At a glance, I can see the most important military leaders in Honduras,
Minster of Defense Zelaya, Joint Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Fortin. Also, representatives from Colombia, Peru, and the Dominican Republic.
Your attention today represents and underscores the importance of the protection of human rights. I would like to begin by quoting Article 5 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
At the same time, I would also like to emphasize that all countries adhering to this Declaration are not exempt from mistakes. The United States shares responsibility for human rights violations. One of the most emblematic was the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. The victims suffered and our government failed to protect their human rights. When the abuse was discovered, the perpetrators were punished through military justice. New procedures and better training were also implemented to make sure that this never happened again.
At the time, we addressed the situation openly. It is important that members of the Armed Forces understand that the ends never justifies the means. Now more than ever, we remain committed to deter, expose and when necessary, take swift action against human rights violations.
I am grateful that our partners in the Honduran Armed Forces have the same conviction and commitment to confront this evil. There is another kind of human right and that is the right of everyone in a country to represent their country through service in the Armed Forces.
In recent years, the Honduran Armed Forces have made great strides in the inclusion and promotion of women to leadership positions. The Air Force has as Air Base Commanders Lt. Colonels Sidia Lara and Dulce Velázquez. Colonel Rita Maria Medina Sevilla is the Army Surgeon General. The future is brighter for young Honduran women; as their numbers and opportunities continue to grow, their contributions are expected and appreciated.
Let us not forget that promoting human rights is not just an exercise in avoiding indiscriminate cruelty or the promotion of women in the professional space. The promotion of human rights includes the provision of physical security; access to basic needs such as food, water, and shelter; respect; freedom of religion and political opinion; the establishment of a fair justice system; and most importantly, government commitment to take steps and actions against human rights violations. We therefore recognize Honduras for its assistance between 1995 and 1997 in the development of the Consensus Document of the Human Rights Initiative, sponsored by the United States Southern Command.
Today, Honduras continues to be one of the most active members of this initiative, and this is the third consecutive year that this type of event has been held in Tegucigalpa.
I congratulate the Honduran Armed Forces, especially the Directorate of Human Rights of SEDENA and the Human Rights Directorate of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the implementation of the concept of the human rights tracks of human rights. You were the second country in the entire hemisphere to sign onto this concept, which continues to demonstrate your commitment to the inclusion of human rights and the professional training of your Armed Forces.
That respect demonstrated by the Honduran Armed Forces is consistent with respect for democracy, security, and the current rule of law. Respect for human rights is an essential element, which strengthens the partnership between the United States and Honduras. And this event is a continuation of the efforts and ties forged between the United States and Honduran Armed Forces to achieve human rights objectives.
We understand that there is much room for us to continue to grow in this area. Thank you for your time and congratulations on your successes!