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Updated 05/21/2007

Honduras News in Review—May 21, 2007

1. Remains of man murdered by military in 1992 are returned to his family
2. Thirteen men allegedly tortured by police are released
3. Journalists threatened in western Honduras town
4. Human rights prosecutor begins investigation of medical residents on strike
5. Government team threatened by villagers opposed to hydroelectric dam
6. Groups say proposed police reform violates human rights
7. Government team threatened by villagers opposed to hydroelectric dam
8. Military regains citizens’ trust, according to survey
9. Over 8,000 Hondurans deported in first five months of 2007

1. Remains of man murdered by military in 1992 are returned to his family
The Honduran government took another step toward completing its obligations under an Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling by returning the remains of Juan Humberto Sánchez to his family during a ceremony in Tegucigalpa on May 10. He was buried the following day. Sánchez, a radio operator for El Salvador’s leftist guerillas, was detained by the Honduran military in July 1992 while visiting his family in the border town of Santo Domingo. His body was found weeks later, showing signs of torture. In March 2003 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the state responsible for Sánchez’s death. Attorney General Leónidas Rosa gave his condolences to Sánchez’s family and said the state of Honduras was dedicated to identifying and punishing Sánchez’s killers, another obligation under the international court’s sentence. Sánchez’s remains were exhumed in September 2004. [EFE News, 5/10/07; Tiempo, 5/11/07; COFADEH announcements, 5/4/07, 5/5/07; read more about the case of Juan Humberto Sánchez]

2. Thirteen men allegedly tortured by police are released
The Center for the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and Their Families in Honduras announced the release of 13 campesinos from the Jardines de la Sierra community. The men were charged with illicit association, illegal arms possession and plotting against the security of the state of Honduras. According to CPTRT, the men were tortured and suffered degrading and inhumane treatment. They were acquitted of all charges because of an illegal search by the police. [CPTRT press release, 5/3/07]

3. Journalists threatened in western Honduras town
The Committee for Free Expression in Honduras, or C-Libre, announced that two television reporters and a cameraman in the western town of La Entrada have received threats after reporting on an organized crime group involved in robberies in the area. Members of the group have gone to the television station and sent messages to the reporters’ homes warning that they should not have released information on the group. Intimidation from organized crime is one of the biggest obstacles to free speech in this area of Honduras, according to C-Libre. In 2003 journalist German Antonio Rivas was murdered in the western town of Santa Rosa de Copán. [C-Libre Urgent Alert, 5/4/07; read more about threats against journalists and human rights defenders in Honduras]

4. Human rights prosecutor begins investigation of medical residents on strike
A strike by medical personnel in Honduras may have caused the deaths of three people, investigators say. The office of the special prosecutor for human rights has launched an investigation to determine if the patients died because of a lack of medical care and if the striking medical residents are criminally culpable. Medical interns and residents in Tegucigalpa have been on strike for nearly two months, demanding that colleagues who studied in Cuba complete one year of residency. Students who complete their studies at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana are exempt from the one-year residency requirement for those who have studied medicine abroad. According to local newspapers, among the three deaths were a woman giving birth and a diabetic who didn’t receive insulin. [La Tribuna, 5/16/07; EFE News, 5/17/07; Tiempo, 5/17/07]

5. Government team threatened by villagers opposed to hydroelectric dam
A team of archeologists said they received death threats from villagers while investigating the future site of a hydroelectric dam in the department of Olancho. The government team was on a preliminary mission to establish contact with villagers in the area, in preparation for the archeological, engineering and biological investigations needed to secure an environmental permit. According to the group’s leader, Julia Martínez, when the team arrived at the site they were verbally assaulted and threatened, and the villagers said they would be removed only by force. Martínez complained that the villagers had only heard negative rumors about the project and had not been informed of its benefits. Honduran officials say the project, named Patuca III and financed by the government of Taiwan, will help reduce energy costs in the country. [Hondudiario, 5/17/07]

6. Groups say proposed police reform violates human rights
Civil society organizations, including the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras, have called for an overhaul of the Police Law reform proposed by Security Minister Álvaro Romero. The groups said that the suggested reforms violate human rights and will legalize brutality and abuse. In a letter sent to the National Congress, the organizations asked that the new law strengthen the National Security Council, give more independence to the Police Internal Affairs Unit, and establish more control over private security firms. [El Heraldo, 5/9/07]

7. Honduran National Registry shut down because of lack of funds
The National Registry of Persons in Honduras has closed nationwide for an indefinite period, director Julián Suazo announced. Suazo said the agency owes four months’ worth of rent and does not have sufficient materials for certificates and ID cards. The registry has been in budget talks with the Finance Ministry; Suazo says an additional 55 million lempiras ($2.9 million) is needed. Suazo complained that the registry has been accused of corruption while it doesn’t have sufficient funds to investigate fraud claims. [La Tribuna, 5/17/07; EFE News, 5/17/07]

8. Military regains citizens’ trust, according to survey
Honduran Defense Minister Arístides Mejía announced that the armed forces placed third in a national survey asking citizens which institutions they trust most. The Catholic Church was first, followed by the press. The armed forces came in before the National Congress or political parties. Mejía said he was pleased the military had developed a good reputation among citizens. Military coups and human rights violations from the 1960s through the 1980s caused distrust of the military. Mejía believes an increase in soldiers’ salaries and campaigns such as defending against forest fires has helped improve the image of the military. [La Tribuna, 5/16/07; El Heraldo, 5/17/07]

9. Over 8,000 Hondurans deported in first five months of 2007
Some 8,300 Hondurans have been deported from the United States in the last five months, according to a liaison of the Secretary of the Interior and the Committee of Attention to the Returned Migrant. Rosario Murillo said that 24,666 Hondurans were deported in 2006, up from 18,941 in 2005, and she estimated that more than 42,000 would be deported in 2007. More than a million Hondurans live in the United States, either as residents, under temporary protected status, or illegally; it is estimated that in 2007 their remittances will equal 25 percent of Honduras’ gross domestic product. The Committee of Attention to the Returned Migrant, which is financed by the United States, helps the deported return to their hometowns and provides temporary food and shelter. [Hondudiario, 5/16/07]

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