Honduras court charges military officials with abuse of power for Zelaya ouster

[JURIST] A Honduran Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] judge on Thursday charged top military personnel with abuse of power for removing former president Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] from the country after he was ousted from power last June. Supreme Court President Jorge Rivera [official profile, in Spanish] issued charges against six military commanders, including armed forces commander Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, air force commander Venancio Cervantes, and naval commander Luis Javier Prince, and ordered them to remain in the country to testify before the court. Prosecutors asked the court to issue charges [JURIST report] last week, arguing that individual military commanders violated the Honduran Constitution [text, in Spanish] when they seized Zelaya and put him on a plane to Costa Rica because the constitution prohibits the forcible removal of a citizen. The charges to do not question the presidential ouster itself. Zelaya has dismissed the charges as a political move [AFP report], claiming the prosecutors share as much responsibility as the military. The abuse of power charges carry a sentence of three to six years in prison.

Zelaya remains in Honduras at the Brazilian embassy. Last month, the Honduran National Congress [official website, in Spanish] voted 111-14 not to reinstate [JURIST report] him. This followed a non-binding advisory opinion from the Supreme Court that Zelaya could not legally return to office [JURIST report]. Zelaya's return to power appears unlikely, as elections were held in November, and Porfirio Lobo is due to be sworn in as president later this month. Zelaya was ousted [JURIST report] in June, following a judicial order [press release, in Spanish] asserting that he had broken Honduran law by attempting to conduct a controversial referendum on constitutional reform [JURIST report], contrary to a Supreme Court ruling. Zelaya, along with the US, the UN, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the European Union, maintain that his removal was a coup, while the interim government of Roberto Micheletti asserts that it was a lawful transition of power.

 

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