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Honduras: Supreme Court Communiqué on Replacement of President

(July 9, 2009) The Honduran Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) issued an undated special communiqué on the subject of the removal of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from the executive branch. (Honduran Supreme Court Details Reasons for Zelaya's 'Constitutional Replacement', OPEN SOURCE CENTER, June 30, 2009, OSC No. LAP20090706068001.) The document refers to Zelaya as “citizen,” and it details a number of steps taken by the Court of Administrative Disputes (CDA) and the SCJ, beginning in May 2009. The CDA issued an interlocutory ruling in response to a challenge to a decree issued by Zelaya in March 2009. Executive Decree PCM-05-2009 announced a national referendum to choose a National Constituent Assembly that would draft a new constitution. (See Twenty-First Century Socialism Comes to the Honduran Banana Republic, website of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs
epublic/ (last visited July 6, 2009)).

In June 18, 2009, the CDA issued two judicial notifications to Zelaya, ordering him not to take any actions designed to prepare for a consultation in connection with the earlier ruling and to explain to the judiciary any actions he had taken to comply with the rulings. (OPEN SOURCE CENTER, supra.) One week later, the SCJ's Constitutional Chamber issued a ruling against the action Zelaya took to remove the Honduran Armed Forces Chief of Joint Staff from his position. On the same day, June 25, the Attorney General's Office issued a warrant against Zelaya, accusing him of crimes against the form of government, treason against the homeland, abuse of authority, and usurpation of roles, to the detriment of the public administration and of the state of Honduras. The next day the SCJ unanimously voted to appoint one of its Magistrates to handle the case, including the preparation and issuance of an arrest warrant. (Id.)

On June 26, the CDA also issued an order to the military to suspend any activities related to the referendum that had been scheduled for June 28 under Zelaya's Executive Decree. The military was also to confiscate any material prepared for that poll. Also on June 26, the President of the Central American Judicial Court and Honduras's SCJ issued a Notice concerning the judicial branch actions barring what the SCJ had deemed to be an illegal poll, outside the framework of the constitution of the country. That notice went to the members of the Central American Judicial Court, including Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama. (Id.)

On June 28, the Honduran military arrested Zelaya and sent him to Costa Rica. (Hannah Strange, Honduras President Manuel Zelaya Ousted in Military Coup, TIMES ONLINE, June 29, 2009, available at
.) A communiqué to the Honduran people was issued by the judicial branch on that date, stating that the actions taken that day were legal and were based on a judicial order issued by a qualified judge. The next day the SCJ voted unanimously to order that actions against Zelaya for crimes against the state be sent to the Unified District Trial Court for processing in accordance with established criminal procedure. (OPEN SOURCE CENTER, supra.)