N° 14/10




Washington, D.C., February 3, 2010 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern with respect to the ambiguity of the Amnesty Decree approved by the National Congress of Honduras on January 26, 2010.


The Commission has stated repeatedly that the application of amnesty laws that hinder access to justice in cases involving serious human rights violations contravenes the obligation of the States parties to the American Convention to respect the rights and freedoms recognized therein and to guarantee the free and full exercise of those rights and freedoms by all persons subject to its jurisdiction, with no discrimination of any kind.


Likewise, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has established a clear doctrine to the effect that an amnesty law may not serve as a justification for failing to comply with the duty to investigate and to ensure access to justice. Specifically, the Court has found that States "may not invoke existing provisions of domestic law, such as the Amnesty Law in this case, to avoid complying with their obligations under international law. In the Court's judgment, the Amnesty Law...precludes the obligation to investigate and prevents access to justice. For these reasons, [the] argument that [the State] cannot comply with the duty to investigate the facts that gave rise to the present case must be rejected."


In practice, the application of amnesty laws has obstructed the clarification of grave human rights violations and the prosecution and punishment of those responsible, leading to impunity. As a consequence, based on the obligations established in the inter-American system, several States in the region have had to review and invalidate the effects of their amnesty laws.


In that respect, the Commission observes with concern that the Amnesty Decree approved by the Honduran Congress on January 26, 2010, contains concepts that are confusing or ambiguous. The Commission observes, along these lines, the doctrinaire reference made to political crimes, the amnesty for conduct of a terrorist nature, and the inclusion of the concept of abuse of authority with no indication of its scope. Although the text contemplates certain exceptions in terms of human rights violations, the language is ambiguous, and the decree does not establish precise criteria or concrete mechanisms for its application.


Due to the foregoing, the Commission urges Honduran authorities to review the decree, taking into account the State's obligations in light of international treaties, especially the obligation to investigate and punish serious human rights violations.


A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.



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