Honduras’ National Congress approved an international commission charged with tackling corruption that has been in the works for months, a strong show of political support for the region’s newest anti-impunity body.
On March 29, lawmakers in Honduras voted unanimously to approve the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras – MACCIH), reported La Prensa.
The new commission is backed by the Organization of American States (OAS) and will be made up of a mixed panel of international and Honduran legal experts, including judges, prosecutors, police officials and forensic scientists. MACCIH is designed to support Honduran authorities with prosecuting corruption cases while also recommending ways to improve the institutional integrity of the country’s judicial system.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández and OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro signed an agreement establishing the MACCIH in January.
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Popular support for an international anti-impunity body has been building in Honduras since anti-corruption protests swept the country in June 2015 amidst a widening corruption scandal at the country’s Social Security Institute (Instituto Hondureño de Seguridad Social – IHSS). At that time President Hernández admitted his 2013 presidential campaign had received funds linked to the $200 million scandal, and many Hondurans were calling for his resignation.
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Nonetheless, it was not clear how much support the MACCIH would receive from Honduras’ political establishment, since politicians would be a natural target for investigations into corruption. Congress’ vote is a clear indication that it will not stand in the way of the international anti-impunity body, at least not yet.
Legal hurdles were also in play. According to La Tribuna, some congressmen were opposed to an article in the MACCIH agreement that strengthens mechanisms for extradition on corruption charges. They argued this violates Honduras’ constitution, which only permits extradition for crimes related to organized crime. An OAS representative responded by telling La Tribuna that corruption cannot be separated from organized crime, raising the possibility the MACCIH’s approval in Congress would be stalled due a relatively minor issue. But this scenario did not come to pass, undoubtedly to the delight of millions of Hondurans fed up with endemic corruption in their country.