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Honduras: True Commission and CCR Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests

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Synopsis

CCR has been involved in advocacy aimed to address systemic human rights violations in Honduras arising out of the June 28, 2009 military coup d’etat that ousted President Manuel Zelaya. We have advocated against the U.S. government's current policy towards Honduras, particularly its continuing assistance and support to Honduran police and military forces whose involvement in the commission of serious human rights violations since the coup have been well-documented.

One aspect of our advocacy has been to support the work of the True Commission, which was established by the Human Rights Platform of Honduras one year after the coup, in using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request records and information from the U.S. government relating to the coup and its aftermath. In these efforts, CCR represents both the True Commission as well as Jeremy Bigwood, an independent journalist seeking to elicit this information.

(For additional information about CCR’s advocacy and litigation challenging the coup and repression in Honduras, click here.)

Status

The True Commission’s FOIA requests are still pending in the administrative stage. In the Bigwood case, the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is pending.

Description

The True Commission (Comisión de Verdad)

On June 28, 2010, the Human Rights Platform of Honduras created the True Commission or “Comisión de Verdad” (CDV for its acronym in Spanish) to respond to the Honduran people’s demand for a thorough and independent inquiry into the 2009 coup d’etat and to the inadequacies of the coup government’s appointed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR for its acronym in Spanish). The True Commission is working to investigate human rights violations, including through extensive interviews with the victims. It intends to make a full analysis of why the coup occurred and explore the historical significance of the overthrow of Zelaya. On March 24, 2011, CCR filed a series of FOIA requests on behalf of the True Commission for information from the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency.
 
For more information, please see CCR's factsheet on the True Commission: The Struggle for Truth in Honduras: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission vs. The True Commission. Copies of the True Commission's report are available both in English and in Spanish. In addition, the bios of the commissioners are available on the True Commission's Spanish-language website.

Jeremy Bigwood

The Center for Constitutional Rights is also representing Jeremy Bigwood, an investigative journalist, in seeking information under FOIA to request materials from the United States government regarding the role that various U.S. interests, actors, or agencies may have played in the 2009 coup d’état. On March 23, 2011, CCR filed FOIA litigation against the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for withholding information that should have been handed over under Mr. Bigwood’s earlier FOIA requests.

Timeline

On March 23, 2011, CCR filed FOIA litigation, Bigwood v. DOD, et al., against the DOD and CIA for withholding information that should have been handed over under Jeremy Bigwood’s earlier FOIA requests.

On March 24, 2011, CCR filed a series of FOIA requests on behalf of the True Commission seeking  information from the DOD and CIA relating to Honduras.

On May 4, 2011, the Government filed its Answer to the plaintiff’s complaint.

On June 20, 2011, and July 7, 2011, the DOD produced close to 500 pages of heavily redacted documents in response to the litigation. The CIA continues to neither confirm nor deny the existence of documents responsive to Bigwood’s request.

On October 3, 2012, CCR issued a Statement on the release of the True Commission's historic report, including extensive documentation and findings regarding the 2009 coup and subsequent human rights violations.  

On September 26, 2013, DOD produced 800 additional pages of redacted documents in response to the litigation.

On January 28, 2014, the Government filed its Motion for Summary Judgment, including its Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute and Declarations by staff in the DOD's Southern Command (SoComm), SoComm's Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Directorate (J2), and the CIA, along with its Vaughn Index.

On March 18, 2014, the Plaintiff filed its Opposition to the DOD's motion for summary judgment, including its Statement of Genuine Issues and Declarations by electronic search expert Daniel Regard, Bigwood, and counsel Pam Spees, along with various exhibits.

On September 8, 2014, the Court issued an order denying the Government's Motion for Summary Judgment without prejudice. The Order noted that Defendants’ Vaughn Index did not include the particular bases on which the DOD redacted each document and directed the Defendants to submit a revised Vaughn Index listing the particular bases for redactions for each document.

On September 22, 2014, the Government submitted a revised Vaughn Index. The Court subsequently renewed the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's related Motion for Leave to File a Surreply and took both motions under advisement.

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