The former President of the Honduran Supreme Court lays out her argument about why Zelaya's removal did not constitute a coup. The logic is as follows:

First, according to Article 239 of the constitution, no one can propose to reform presidential term limits.

Second, according to the same article, anyone who does is immediately relieved of their post.

Third, if you ask whether voters want a constitutional commission, you are automatically saying you want to abolish the constitution.

Fourth, by order of the Supreme Court, Zelaya was no longer president at the time he was detained, and therefore the illegal act of removing him from the country did not happen to a president. Hence there was no coup.

Obviously, number 3 is the stickiest point. As has been noted repeatedly, Zelaya's proposal never mentioned presidential terms and did not say the constitution would be abolished. See RAJ's comments in a previous post about other constitutional articles regarding the right to a trial and defense that were not respected.


Unknown 12:59 PM  

That's extremely interesting. I think the Obama administration needs to clearly define why they are in support of Zeyala. News stations are criticizing Obama's stance. http://www.newsy.com/videos/welcome_anywhere_but_home

Nell 1:52 PM  

Here you go, newsy. Take it up with President Obama if this doesn't defines it clearly enough for you:

America cannot and should not seek to impose any system of government on any other country, nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country. And we haven't always done what we should have on that front. Even as we meet here today, America supports now the restoration of the democratically-elected President of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies. We do so not because we agree with him. We do so because we respect the universal principle that people should choose their own leaders, whether they are leaders we agree with or not.


leftside 2:29 PM  

Third, if you ask whether voters want a constitutional commission, you are automatically saying you want to abolish the constitution.

This is a highly dubious argument in itself. But the fact is that Zelaya never asked voters if they wanted anything more than a chance to have a real vote at a later date. I agree that holding a binding vote outside lawful procedures and beginning the process of an Assembly would have been illegal. But a non-binding poll whether to have a vote later has absolutely none of the applicable legal characteristics.

And then you have the small matter that RAJ refers to - that there was no trial. Only filed charges.

leftside 3:32 PM  

Article 3 of the Honduran Constitution:

No one owes obedience to a usurper government nor to those who assume public office or functions by armed force or using ways and procedures that violate or ignore what this Constitution and the laws establish. The actions validated by such authorities are null. The people has the right to take recourse to insurrection in defence of the constitutional order.”

Even the Army's own lawyers are admitting the "ways and procedures" of the coup violated the Constitution.

Gabriel,  3:53 PM  


The courts ruled. Period. Zelaya should have obeyed.

Anonymous,  4:14 PM  

sorry this is a bit off topic, but at least Clinton has realized Insulza is incompetent as head of the OAS.


Shall we say this is a coup against Insluza by the empire? :p

leftside 12:17 AM  

KA, I guess you are implying that since Insulza was not picked as a mediator that he has been dissed by Clinton??? I don't think you can assume that at all. Arias was the better choice - trusted by both sides, understands the region, not too publicly "prejudiced" on the issue, etc.

RAJ 5:13 AM  

Point 3 in this defense-- which has been repeated by several officials, in almost identical form-- is indeed the sticky point. But there are three things arguing against the interpretation now being made (which is that asking the people's opinion about the constitution automatically means you intend to change it):

(1) the Honduran Constitution guarantees the right of freedom of speech and expression of opinion, and (not surprisingly given US input on its shaping) follows the same approach we have, which is that opinions are not actions; you can debate issues without fear of prosecution, what is illegal are certain actions.

(2) there actually was a law that explicitly authorized the Executive branch to undertake polls of public opinion to help guide policy making. The opinion poll scheduled for June 28 was initiated under that law. On June 24-- a few days prior to the scheduled poll-- Congress passed new regulations implementing this law, which said opinion polls could not take place within 180 days of an election, making the planned poll illegal due to its schedule. But the law itself remains in place, meaning there was nothing illegal about asking the public their opinion.

(3) the Supreme Court has generously posted more than 80 pages of primary documents showing that its ruling that Zelaya should be held for trial, dated Friday June 26, did not call for his expatriation (which is illegal), and indeed, that he was owed due process. Ironically, their basis for approving the secret military raid to arrest Zelaya was because they deemed him a flight risk.

Nell 10:59 AM  

RAJ: their basis for approving the secret military raid to arrest Zelaya was because they deemed him a flight risk.

Which is yet another reason that Zelaya's effort to return was vital to his restoration. It showed as little else could that he was the opposite of a flight risk.

There is a Supreme Court order authorizing the military to arrest Zelaya. Bayardo, in his interview with El Faro and the Miami Herald, acknowledged that the military (presumably at the highest level, Gen. Vasquez) took it upon itself to remove the President from the country "to avoid violence".

He sought to give the impression that the Supreme Court and the civilian frontman for the coup expected that Zelaya would be arrested and held in the country. Yet there is no indication whatsoever that they did, or that they expected or planned for his prosecution.

Micheletti and his supporters in Congress proceeded as if they expected all the members of Zelaya's cabinet (against whom they obtained arrest warrants on presumably the same flimsy basis as that for Zelaya's arrest) to flee the country. Most did, with a few exceptions (e.g., the ministers of Labor and Education, who went into semi-hiding in rural communities).

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