Washington, D.C., March 8, 2010—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns and laments the murders last month of three persons in Honduras who were active in the resistance to the coup d’état or related to activists. It also deplores the kidnappings, arbitrary detentions, acts of torture, sexual violations, and illegal raids to which other members of the resistance have been victims. The IACHR also expresses its deep concern over information it has received indicating that sons and daughters of activists are being threatened and harassed, and that in two cases they have been killed.
According to the information received, on February 3, 2010, 29-year-old Vanessa Zepeda Alonzo, who was active in the Resistance Front and was affiliated with the Social Security Employees Union, was found dead in Tegucigalpa. According to eyewitnesses, her body was thrown out of a car. Likewise, on February 15, 2010, Julio Funez Benitez, an active member of the resistance who belonged to the SANAA Workers Union, was holding a conversation on the sidewalk outside his residence in the Colonia Brisas neighborhood of Olancho when he was killed with two shots fired by unknown gunmen traveling on a motorcycle. Finally, on February 24, 2010, Claudia Maritza Brizuela, 36 years old, was killed in her home. She was the daughter of union and community leader Pedro Brizuela, who participates actively in the resistance. Two unknown individuals came to her door, and when she opened it, Claudia Brisuelas was shot and killed in front of her children, ages 2 and 8.
The Commission observes with dismay that it appears that sons and daughters of leaders of the Resistance Front are being killed, kidnapped, attacked, and threatened as a strategy to silence the activists. Along these lines, on February 17, 2010, Dara Gudiel, who was 17, was found hanged in the city of Danlí, in the department of Paraíso. Dara Gudiel was the daughter of journalist Enrique Gudiel, who runs a radio program called “Siempre al Frente con el Frente” (“Always Upfront with the Front”), which broadcasts information about the resistance. Days before she was found hanged, Dara Gudiel had been released after having been kidnapped and held for two days, during which time she was alleged to have been physically mistreated.
Separately, on February 9, 2010, five members of a family that is active in the resistance were kidnapped by seven heavily armed men who were dressed in military uniforms and wore ski masks over their faces. One of those kidnapped was a young woman who in August 2009 reported having been raped by four police officers after they had detained her in connection with a demonstration against the coup d’état perpetrated on June 29. In the February 9 attack, the armed men intercepted the vehicle in which the young woman was traveling with her brother, her sister, and two other individuals; when they offered to turn over the keys to the car, the men responded that what they wanted was the young woman, “to see if she would report them this time.” The five were forced at gunpoint to walk into the mountains, where two of the women were sexually violated; the third was the victim of robbery and death threats, and the two men were subjected to physical torture. They were released hours later.
These events take place in a context of grave harassment directed against active members of the resistance in Honduras; during the last month, there have been more than fifty detentions, eight cases of torture, two kidnappings, two rapes, and one raid on a residence. These attacks have been made against members of the resistance, unionists, and journalists, as well as their sons and daughters.
Honduras must adopt urgent measures to guarantee the rights to life, humane treatment, and personal liberty. All persons, without distinction, must be equally protected in the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and political participation.
The IACHR finds it necessary to reiterate that political and social participation through public demonstration is essential in the democratic life of societies, and that it is imbued with an imperative social interest. People from all political sectors have the right to fully and freely exercise their right to freedom of expression and their right to assembly, without violence and in accordance with the law and with inter-American standards for the protection of human rights. As the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have indicated, the States not only must not interfere with the exercise of these rights, but they must also adopt measures to ensure that these rights can be exercised effectively.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.