Honduras: Human rights defenders in danger
March 7, 2011
The following message is based on two alerts circulated by the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH).
With great concern, COFADEH informs the national and international community of acts of harassment, persecution and psychological aggression against Leo Valladares Lanza, the former Human Rights Commissioner of Honduras and current director of the Association for Participatory Citizenship (ACI Participa).
COFADEH is also concerned about continued attacks against Jose Trinidad Sánchez Argueta, executive director of the Network for Alternative Community Trade (Red COMAL) based in the city of Siguatepeque.
On February 21 at 3:15 p.m., a taxi arrived at a private meeting Valladares had with the Special Prosecutor for Children Nora Urbina. This same taxi, for some time, had been parking outside of Valladares' home. It followed him to the café where he was meeting with the special prosecutor and parked outside, where the driver made several calls on his cellphone. The situation was so alarming that neighbours informed the Valladares family of what was happening, and the special prosecutor requested an escort for him to return home.
On March 1 the same taxi parked outside of the Valladares home. This time it was accompanied by another vehicle. The family called the police who arrived and summoned the drivers of the vehicles in question. Following their inquiries, the police recommended that the family leave for a time and take additional security precautions.
Since the second week of February, unknown individuals have called the Valladares residence numerous times asking for “Rodrigo,” Valladares' young son José Rodrigo Valladares Pineda who was murdered January 25, 2009 and whose death remains in impunity. After asking for him, the caller laughed menacingly. There has also been an unknown motorcycle making rounds near the residence and accelerating its motor in front of the house to such an extent that it activates the house alarm.
The above mentioned events occurred after Valladares spoke on a television program regarding the repositioning of the Armed Forces, the resurgence of militarism in post coup d'état Honduras and the incorporation of the military in the structures of the Executive Powers of the State.
During his first year as national Human Rights Commissioner, Valladares presented a preliminary report on disappeared detainees. During the second year of his term, he presented a report on arbitrary and summary executions and another regarding the state of freedom of expression in Honduras. During his final term in office, unknown assailants violently entered his home, beat his son Rodrigo and his wife Daysi Pineda, and apparently stole a vehicle which was abandoned two blocks from the house.
On February 25, 2011, José Trinidad Sánchez received a threatening text message which included the sentences: “Your days are limited so enjoy what you have robbed from Comal. As of today count down your days. You are being watched you dog.”
This is not the first act against Trinidad Sánchez or the members of his family. In August 2010, his 25-year-old son was detained and subject to serious mistreatment by agents of the Preventative Police. In May 2010, an armed man violently entered Trinidad Sánchez's home at 2:45 a.m. He threatened and removed the family members from their beds, pointed the firearm at them intimidatingly for several minutes, then took a camera and a computer monitor, and left.
In the middle of the day on November 28, 2009, a group of 50 individuals including uniformed police officers, police in civilian clothing and military personnel violently entered the offices of Red COMAL and forced the watchman to open gate to the main building. Once inside, the individuals proceeded to break open the locks on the doors of various offices.
The contingent, commanded by Police Captain Freddy Lagos Sánchez, supposedly acting as executing judge of a search warrant (authorized by Public Attorney Elizabeth Orellana Rodríguez), proceeded to remove work documents and computer equipment from the offices. Months later, due to pressure from human rights organizations, the public attorney returned the apprehended items.
We request that the national and international community urge the Honduran State to:
- Initiate an independent, impartial and exhaustive investigation into the threats against Valladares and Trinidad Sánchez; that they make public the results of the investigation, and that the responsible parties appear in court
- Take immediate measures to provide effective and appropriate protection to Valladares and Trinidad Sánchez according to their wishes
- Carry out its responsibility to guarantee human rights defenders their right to carry out their work without unjust restriction and without fear of reprisal, as is established in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders as well as the resolutions of the OAS.
Please direct letters in Spanish or English to:
Jorge Alberto Rivera Avilés
Presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia (President of the Supreme Court)
Tel (504) 269-3000 269-3069
Luis Alberto Rubí
Fiscal General de la República (Attorney General of the Republic of Honduras)
Fax (504) 2221-5667
Tel (504) 221-5670 221-3099
With copies to:
Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH)
Barrio La Plazuela, Avenida Cervantes, Casa No. 1301
Apartado Postal 1243
Fax:+504 220 5280 (ask for "tono de fax, por favor")
Ambassador Jorge Ramón Hernández Alcerro
Embassy of Honduras
3007 Tilden Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008