Controversial Criminal Code Reforms Approved by Honduran Congress

On February 22, the Honduran National Assembly approved the criminal code reform proposal introduced by President Juan Orlando Hernández in early January, sparking controversy and widespread discontent amongst the opposition coalition. In addition to granting autonomy to the National Penitentiary Institution and extending protection to the national police force, the reforms broaden the definition of terrorism. Now, acts such as extortion and the burning of buses and buildings are classified as terrorist attacks. The controversy centers on Article 335, which prohibits the use of media to publicly incite or defend any act that falls under the new definition of terrorism. Doing so would result in four to eight years in prison, reads the Article.

Alianza de Oposición, a coalition led by former President Manuel Zelaya and composed of the three major opposition parties, presented an appeal to the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice on February 23 questioning the constitutionality of Article 335. Zelaya voiced his disagreement, arguing that the article limits the freedom of the press and that categorizing public, social protests as terrorism damages Honduras’ image in the global arena.  

On the other hand, President Hernández applauded Congressional efforts, stating that the reforms ratified by Congress are key to combat criminality and ensure state security. ‘‘On behalf of the Honduran people, I thank the congressmen who voted in favor and those who didn’t, too, for that is democracy,’’ he said.  

Although the president openly supported the reform’s approval, he has yet to comment on the opposition’s appeal and the controversy surrounding the bill’s implications. The Supreme Court may take months to consider the opposition’s appeal. In the meantime, the confirmed legislative package will be sent to the president to sign and subsequently published in La Gaceta, effectively becoming actionable law.