First anniversary of the killings in Locomapa

September 1, 2014

*This reflection was written by Lucy Edwards (PROAH, Hope in Action, Congregational United Church of Christ, Ashland, Oregon)

One year ago, on the afternoon of Sunday, August 25, 2013, three Honduran indigenous Tolupan leaders were gunned down by armed men. The tribe of San Francisco Locomapa had initiated a roadblock in their community to prevent illegal mining and logging of their communal lands.

Two men working for the mine came down on motorcycle and opened fire on the group, catching Ricardo Soto Funes and Armando Funes Medina as they took cover in elder Maria Enriqueta Matute’s yard. Maria was in her kitchen when she was shot. The next morning (Monday, 8/26/13) I accompanied Radio Progreso staff to claim the bodies and return them to be waked and buried in Locomapa.

This year on the first anniversary of the murders, the community, working with Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia (MADJ), held a commemorative march which three members of the PROAH team accompanied. (From France, USA and Switzerland).

mov locomapa

Tolupan adults and children held and lit twigs cut from their pine trees, their source of energy and light. They re-lit them along the route at selected locations. The sweet smelling smoke provided a comforting visible presence. Someone mentioned during the ceremony that they would typically do this commemorative walk at night, but it is not safe to do so.

When the march reached Maria Enriqueta Matute’s house, where all three died last year, the twig torches were all gathered into a small bonfire.

The two men who opened fire that day at Maria Enriqueta’s house are still free and operate in the community. There is an order for their capture, but the police have not been able to act on it, perhaps for a few reasons. For one, they explain that they have no vehicle.  There are concerns that they are complicit, and/or worried for their own security.

Two police officers accompanied the procession. I asked one officer about the murders, and he said that the perpetrators had left the area.  I mentioned that the community reports seeing them regularly, at which point he mentioned the police transportation issues, no vehicle.

Near the end the procession, I walked with an elder woman named Maria Petrona. Several little children, came up to her and said “tia” (Aunt) and she would put her hand on their forehead, in a blessing form. Maybe five little girls did this. She turned to me and said they were all family.

Later we found each other again, in our search for shade. We were at the place where the two men had died, next to Maria Enriqueta’s little house.  It was here that Maria Patrona explained that she is the older sister of Maria Enriqueta. Tears streamed down both our faces as she described how the bullet holes are still there, in the wall of her kitchen. She took my hand, took me there and showed me. She stood just where her sister had been, where she fell dead on the floor in the doorway of her kitchen. I could see a bullet hole just above her shoulder. Another was hidden by her body.

Locomapa.bulletholes

A soft yellow color of the kitchen walls is on most of the houses in the community. It is the color of the clay of their tribal lands, of the earth to which they are so deeply connected.

COFADEH Project to Remember the Victims of Forced Disappearance: The Route of Historical Memory

August 30, 2014

Today, August 30 is the International Day of the Disappeared.

To commemorate the lives of the 184 victims of forced disappearances during the 1980s and 90s in Honduras, the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) initiated the “Route of Historical Memory” project, a pathway to landmarks of the practice of State terror during this time that arose from a clearly structured strategy using calculated and ruthless violence.

ruta_memoria

Those who dreamed of a better future were illegally detained for being insurgents or opponents of the State by COBRA (Anti-subversion Police), the TESON (Special Forces for Jungle and Night Operations), or the Group of the 14 (death squads of Intelligence Battalion 3-16).

The Route of Historical Memory, “la Ruta”, takes one to the locations where these people were arrested, tortured, and secretly buried.

The starting point is the COFADEH office, where the principal documentation is found and where the walls are filled with photographs of those who are missing: fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, sisters, and brothers who disappeared. Few returned. There is not sufficient space or words to express the pain and desperation of the families who will never know what happened to their loved ones or where they are buried.

Next, is a visit to the Merced Plaza, where COFADEH has protested against forced disappearances every first Friday of the month for 33 years. The “Ruta” continues on to horrific places like the “house of terror’, located on the estate of Amilcar Zelaya in Amarateca, where detainees endured unimaginably brutal torture before suffering a cruel death.

The gate of the Diamond House, at that time a base of the Nicaraguan Contra forces, has a structure identical to that of the gate of the estate in Amarateca. It is another location where detainees were tortured. There is a suspected clandestine cemetery at this house, near the slope to the River Frio.

It is clear that this violence is structural and continues to this today, applied differently but always in accordance with the strategy of a State that does not respect human rights.

The last stop on the “Ruta” is the “Casa Contra el Olvido”, the Home against Forgetting, an unforgettable site that emits a serene aura full of light and peace. Here, the memory of all those disappeared remains alive, intangible, waiting and hoping for truth.

More information on:

Acompañantes internaciones recorren la “Ruta de la Memoria” que muestra la impunidad

¿Qué es la Ruta de la Memoria Histórica?

Summary of Human Rights Issues and Events in Honduras, July 2014

August 29, 2014

 

Please find HERE our latest Summary of Human Rights Issues and events in Honduras, for July 2014.

About this report:

In July, the issue of child migrants continued to dominate the headlines (P.5), with concern expressed about the fate of those deported from the US. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, following her visit to Honduras talked of the environment these children are fleeing, where ‘the climate of fear… and the lack of accountability for violations of human rights of women, is the norm’ (P.4).

There were more incidents involving the beneficiaries of precautionary measures – the abduction of Garífuna land rights defenders by men linked to drug trafficking (see below), as well as of two Catholic priests supporting communities opposing mining, plus their PROAH accompaniers (P.12). This month, there were also disturbing revelations about the US Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s attempts to intimidate a survivor of the Ahuas tragedy into changing her testimony in its favor (P.3).

Another journalist was murdered (P.8) and more suffered intimidation, including by the president. Another lawyer was murdered (P.10), with the motive likely to be his support for land rights, also thought to be the motive behind a massacre of four people, including a community leader (P.14). A LIBRE activist is the victim of a failed murder attempt and long-term police persecution (P.10). In the Bajo Aguán, there was a violent eviction of the Paso Aguán farm, with persecution of the campesinos’ supporters – surveillance of members of OPDHA and smears targeted at Annie Bird of Rights Action (P.15). On a slightly happier note, Chabelo, the campesino wrongfully imprisoned since 2008, has been granted an appeal (P.16) and an army colonel has been convicted of closing down a TV station during the coup, the first such conviction (P.10).

On July 22, the Honduran Congress approved the Bill for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Social Communicators and Justice Operators, on its second reading. The Bill, which consists of 71 articles, is now the subject of consultation with the affected groups before it is definitively passed by Congress.

Summary of Human Rights Issues and Events in Honduras, June 2014

July 20, 2014

 

Please find HERE our latest Summary of Human Rights Issues and events in Honduras, for June 2014.

About this report:

June 28 marked the fifth anniversary of the coup. This month children and young people once again dominated the headlines with the surge in young migrants arriving in the US (see P.2), their sheer number for many a stark illustration of the dramatic deterioration in the security and general human rights situation in Honduras over the past five years. This follows the spate of horrific murders of youngsters in May and the persecution of Guadalupe Ruelas, the Casa Alianza director, a prominent advocate for minors, who has been vocal in his criticism of the government in the light of the general increase in the violent deaths of children and young people (see our May summary).

In the reflections on the anniversary of the coup, militarization has been repeatedly mentioned as one of the defining characteristics of the post-coup era, along with impunity. June in this respect has unfortunately been typical. It saw the murder of a Lenca indigenous leader by soldiers in an unprovoked attack (P.3), as well as fresh concerns expressed about the Guardians of the Fatherland program (P.15). There have also been new cases of criminalization of legitimate social protest, while the perpetrators of crimes against the protesters remain at large (see the cases of San Francisco de Opalaca (P.3) and El Tránsito (P.6). Although the murders of campesinos in the Bajo Aguán are finally being investigated, there are concerns about the transparency of the process (P.7), while the killings of the three Locomapa indigenous people remain in impunity and the persecution of those defending the community’s natural resources continues (P.5). Two more journalists were murdered, and in at least one case, the killing could be politically motivated, and there were further cases where journalists have been intimidated or dismissed because of their editorial line (P.9 and 10). Further intimidation of human rights defenders has included surveillance of the offices of COFADEH, and (possibly) the temporary abduction and beating of one of its staff (P.3).

The government’s reaction has also been consistent – in blaming the messenger. Following the letter sent in May to the US Secretary of State, signed by 108 US Congress members, outlining the deteriorating human rights situation in Honduras, President Juan Orlando Hernández announced that he would use his visit to the States in June to speak to officials and contradict the reports that ‘bad Hondurans’ were spreading abroad and which were damaging the country’s reputation.

ALERT: ARMED ASSAULT OF PRIESTS WITH PROTECTIVE MEASURES AND INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS ACCOMPANIERS (PROAH)

July 9, 2014

The Honduras Accompaniment Project/Proyecto de Acompañamiento internacional en Honduras (PROAH) expresses its grave concern regarding the armed assault and abduction carried out against Father César Augusto Espinoza Muñoz and Father Abel Carbajal, priests of the parish of Arizona, Atlántida and three international human rights accompaniers with PROAH (Two Swiss and one French citizens).

The armed assault occurred on July 3rd at approximately 7 pm near Siguatepeque when the parish vehicle they were traveling in was intercepted by a white medium-size car (similar to typical Honduran cab). Three armed men jumped out of the white vehicle, pointing their guns and forcing the priests and PROAH team members to get into the back seat of their vehicle while a fourth assailant drove away in the parish vehicle. The assailants forcibly abducted the priests and PROAH team members, driving them around for approximately 45 minutes, issuing death threats and then left them in Siguatepeque.

Fathers César and Abel, as well as 16 members of the Nueva Esperanza community in the parish of Arizona and human rights defenders supporting them, are beneficiaries of protective measures issued by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).Protective measures were issued because of death threats and violence from representatives of the Minerales Victoria mining company, other mining interests and the National Police in response to the community’s peaceful and legitimate opposition to the mine.

While accompanying this community,on July 25 2013, two international human rights accompaniers with PROAH (one French citizen, and one Swiss citizen) were abducted and held captive for 2.5 hours by several armed men guarding the mining operations of Minerales Victoria.

The July 3rd armed assault and abduction of beneficiaries of protective measures and international human accompaniers underscores the extreme state of insecurity in Honduras which people throughout the country face on a daily basis. The assault also underscores the striking lack of protection for recipients of IACHR precautionary measures and high level of risk for national and international human rights defenders in Honduras.

Several cases of organizations accompanied by PROAH highlight the lack of protection for beneficiaries of precautionary measures:

In Locomapa, 38 people were issued protective measures by the IACHR following the murder of three indigenous Tolupanes on August 24, 2013 for participating in a peaceful protest by the community against mining activity and illegal logging on their tribal lands. However, the alleged perpetrators of the August 2013 massacre, who have warrants for their arrest, remain free in the community, intimidating those opposing mining. One exiled community member still has not returned to Locomapa. On June 9, 2014 a beneficiary of protective measures not only suffered new threats from an ex-general but also his crops and property were damaged. Four months after the State of Honduras pledged to implement IACHR precautionary measures, the threats and vulnerability of the community still continue.

In June 2014, The Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras,COFADEH, also a beneficiary of protective measures, issued an Urgent Action stating that the State of Honduras has not adopted effective measures to combat the lack of security and implement protective measures. The Urgent Action was issued in response to “series of events that have occurred systematically in recent weeks; immediately after COFADEH registered formal complaints.” These events include surveillance of the office, as well as the temporary abduction and severe beating suffered by a COFADEH member.

PROAH expresses grave concern regarding extreme levels of insecurity, impunity and the lack of effective and appropriate protection for beneficiaries of protective measures and human rights defenders.

The Honduras Accompaniment Project/Proyecto de Acompañamiento internacional en Honduras (PROAH) provides international accompaniment to human rights defenders, including human rights and social movement organizations and individuals who find themselves under threat or harassment due to their individual and collective human rights work.

July 8, 2014

Summary of Human Rights Issues and Events in Honduras May 2014

June 26, 2014

Please find here our latest Summary of Human Rights Issues and events in Honduras, for May 2014.

Highlights of this summary:

  • On May 28, a letter signed by 108 US Congress members was sent to Secretary of State, John Kerry, calling on the State Department to evaluate US support and training for the Honduran police and military and raised concern about policies ‘that threaten to make the human rights situation even worse’ by promoting the militarization of public security.

  • There is deep concern about increase in killings of children and young people in Honduras.

  • Casa Alianza director José Guadalupe Ruelas was the victim of an attack, due to his outspoken criticism of the state for its complicity in some of the killings of children and young people.

  • The case of Triunfo de la Cruz was heard at the Inter-American Court on May 21. The judgment will probably be issued in October or November.

  • Threats against members of the Tolupan indigenous community of Locomapa, Yoro continue in response to their peaceful opposition to illegal logging and antimony mining.

  • There are two more mining projects planned for the Siria Valley area, and a total of 200 fully operation (as opposed to exploration) concessions already granted in the country. These concessions have resulted in an increase in protests.

  • The IACHR issued a statement condemning the May 4 murder of Orlando Orellana, the president of the patronato (community council) of Cerrito Lindo in San Pedro Sula. The IACHR has issued precautionary measures for Orellana.

  • On May 8, the IACHR granted precautionary measures to 123 leaders of campesino movements in the Bajo Aguán.

  • On May 21, 315 soldiers and policemen and approximately 40 private security officers took part in the forced eviction of a total of 300 families in two MARCA campesino communities in the Bajo Aguán.

  • The Voice of Zacate Grande has been assigned a radio frequency under the new Telecommunications law that will considerably expand its coverage. However, threats continue: since the Voice of Zacate Grande was established, ADEPZA estimates that 90 of its members have been charged with offenses and 45 have received death threats. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in April 2011.

  • In mid-May, representatives of the LGBTI community met the new National Human Rights Commissioner (CONADEH) to demand the promotion of respect for their human rights, particularly the right to life, and a halt to hate crimes.

  • On May 27, the family of Ebed Yanes, one of the most notable victims of the militarization of police functions, held a demonstration outside the Supreme Court, demanding justice on the second anniversary of his death.

  • While the U.S and Honduran governments emphasize militarization, the UN Development program hailed Nicaragua’s system for citizen security – which authorities describe as ‘preventive, community-based and proactive’ – an ‘exportable model.’

San Francisco de Locomapa: Impunity and new threats.

June 24, 2014

 

Government failure to implement IACHR precautionary measures strengthens impunity and creates greater insecurity.

On February 22, the people of Locomapa celebrated the return of six of seven community members forced to flee after the murders of Enrique Maria Matuta, Armando Medina, and Ricardo Soto Funez on August 24, 2013. The murders of the indigenous Tolupanes occurred after 21 days of peaceful protest by the community in rejection of mining activity and illegal logging on their tribal lands.

The Honduran government, represented by an official commission (including the vice minister of the Ministry of Human Rights, Justice, Governance, and Decentralization; members of the Ministry of Security; the Attorney General’s office; the Public Ministry’s Office of Ethnic and Cultural Heritage; and the regional delegate of the National Commissioner of Human Rights) solemnly pledged before the community, members of MADJ (Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice, which supports the community), and other national and international organizations – among those, PROAH – to ensure the safety of the thirty-eight beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR and to arrest and sentence those responsible for the three murders.1

However, four months after the pledge to implement IACHR precautionary measures, the threats and vulnerability of the community continue. The police responsible for the investigation into the murders and protection of the threatened community members showed confusion between ‘protective measures’ and ‘alternative measures’ (to prison), and not until May, did police express the idea of creating a list of the beneficiaries of precautionary measures for the first time. At the same time, the police are evasive when asked questions regarding the progress of the investigation. They cite various difficulties impeding their work: lack of staff, lack of equipment, and lack of accessibility to the community. However, some of these difficulties were addressed when they received a motorcycle in order to reach the community. They seemed to have no difficulties in visiting PROAH accompaniers in May.

Although the police investigation is required as part of the implementation of precautionary measures and the commitment of the state to protect the Tolupan community, the two alleged perpetrators of the August 2013 massacre, who have warrants for their arrest, remain free in the community, intimidating those in opposition of the mining project. They regularly approach them, close enough to threaten them and so that community members are able to identify them. Therefore, anyone in the community can provide a precise physical description of the perpetrators, which could help a serious police investigation. But, the case does not advance.

More acts of intimidation:

On March 27, Selvin Funez Matute, one of the alleged murderers, approached a member of MADJ threatening to take him and three other community members from their homes and cut their tongues out if they continued to talk to Radio Progreso.

Various community members also confirmed that the Matutes fired shots into the air near the homes of the families in opposition of the mining company, threatening to kill them if they called the police. Even though various families reported these acts of intimidation, the police stated that they had not received any calls and expressed doubt regarding the veracity of the community’s claims.

During PROAH’s latest visit, the community confirmed that the Matutes continue to pass through San Francisco de Locomapa, stopping at night to visit their various girlfriends. During one of these visits, one of the alleged perpetrators stopped twice near the land of one of the community members, showing him the firearms he had, presumably to intimidate him.

The concerns expressed by human rights organizations regarding the community’s safety were unfortunately confirmed on June 9 when ex-general Finlander Uclès, armed and accompanied by bodyguards, entered into the home of one of the families. They circled the house, destroyed their crops and family belongings, and took their work equipment. The ex- general also psychologically tortured the three children of the family who were found alone in the house at that moment, telling them that they would return the following day to destroy everything because the land belonged to the general. The children left running, frightened, in order to alert the community to what had occurred. According to MADJ’s report, the ex-general claims property of the land that legally belongs to the family, and has been threatening the community since 1980. The fatherof the victimized family is a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by IACHR, as are all community members who have received threats. Following this incident, the family has been displaced from the community.2

The impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of the triple murder and the lack of application of protective measures mandated by IACHR have once again increased tension and insecurity in the community. Four months after the government’s commitment to ensure the security of the community, the last exiled community member still has not returned to Locomapa. He expressed to PROAH his fear and sadness at not being able to return to his home. Faced with the police’s inaction, the people begin to question their relationship with the perpetrators of the murders and the business interests. MADJ condemns “the Honduran government for continually failing to respond to the complaints filed by the Tolupán people as well as its failure to address the threats targeted at them”.

For more information, in Spanish:

Impunidad reina en asesinatos de indígenas (June, 2014)

“Defensores Tolupanes reciben nuevas amenazas”, Sandra Cuffie, April 2014

 

Summary of Human Rights Issues and Events in Honduras (April 2014)

May 22, 2014

Please find here our latest Summary of Human Rights Issues and events in Honduras, for March 2014.

Please find below the main items of this summary:

  • Honduras featured in a number of reports by international organizations: IACHR, PBI Honduras, Global Witness.
  • Government under criticism for continued failure to implement IACHR precautionary measures and for proposal to withdraw them from some beneficiaries.
  • Carlos Mejía Orellana of Radio Progreso, recipient of IACHR precautionary measures, was found dead with multiple stab wounds at his home in El Progreso, Yoro on April 11.
  • Impunity, threats, and intimidation continue against journalists throughout Honduras.
  • Four lawyers killed so far this year, an average of one a month.
  • Threats and intimidation against opponents of mining in La Nueva Esperanza continue, despite IACHR precautionary measures.
  • Murderers of three Tolupans in Locomapa, Yoro continue at large in the community despite IACHR precautionary measures.
  • COPINH members subject to murder allegations
  • World Bank Loan to Facussé’s Dinant Corporation under strong scrutiny.
  • Defense lawyer for José Isabel ‘Chabelo’ Morales lodges an appeal following guilty verdict.
  • Case of four judges sacked in 2010 for opposition to the coup was referred to the Inter-American Court.
  • Supreme Court ruled that the trial of the ex-commander of the COBRA Special Forces, Elder Madrid Guerra, and five other police officers should continue – for illegal detention and ill-treatment of anti-coup protesters.
  • Eight police officers will be tried for the death in custody of Mario Sequeira Canales.
  • The size of the PMOP (Public Order Military Police) will double in May. TIGRES trained by U.S. and Colombian instructors in April.
  • UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography presented preliminary findings of her mission.
  • Controversy generated by ‘Guardians of the Homeland’ scheme for children at risk.
  • Fierce debate on proposal to lift ban on emergency contraceptive pills.
  • Government forms commission for the protection of people displaced by violence – 17,000 Hondurans forced to flee their homes since 2008.
  • UNHCR survey shows that 5% of Honduran migrants leave their country because of threats and insecurity, amid reports of the dangers of the journey to the US.
  • National Lawyers Guild report on November 2013 Elections in Honduras cites serious problems that undermine claims that the election was “free and fair” and “transparent.”

Reflection on the murder of Carlos Mejia, Radio Progreso

May 15, 2014

Radio Progreso Manager Murdered

Was Carlos Mejía a Target?

*This reflection was written by Lucy Edwards (PROAH, Hope in Action, Congregational United Church of Christ, Ashland, Oregon)


On the evening of Friday, April 11, Carlos Mejía Orellana, 35, was stabbed to death in his home in El Progreso, Honduras. The white Rosary his mother had given him that day was broken and on the floor of the living room of his home. Nothing of value was taken from house. His well maintained Toyota sedan sat on the carport, its alarm sounding. Why was Carlos murdered? Was he targeted for his work at Radio Progreso?



Carlos was the eldest of 11 children to parents Salvadora and Nicolas. The family moved from a rural area near Ocotepeque to the growing northern city of El Progreso when Carlos was 8 or 9. He was entrepreneurial man, an intelligent and diligent worker who began at the Jesuit radio station Radio Progreso in his early twenties, and eventually became promotion and marketing manager. He was quiet and thoughtful, and knew how to get things done. He seemed to anticipate your needs before you knew you had them.



His house was well constructed and secure. He paid attention to issues of security. The home had a high wall surrounding it, with strong gates and tightly coiled barbed wire. He had a boyfriend, but lived alone, with two socialized and friendly dogs; they were not part of the security plan. He adored them and spoiled them. They were companions.


carlos photo 2


His work at the radio station took him into the community. While shy in social settings, Carlos was not shy about the radio station. He loved his work selling ads and producing events promoting the station. He also had other jobs outside the radio station, all approved by his supervisor, Catholic priest Ismael Moreno, known as Padre Melo. Carlos had taught management classes, and recently was helping a community radio station get off the ground. He had just purchased a washing machine for his parents. It was still wrapped in plastic on in the carport the day I visited.



Carlos Mejia was one of 16 members of the Radio Progreso team granted protected measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Station employees had received threats of violence, and many journalist colleagues in Honduras have been murdered. Radio Progreso studios were occupied by the armed forces during the 2009 coup, and the station was surrounded by police on another occasion.



In a country with so many layers of corruption, militarization, violence and impunity, Radio Progreso, and its affiliated Jesuit research team ERIC (equípo de reflección, investigación y comunicación) are an irrepressible daily affirmation of freedom of expression, creativity and courage in Honduras. Their work confronts and directly challenges the corruption and impunity.



Was Carlos targeted because of his work at the Jesuit radio? At this point one can only speculate. He was murdered at his home, stabbed several times with a knife. It appears his body was posed. It appears the killer or killers removed his clothes and tried to create the illusion of another kind of murder. But the shirt he was wearing that night was never found. Someone took it. Someone took the knife. Someone left by the front door and the front gate, leaving them both open.



It appears Carlos’ attacker came to the house with him, perhaps in Carlos’ car. They ate chicken, and shortly after Carlos was attacked–perhaps initially in the living room where the Rosary was broken, and then murdered in the bedroom where his clothes were then removed.



As the marketing manager, Carlos’ work provided the financial capital for the radio. His death has been a huge blow to his coworkers and a direct hit against the radio station economically. As a gay man, his killer or killers may have considered his sexual orientation a vulnerability to exploit. Someone gained Carlos’ trust enough to be invited to his home, and murdered him.



In an immediate newspaper online account, police declared their suspicions of a crime of passion before they had conducted any investigation. No one has ever investigated the many threats against the radio station staff and management that began in earnest in 2010 and remain as permanent threats.



On April 18, U.S. Representatives James P. McGovern (MA), Sam Farr (CA), and Janice D. Schakowsky (IL) released the following statement on the murder in Honduras of Carlos Mejía Orellana.



“We are shocked and saddened by the news of the murder of Carlos Mejia Orellana, journalist and marketing director of Radio Progreso in Honduras. We extend our deepest condolences to his family members, friends and colleagues. Our thoughts and prayers are with them in this difficult time.



“We are very familiar with the important work of Radio Progreso, a community-based radio station that is a work of the Jesuits of the Central American Province. We note that the Director of Radio Progreso, Father Ismael “Melo” Moreno, testified before the U.S. Congress at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and described the constant death threats and attacks perpetrated with impunity against journalists in Honduras, including against Radio Progreso, its employees and its research arm, ERIC. Given the level of threats and violence, including assassination, targeted against journalists, the media and freedom of expression in Honduras, we are dismayed that the Government of Honduras has failed to implement protective measures for the employees of Radio Progreso, as called for by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights when, on four separate occasions over the past five years, it issued precautionary measures on behalf of 16 staff members, including Carlos Mejia Orellana, of Radio Progreso and ERIC. We are further troubled by news reports that the police had announced the murder was carried out by someone close to Sr. Mejia Orellana before any investigation had yet begun. We call upon the Honduran authorities to immediately implement protective measures for Radio Progreso and ERIC employees and to carry out a thorough investigation of the murder of Carlos Mejia Orellana to determine both material and intellectual authors of this heinous act and to bring them to justice in a timely manner.”

 

 

Beating and arbitrary detention of children’s rights defender Mr José Guadalupe Ruelas

May 15, 2014

On Thursday May 8th at approximately 11:30 pm José Guadalupe Ruelas García, the director of Casa Alianza of Honduras, was brutally beaten in front of the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa by members of the Honduran Military Police.

Mr. Ruelas was stopped at by military police near the Presidential Palace while driving a vehicle owned by Casa Alizana and was wearing a Casa Alianza shirt, when a motorcycle carrying guards assigned to the Security Minister Corrales, plowed into his parked vehicle. At that point, military and police pulled him violently from his vehicle and threw him to the ground, kicking him brutally. They then dragged him by his feet, face down, to the main gate of the Presidential Palace. His wallet, identification and cell phone were taken and the vehicle was impounded.

Ruelas was detained by police throughout the night without access to medical attention for injuries sustained as a result of being beaten, kicked and dragged by members of the Honduran state security forces.

At 4:30 am, May 9th, Mr. Ruelas was finally transported to the hospital from the police station. At the hospital, transit police gave declarations to the press stating that his “injuries were the result of a traffic collision”. PROAH accompanied COFADEH (Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras) to the criminal court to present a habeas corpus for Ruelas and to file a report of the beating with the Public Ministry.

On the morning of May 10th, Ruelas left the hospital, where he had been held in the intensive care unit.

guadalupe_ruelas

On May 12th, Casa Alianza held a press conference at which Mr. Ruelas expressed fear that the state has mounted a smear campaign against him and that he will suffer new attacks. He also demanded that the public prosecutor who also investigated the murder of the son of Julieta Castellanos, Rector of UNAH (National University of Honduras) take his case rather than the current public prosecutor who is married to an official at the Ministry of Security.

Casa Alianza is a well-known humanitarian organization that advocates for homeless children in Central America and Mexico. The latest monthly report by Casa Alianza’s Honduras office, which Mr. Ruelas presented on April 23, noted that in the first three months of the new Honduran government’s tenure, 270 children and young people under 23 in the country suffered violent deaths. Mr. Ruelas, an outspoken advocate for children at risk, recently stated to the media that increasingly these killings were extrajudicial executions committed by agents of the state which the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez had the capacity to stop. His statements provoked a political backlash, with the President, for example, claiming that the allegations are a smear invented by LIBRE sympathizers.

National and International human rights organizations have issued Action Alerts on behalf of Ruelas.

For more information see (in Spanish):

COFADEH demanda castigo para policías y militares que propinaron golpiza a defensor de DDHH

 


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