Another day, Additional detentions

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In brief, here are some of the things we saw and learned throughout the day.

  • There were massive detentions during the cover of night and curfew, between Wednesday night and Thursday morning at 6am. In one police post alone, 137 people had been detained between 12am and 6am, released at 6am, according to the log book. It is not clear if they were held “simply” for curfew violations or because they were targeted for participation in popular street celebrations which are taking place in most neighborhoods throughout Tegucigalpa. There is at least one minor who is “disappeared”—his whereabouts are unknown. COFADEH (Comite for the Families of Detained and Disappeared in Honduras) reports at least 2000 people have been detained, and many wounded by gunfire or clubbing, since Zelaya’s return on Monday.
  • At least four people have been confirmed killed since Tuesday morning’s siege outside the Brazilian Embassy, including one 8-year old girl who lives near the embassy and died of asphyxiation from breathing in the toxic tear gas used during the operation. Also Jairo Lopez, head of the INFOP workers union, was shot in the head and later died from those injuries.
  • The non-governmental human rights organizations, especially COFADEH, are completely overwhelmed by the demand for their skills and services in the realm of taking formal testimonies and photographs of human rights violations, as well as assisting people in the search for their detained and disappeared loved ones. The state actors who are also responsible for doing this work, the Attorney General and the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights, are both reportedly on vacation this week. As members or sympathizers of the coup government, people are “terrorized,” as one lawyer explained, at the prospect of approaching the Attorney General and the Special Prosecutor with denouncements and for help. At the Hospital Escuela on Tuesday, while members of our delegation were taking names and testimony from those wounded during the Embassy siege, members of the Attorney General’s office arrived on the scene to get the names of those wounded, reportedly in order to pursue criminal charges against them.
  • Lawyers from the Lawyers Front against the Coup spent most of the day visiting detention centers and trying to find the people who were reportedly detained throughout the night. They were unable to locate many of the detained. On one occasion, after one of the lawyers secured the release of a detained and beaten person, the detained told the  lawyer that it was the third detention site he had been taken to, and would have been taken to another site but for the intervention of the lawyer at that opportune moment. It seems that the police and military are moving detained from detention center to detention center, perhaps in an effort to prevent their being located and freed. It is not clear if all those who were detained have been freed.
  • At least one lawyer and accredited human rights promoter was detained by the police while trying to release one of the many people detained in the densely-populated Kennedy neighborhood, in which there had also been a strong popular presence on Tuesday night.
  • Delegation members and human rights lawyers encountered a squad of army hanging out inside one of the police stations, something which the lawyers insisted “was not supposed to happen.”
  • The police and military are reportedly pursuing people on the streets. One lawyer reported being awoken at 5:30am by a phone call in which an acquaintance whispered to her that he and two friends were “being chased” by the police. The phone call then got cut off. As of mid-day, the lawyer had no further information about the whereabouts of those people.
  • At least one neighborhood police substation was destroyed, ostensibly during Tuesday night’s uprising. Upon arriving in an attempt to locate some detained persons, two of our delegation’s observers plus two lawyers found the substation “ransacked, with broken tables, chairs and glass everywhere, doors hanging open,” reported delegation member Sydney Frey.
  • The curfew was again lifted today to allow for the second “white march,” the pro-coup manifestations that are populated by employees of state and private institutions whose jobs are threatened if they don’t participate. Additional reports indicate that recruiters arrive to popular communities offering 300-500L (approximately USD$15-26) for participation in the white marches.