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Honduran Government Blocks Human-Rights Commission Actions

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News from the Agua Buena Human Rights Association

The Honduran Ministry of Health committed a serious human-rights violation against four Honduran people living with HIV/AIDS who had received 'medidas cautelares' from the Interamerican Human Rights Commission in Washington, by releasing their names to a Tegucigalpa (Honduras) newspaper called La Prensa.

('Medidas cautelares' are 'temporary protective orders' granted by the Interamerican Commission in specific cases where human-rights violations have occurred.)

La Prensa published the four names in its edition of Sept. 1, 2002, along with an article discussing the medidas cautelares approved by the Interamerican Commission ordering that the Honduran government provide these four people and several others with anti-retroviral medications. In its original letter to the Government approving the medidas cautelares, the Commission had stated that the names of the petitioners were to be kept in strictest confidentiality.

The full names of these four people were published and each one suffered severe consequences as a result.

The Interamerican Commission, which is part of the Organization of American States, investigates human-rights violations in countries in Latin America. Cases of extreme violations may be referred to the Interamerican Court in San José, Costa Rica.

'The government did this on purpose,' said 'Juan Jose' a Honduran Person with AIDS, who wished to remain anonymous.

'After the names were published, they warned us that they would publicly release the names of anyone else who also asked for medidas cautelares against the government. Dr. Humberto Cosenza of the Health Ministry said in several pubic meetings that the 'medidas cautelares' were 'unpatriotic.' Apparently some Ministry officials also implied that the funding of any organization supporting 'medidas cautelares' would be terminated.

After the publication of the names, the Agua Buena Human Rights Association and CEJIL Mesoamerica filed a complaint against the government for this action with the Interamerican Commission. On Nov. 26, Santiago Canton, Executive Secretary of the Commission sent a letter to the Honduran government stating that: The Commission views with concern that information was diffused in spite of the specific request (of the Commission) that the names of the patients referred to (in the prior letter) remain confidential. As your Excellency will understand, confidentiality is very important, given that when information of this type is published it can cause damages to those people who have been protected by the medidas cuatelares. Signed Santiago Canton, Executive Secretary, The Interamerican Human Rights Commission Washington, D.C. (Tel: 202-458-3000)

However, since the article appeared in the La Prensa, no one else in Honduras has been willing to send medidas cauteleras to the Commission. 'We are all too afraid,' said Juan Jose. 'We can lose our jobs, and be kicked out of our homes. There is so much discrimination here already and now the government is blackmailing us against fighting for our rights.'

According to Richard Stern, Director of the Asociacion Agua Buena, which filed the original petitions with the Interamerican Commission along with CEJIL Mesoamerica 'the response of the Interamerican Commission to the government is well intentioned, but very weak given the seriousness of this offense and its consequences. The Honduran government has flagrantly disregarded the intervention of the Commission, and created an atmosphere of fear in the AIDS affected population.

'...The Commission should have, at the very least, recommended that the government publish an apology in the same newspaper and also publish a promise to respect the confidentiality of anyone seeking protection from the Commission. All of the activists in the community of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Honduras have been warned that there will be consequences if any more petitions for 'medidas cautelares' are sent, and this very polite letter from Dr. Canton to the government will not change anything. The Commission has a moral responsibility to act as forcefully as possible when there are negative consequences for those who have solicited its help. The damage has already been done. No one else with AIDS in Honduras will solicit intervention from the Commission.'

At this moment only about 230 of about 4,000 people in Honduras who need anti-retroviral medications are receiving them. According to UNAIDS, Honduras has more than half of Central America's reported AIDS cases. The Honduran government has recently received a multi-million dollar grant from the Global Fund for AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis.

For More Information:Association Agua Buena,San José, Costa Rica Tel/Fax 506-234-2411

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