Hedme Castro: “The Lobo regime tries to prevent us from doing our work as Human Rights Defenders”

Posted on October 29, 2010

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Hedme Fátima CastroIn an interview with defensoresenlinea.com, Hedme Fátima Castro denounces the systematic persecution suffered at the hands of police and members of the Honduran military.  Yesterday, October 28th, she was the victim of a strange assault; after being hit by a truck, she was held up but the only item taken was her Human Rights Defender credential issued by The Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared of
Honduras (COFADEH), and her car keys. Two hours later, her documents
were returned.  Something similar happened to the Teacher and Legal
Defender during another incident when police confiscated her credential
and later returned it to COFADEH office.

Hedme Fátima Castro (Sub-Coordinator of the E-Defenderh Program) has been assigned Precautionary Measures by the Inter American Human Rights
Commission (IAHRC). However, the measures have been powerless due to the negligence of the Lobo Sosa regime and its complicity with repressive
State forces as demonstrated during the recent IAHRC hearings on October 25.

MC.- What prior incidents of police harassment have you suffered before
today’s assault?

HC.- There are several incidents that have put my life at risk
including: on August 19, 2009 eleven police officers entered the school
where I work. Several officers were dressed in army uniforms.  They were
under the command of Second Sargent José Rodríguez. They said they had
come for the Director of the school, but they did not have a legal
warrant because it was a “routine” matter.  Fortunately I was able to
communicate with COFADEH and several Human Rights Defenders and
journalists came.  At the sight of the COFADEH delegation, the uniformed
officers left the school without further consequences. On another
occasion, three police officers entered but when other teachers
approached, they left the educational institution. The most recent
harassment was when police came to my office saying that they were going
to deliver a talk on “public security”.  I asked them for the academic
work plan and the theme they would develop and saw that the preventative
police officers had a list of people on which my name appeared and my
home phone number.  I told them that I could not receive them at the
school unless they had a note requesting a room for the training. There
are always vehicles without plates parked at the school entrance,
apparently without reason because only children and adolescents study at
my workplace.

MC.- The police harassment resulted in a request from COFADEH for
Precautionary Measures for you.  For how long has the Inter American
Human Rights Commission protected you?

HC.- On August 21, the Inter American Human Rights Commission was
meeting in the Hotel Clarión in Tegucigalpa and I went to make the
denunciation.  Immediately afterwards the IAHRC investigated and decided
to give me Precautionary Measures because they considered my life to be
at risk.

MC.- Did the police behavior towards you change after the IAHRC
Precautionary Measures?

HC.- On August 21, the beneficiaries of the Precautionary Measures and
COFADEH went to sign an agreement with the heads of the Military and
Police in which they committed to uphold the IAHRC protocols.  Three
days later there was a meeting in the Hotel Clarión.  When the police
saw the peaceful, Resistance demonstration they began to launch tear
gas.  I asked a uniformed person in charge of the repression to allow me
to take the children and elderly away before they became intoxicated
from the tear gas.  I asked him for five minutes to evacuate the
children and elderly.  A police officer with the last name of Perez was
heading the operation and was one of those who had signed the agreement
for Precautionary Measures committing to “protect” my life.  However,
they beat me and took away my Human Rights Defender Credential.  I told
him; “How is it possible that you are beating me when you signed the
Precautionary Measures Agreement with the IAHRC?” And the Police
Commissioner said: “I don’t remember signing anything.”  Days later, the
police returned my Human Rights Defender credential, taking it to the
COFADEH office.

MC.- Today, you were victim of an “express robbery”.  The strange thing
is that the only thing taken by the assailants was the same Human Rights
Defender credential and your car keys.  Could you describe more for us
this assault?”

HC.- I was coming from an teachers assembly at the Hibueras Institute
and just two blocks away, right on the corner, I saw a vehicle – a light
colored pick up.  It was parked and that made me think that I had a time
to cross the street.  As I was crossing the street, the vehicle
accelerated and I moved aside, out of the way, but then the vehicle
moved in reverse and was able to hit my leg and I fell. That is when a
man came over and once again he ripped off my Human Rights Defender
credential.

MC.- How did you manage to get your credential back the second time?

HC.- When I saw that they had stolen my identification and the keys, I
returned to work – COFADEH- so that they could help me find a locksmith
to open my car. So I was there with the locksmith, the owner of the
parking lot and some street vendors and they had made a new set of keys
when a person came up asking for me and if I worked for COFADEH because
they had thrown my Defender identification and my keys into the street
in what was clearly a message of psychological intimidation.

MC.- Did they attempt to steal your watch, jewelry or cell phone?

HC.- No, and in fact I did have my cell phone, my watch, I had money and
they didn’t steal anything.  They just ripped my Human Rights Defender
credential off my neck and my car keys.

MC.- It is paradoxical that you, at COFADEH, coordinate the program to
Defend Human Rights Defenders.  How do you explain the lack of
protection the Human Rights Defenders suffer? Who is the E-Defenderh
program focused on?

HC.- E-Defenderh is a space dedicated to the Defense of Human Rights
Defenders. I am the Sub-Coordinator of the Program and I think that we
are having an impact and as a result the defacto authorities have set
their sights on us. The objective of E-Defender is to train Human Rights
defenders on issues of personal and information security.  It is
paradoxical that those of us who do these trainings are harassed in
these ways despite multiple measures that we take to protect our
physical integrity.

MC.- What is the most serious denunciation that you have documented
regarding abuses against Human Rights Defenders? Do you see a pattern in
police harassment against Human Rights Defenders?

HC.- At the moment there are 534 documented “incidents” which have
occurred since the coup through June 2010 against Human Rights
Defenders.  Some of the “incidents” are crimes. The truth is that the
Lobo regime is trying to prevent Human Rights Defenders from doing their
work because we know that the violations and crimes are a daily activity
for the Lobo regime and the military authorities. They impede our work,
criminalizing us, making it clear to us that they are there, they follow
our every step.  But in the midst of pain and impotence, this only
strengthens my spirit of struggle and we will continue to defend human
rights defenders.

MC.- Do you feel that the violations against Human Rights Defenders are
of interest to the international community? I ask this because of the
IAHRC hearing on October 25th regarding the Criminalization of Human
Rights Defenders in Honduras.

HC.- Outside of Honduras yes, we have a lot of support and solidarity.
We need the International Human Rights Organizations to support us
because here we feel completely defenseless.  In order to perform our
work in defense of human rights, we need greater guarantees.