Human rights defenders and trade unionists were attacked and threatened throughout the year. In most cases the perpetrators of attacks and threats were not held accountable. At least 27 prisoners were killed during different episodes of prison violence.
Several prosecutors and others went on hunger strike in April and May, demanding the resignation of the Attorney General whom they accused of corruption and of blocking several important anti-corruption cases. In September, one of the prosecutors on hunger strike, Luis Santos, who had been granted state protection, was shot and seriously wounded by an unidentified attacker/gunman. At the request of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, protection measures were strengthened. The Attorney General remained in post at the end of the year.
"Trade unionists were threatened and attacked; at least three were killed."
UNAIDS reported that the national prevalence for HIV infection was 0.7 per cent. In a report to the UN General Assembly in February, the government reported a reduction in HIV prevalence among the Garifuna communities. Despite recent evidence of a decline in HIV prevalence among women sex workers, UNAIDS reported that the infection rate stood at 10 per cent.
In December, the President issued a decree setting up a compensation programme for victims of human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed between 1980 and 1993.
Human rights defenders
At least three human rights defenders were killed; many others were attacked and threatened.
In September, two plain-clothes police officers were detained by university staff after they were seen taking photographs. The officers were found to be carrying a list entitled “pressure groups” with the details of approximately 135 human rights defenders, trade unionists, religious leaders and some government officials. The two police officers were arrested and the deputy director of the Information and Analysis Unit of the police was suspended. In October, the officers were released and charges against them dropped; the deputy director remained suspended at the end of the year.
- In June, Irene Ramírez, leader of a rural workers’ organization, was shot and killed in the city of Trujillo, Colón department. He had been leading a dispute over land. The day before his death he had given a radio interview calling for recently approved land reform legislation to be implemented by the authorities. At the end of the year, two men were on trial for his killing.
Workers’ rights – trade unionists
Trade unionists were threatened and attacked; at least three were killed.
- Altagracia Fuentes, Virginia García de Sánchez and Juan Bautista – general secretary, first officer and driver respectively of the Confederation of Workers of Honduras – were shot and killed as they drove towards the town of El Progreso, Yoro department, in April. Witness reports indicated that the perpetrators, wearing balaclavas, drove up beside the car and machine- gunned the occupants. In June, the authorities issued arrest warrants for 11 individuals, none of whom had been captured by the end of the year. Members of the Public Prosecutor’s Office claimed that the motive for the killings had been robbery; others believed they were killed for trying to form trade unions in assembly factories.
- Lorna Redell Jackson and Juana Maldonado Gutiérrez, leaders of the trade union at the Alcoa Fujukura Company (Sindicato de Trabajadores de la empresa Alcoa Fujukura Limitada, SITRAFL) were shot and injured by two unidentified individuals on a motorcycle in September in the town of El Progreso, Yoro department. In October, Lorna Redell Jackson received telephone death threats. SITRAFL had exposed violations of labour rights in the context of a company closure.
Violence against women and girls
According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office 312 women were killed in 2008. Various women’s rights organizations launched a campaign in November calling on the authorities to do more to stop the rising number of killings of women. They demanded that the authorities dedicate more resources to the investigation and prosecution of cases, introduce legislative changes, and make public more information about the killing of women. In addition, women’s organizations called for more government action to combat the high levels of domestic violence recorded.
The principal recommendation of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, which called on the government to carry out a comprehensive investigation to clarify cases of enforced disappearances during the 1980s and 1990s, had not been implemented by the end of the year. The Working Group reported in 2007 on 125 cases of disappearance that remained to be clarified.
In July, four policemen were found guilty of the killing in 2006 of Heraldo Zuñiga and Roger Iván Cartagena, both members of the Environmentalist Movement of Olancho. Three weeks after being sentenced, two of the police officers escaped, and another escaped a few days later. At the end of the year the three men were still on the run.
The investigation into the beating and rape of Donny Reyes, treasurer of the Rainbow Association (Fundacion Arcoiris), a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organization, did not progress. In 2007, Donny Reyes was arbitrarily detained by police officers, and taken to a police station where an officer told other inmates “look, I’m bringing you a little princess, you know what to do”. Other inmates repeatedly beat and raped him. One police officer was punished with one month’s suspension from duty without pay.
Nine inmates were killed in a single incident in April in a San Pedro Sula prison, Cortés department, and a further 18 prisoners were killed in May in a Tegucigalpa prison, Francisco Morazán department. Conflicts between rival gangs were alleged to be the cause of the deaths.
In June, 21 prison officials of different ranks were found guilty of causing the deaths of 68 inmates in a fire in the El Porvenir prison farm, in Atlántida department in 2003. Their sentences varied from three years to life imprisonment.
Amnesty International reportsHonduras: Open letter to the President of Honduras on the situation of human rights defenders and the recent escape of three men convicted in the case of the killing of two environmentalists (7 August 2008)
Honduras: Open letter to the President of Honduras about human rights defenders (25 September 2008)