Underage students detained in San Pedro Sula: Judge denies habeas corpus filed by lawyer

Posted on September 1, 2011

Student protests in San Pedro SulaThis morning in San Pedro Sula, Honduras public school students held a march protesting the privatization of education as part of activities parallel to state-supported “patriotic celebrations” in the lead up to National Independence Day on September 15th. At approximately 10:00 AM, at least fourteen students, most of them from the “Primero de mayo 1954” secondary school in the Fesitranh neighbourhood of the city were illegally detained by police and transfered to the Suncery police station. When lawyers with the Lawyers in Resistance Front of the Northern Zone arrived at the police station the police did not allow any lawyer to enter. Brenda Mejía reports that when she arrived at the station and identified herself as a lawyer and representative of the Commission of Truth (Comisión de Verdad) she was not allowed entry, and when she insisted, a police officer nearly hit her and would have if she hadn’t removed herself in time from the doorway. Shortly afterwards, the legal representative of the Police allowed her to enter to verify the condition of the students and she confirms that at that point they were physically unharmed, however they are being detained under the same conditions as adult detainees in a facility that is not appropriate nor legally mandated for the detention of minors, and reports that a temporary sign was put up in the detention area saying “minors detention station” (“posta de menores”).

One of the students, 17 year-old Gerson Otoniel Guzman, was transferred to the Integrated Justice Centre [Centro Integrado de Justicia in Spanish, a facility including offices of the Investigative police (DNIC), public prosecutors, public defendants, and judges] and he was sent there because he was accused of breaking the window of a police patrol vehicle and owes damages.

The remaining underage students will be transferred to Children’s/Youth Court (Juzgado de la niñez) for twenty-four hours and declared “at risk” (riesgo social) requiring that their parents or guardians come to retrieve them in person, but the Lawyers were told that they would not be released until twenty-four hours after their arrest and must spend the night, even if their parents or guardians arrive and claim responsibility before then.

Another lawyer and member of the Convergence for Human Rights (Convergencia de Derechos Humanos), Luis Alonso Chévez [who is one of the 4 former judges fired by the Supreme Court for political reasons nearly a year after the coup d’état which took place in Honduras June 28, 2009], reports he was assaulted when he attempted to enter the police station to verify the physical and emotional state of the students.

Mr. Chévez filed a Habeas Corpus appeal in the name of the detained students, requiring the charges to be identified or the individuals released, with the that they are all minors according to Honduran law and are being illegally detained in an integral justice facility in the same conditions as adult detainees. The public defender who was named by the Court of Appeals to respond to the habeas corpus (Juana Jaco) declared it without merit. Mr. Chévez reports that Mr. Jaco has shown clear partiality in the case since arriving at the youth detention facility and referred to the students as “vandals.” She declared her intention to detain them overnight and not transfer them to the Children and Youth Court and declare them “at risk” until tomorrow.

Among the detained students are:

Feliz Navil Ortiz Suazo, age 16
Kevin Antony Catro Martinez, age 16
Douglas Alberto Dominguez Inestroza, age 16
Noe Farid Leiva Medina
Fredy Alejandro Melgar Caceres, age 17
Napoleon Alberto Aguiluz Orellana, age 17
Jerson David Figueroa Garcia, age 17
Gerson Otoniel Guzman, age 17
Darwin Josue Lopez Saravia, age 17
Carlos Antonio Escobar Rico, age 14
Alex Fernando Nuñez Urrea, age 14
Josue Roberto Hernandez, age 18
Bryan Aguilar, age 18
Enil Geovany, age 18

The last three are 18 years old but are minors according to Honduran law and have already been transferred to the Integrated Justice Centre.

There are another three students who’s names the Lawyers do not have at present and who are currently admitted to the Mario Catarino Rivas hospital, one of them is a young female student who was seriously assaulted during the demonstration and is in delicate condition.

SOURCE AND URGENT ACTION: http://friendshipamericas.org/honduras

RELATED: Protestan contra Ley Educativa en San Pedro Sula