TEGUCIGALPA – Fourteen politically motivated killings have taken place in Honduras since the June 28 escorted departure of former president Mel Zelaya, a human rights group founded when death squads stalked the Central American country in the 1980s said Wednesday.
“We have 14 people who have been murdered since the coup d’état,” the coordinator of the Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees, or Cofadeh, told Efe.
The killings took place in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula – the country’s two largest cities – and other locations, Bertha Oliva said, adding that police and soldiers were also “torturing people.”
Some people arrested for their opposition to the coup have been burned by their jailers with cigarettes, while others have been sodomized with police batons, she said.
Oliva said some of the torturers were from the army’s 3-16 Intelligence Battalion, blamed for 184 deaths during the early 1980s.
A veteran of that unit, former Capt. Billy Joya, is security adviser to Roberto Micheletti, former head of Congress who was elected head of government after Zelaya’s ouster.
Oliva joined members of two anti-coup resistance groups outside the Honduran Supreme Court on Wednesday to protest the judiciary’s unwillingness to investigate allegations against the security forces.
Since Zelaya's departure, the organizations said in a statement, the high court has failed to respond to 52 motions filed in opposition to actions of the government, an attitude that “contrasts with the celerity with which the judiciary acts when the charges are against members of the resistance.”
Claudia Hermannsdorfer, an attorney with the Women’s Rights Center in Tegucigalpa, said the International Criminal Court has been informed of the human rights violations committed by the Micheletti government.
“We are speaking even of murders,” she said. “The people responsible for the coup d’etat – the armed forces and Roberto Micheletti – will have to face the International Criminal Court, which already has the cases absolutely documented and will act at any moment.”
Police and soldiers used force Wednesday to remove 57 Zelaya followers from a government building they occupied shortly after the events that ousted the elected head of state.
The security forces acted in accord with the state of siege imposed by the Micheletti government days after Zelaya slipped back into the country and took up residence at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa.
“This action forms part of what the decree is,” police spokesman Orlin Cerrato told reporters, adding that authorities are trying to determine whether any other state property is under occupation.
“There are people detained, they will be questioned to see what (criminal) responsibility they have,” he said.
The operation to remove the Zelaya partisans from the National Agrarian Institute began at 5:30 a.m.
Cerrato said authorities did not plan any further evictions Wednesday, though supporters of the deposed president have spent the last few nights on university campuses in and around Tegucigalpa.
“We were waiting: so it’s no
w that they pounced on us. They clubbed me when I tried to get my suitcase,” one of the peasants rousted from institute, 52-year-old Pedro Serrano, told Efe.
Rural leader Rafael Alegria, a coordinator of the National Resistance Front , rushed to the institute when he learned of the police action.
“It’s a dictatorship and anything can happen,” he said. “They are desperate; they are applying a decree that is illegal, that has not been approved by Congress. This is a fascist act.”
The speaker of the Honduran Congress said Monday that the Micheletti government should revoke the decree suspending constitutional guarantees.
Jose Alfredo Saavedra made the request hours after the government invoked the state of siege as justification for shutting down two media outlets sympathetic to Zelaya.
Micheletti, who was named “interim” president by a plurality of lawmakers after Zelaya's departure, said he was open to the idea of scrapping the state of siege, which has sparked harsh international criticism.
The measure was also criticized by the hopefuls competing in the Nov. 29 presidential election, who pointed out that the 45-day duration of the emergency measures would effectively reduce the time for campaigning to two weeks.
And late Wednesday, the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal formally asked Micheletti to revoke the decree.
Micheletti argues that Zelaya’s ouster was not a coup, and that the soldiers were enforcing a Supreme Court ban on the president’s planned non-binding plebiscite on the idea of revising the constitution.
The Organization of American States, the United States and the European Union have been pressing Micheletti to accept the San Jose Accord, a proposal put forward by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.
The plan calls for Zelaya to return and lead a national unity government for the few months left in his term, and for a political amnesty that would protect both sides in the dispute.
While Zelaya has accepted the plan, the Honduras government flatly rejects the reinstatement of Zelaya, who stands accused of violating the country's Constitution.
Both the EU and Washington say they will not recognize the winner of the Nov. 29 presidential election unless Zelaya is restored to office prior to the balloting.