Human rights and international humanitarian law are a priority for the Honduran Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA). Secretary of National Defense José Manuel Zelaya Rosales believes that the professionalization of the Honduran Armed Forces goes hand in hand with the respect for and protection of human rights and the full confidence of citizens.
His office, with the support of the Human Rights Initiative (HRI) of U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) Human Rights Office, held the Honduran Human Rights Initiative Seminar, August 9–11, 2022, in Tegucigalpa, with representatives of the Honduran Armed Forces and international guests.
Defense Secretary Zelaya spoke with Diálogo about the importance of the seminar and the challenges with regards to human rights.
Diálogo: How important was holding a human rights seminar for the Honduran Armed Forces?
Honduran Secretary of National Defense José Manuel Zelaya Rosales:Following the instructions of our President Xiomara Castro, the commander general of the Armed Forces, with support from the government and from the U.S. Embassy in Honduras, and SOUTHCOM’s Human Rights Office, we held this seminar, which gives more strength to all the actions that we at SEDENA are carrying out to train and professionalize the Armed Forces in human rights.
The importance of this event also lies in the participation of our friends and allies so that they know that Honduras has taken the issue of human rights seriously and that the Armed Forces are no exception, since the subject is analyzed in all our study centers such as the University of Defense of Honduras, the National Defense College. We’ve also created Human Rights and Gender Equity units in our different brigades.
We want respect for and protection of human rights to become a constant for future generations entering the institution so that they internalize that the military function goes hand in hand with the protection of human rights.
Diálogo: What do you consider to be the most important challenge facing the Honduran Armed Forces when it comes to human rights?
Secretary of Defense Zelaya: The first challenge, as Honduran Navy Vice Admiral José Fortín, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said today, is to recognize mistakes. When one recognizes one’s mistakes in history, one does not want to repeat them. Once we’ve acknowledged our mistakes, it’s important to face society, ask for forgiveness, and above all for justice to identify some of the responsibilities of perpetrators and not against the institution; that’s also part of the great challenges. Another big challenge has to do with gender integration so that Honduran women can see the Armed Forces as an institution where they can shape their professional careers.
Diálogo: You talk about civil society; how do you think the Honduran Armed Forces can work hand in hand with civil society?
Secretary of Defense Zelaya: Some actions have already been taken by the General Staff and my office to involve these civil society organizations, which are guarantors and observers of all our actions. Undoubtedly, these organizations have been strengthened in Honduras, and sometimes, in most cases, they help us to solve issues that perhaps are impossible for us to solve from the institution or from SEDENA. And that’s where reports of a complaint, the council, and above all the path to follow, which these civil society organizations can contribute to,are fundamental, always taking into account that there are State policies that we follow, and to be able to make the pertinent alliances for the good of Honduras and its Armed Forces.
To see the full interview with José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, Secretary of National Defense, please click on the following link: https://dialogo-americas.com/articles/a-conversation-with-minister-of-defense-jose-manuel-zelaya/#.Yw_HdnZByUk