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Updated 01/14/2008

Remembering 25 Years Ago—July 1982

July 8
Professor Oscar Reyes, founder of the School of Journalism at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, and his wife Gloria are bound, blindfolded and abducted from their home by masked men. They are tortured for several days and incarcerated for five months while being investigated for “attempts against state security.” While they are in detention, soldiers occupy their home and strip it of all items of value. In December 1982, after Oscar Reyes’s sister threatens to go to the press with photographs of the Reyes’s ransacked home and information of what the couple had suffered, armed forces chief Gen. Alvarez Martínez agrees to release the couple, on condition that they leave the country and keep silent about their treatment. On Dec. 22 the Reyes are given “exit only” visas and depart the following day to the United States, where they receive political asylum.

In 2002 the Reyes, who are now U.S. citizens, join a U.S. civil lawsuit against former Honduran military intelligence chief Lt. Col. Juan López Grijalba for his responsibility for the torture they suffered. In March 2006, after finding him liable for the charges, a federal judge in Miami orders López Grijalba to pay the Reyeses each a total of $13 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Lawyers in the case offer to turn over their evidence to the Honduran attorney general in order to pursue criminal charges against López Grijalba.

For more information, read the Reyes’s full case history.

Sources
"Honduran couple details how they were tortured." Alfonso Chardy. The Miami Herald; March 17, 2006.

“The Family Secret.” Pamela Constable. The Washington Post; May 26, 1996.

“How a journalist was silenced.” Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson. The Baltimore Sun; June 13, 1995.

"Bench Trial on Damages Before the Honorable Joan A. Lenard, United States District Judge." (Full trial transcript.) March 16, 2006.

“Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.” U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida; Case No. 02-22046-CIV-LENARD/KLEIN. March 31, 2006.

“Honduras: López Grijalba.” Center for Justice and Accountability.

July 8
Hans Albert Madisson López, a 24-year-old student, is abducted outside the Reyes’s home on the same night the couple were taken. He has no known affiliations, and it is believed this may be a case of mistaken identity. In 1995 a forensic team working for the Honduran Special Prosector for Human Rights exhumes a skeleton and identifies it as Madisson’s, based on dental records and a bone fracture, and DNA testing later confirms the finding. The body had been decapitated. Murder charges are brought against several military officers, but to date, none have been successfully prosecuted.

In 2002 Madisson’s sisters join the Reyeses in a U.S. civil lawsuit against former Honduran military intelligence chief Lt. Col. Juan Evangelista López Grijalba. (See above.) In March 2006, after finding him liable for the charges, a federal judge in Miami orders López Grijalba to pay the two sisters each a total of $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

For more information, read Madisson’s full case history.

Sources
“Honduras: The Facts Speak for Themselves.” The Preliminary Report of the National Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras. Human Rights Watch; July 1994

Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras Web site, Desaparecidos en 1982.

"Bench Trial on Damages Before the Honorable Joan A. Lenard, United States District Judge." (Full trial transcript.) March 16, 2006.

“Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.” U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida; Case No. 02-22046-CIV-LENARD/KLEIN. March 31, 2006.

“Honduras: López Grijalba.” Center for Justice and Accountability.


July 22
Jose Saúl Godínez Cruz, a 32-year-old Honduran school teacher and union activist, disappears after being detained on his way to work by Honduran security forces in Santa Elena de la Cruz, Choluteca. An eyewitness reports seeing a man in military dress and two men in civilian clothes arresting Godínez and placing him and his motorcycle in a vehicle without plates. Agents had also allegedly been monitoring his house.

Godínez’s wife and mother spend the next four years filing habeas corpus petitions and criminal complaints, but with no success, despite the fact that a judge confirms that Godínez’s name appeared on an official list of people detained on July 22. In response to a later request for information, submitted to the Public Security Forces, Col. Marco Antonio Matute Lagos denies that Godínez was ever arrested.

The family ultimately pushes the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which hears it in April 1986. In January 1989 the court declares the State of Honduras responsible for the involuntary disappearance of Saúl Godínez and orders the government to pay compensation to his family. This case, and that of Angel Manfredo Velásquez, mark the first trials of a government in the Inter-American system and the first time a government is tried for the crime of disappearance.

Sources
“Honduras: The Facts Speak for Themselves.” The Preliminary Report of the National Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras. Human Rights Watch; July 1994

Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras Web site, Desaparecidos en 1982.