Covering events from January - December 2004

Violent deaths of children and young people continued at alarmingly high levels. Members of human rights groups, indigenous groups and the lesbian, gay men, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) community suffered intimidation, harassment and death threats. Two indigenous activists were political prisoners.


There were public protests against state corruption, illegal logging and other socio-economic issues. In November the Public Ministry announced that corruption charges against former President Rafael Callejas were to be dropped. This generated a crisis in the Ministry as the prosecutors involved were dismissed or suspended and demanded in turn the removal of the Attorney General.

Children and young people

The authorities again failed to take effective measures to prevent or investigate killings of children and young people. More than 350 violent deaths of children and young people were reported during the year. Although progress was made in investigating a small number of cases, only three convictions resulted.

The anti-gang law introduced in 2003 to deal with crimes committed by youth gangs, which was criticized by human rights groups for severely restricting the right to freedom of association, reportedly led to the arrest of some 1,500 alleged gang members, often simply for having tattoos. The majority of those arrested had not been charged or tried by the end of the year.

In an incident in San Pedro Sula Prison in May, 104 young people were killed after a fire broke out in a cell. All the dead and injured were members of the Salvatrucha gang who remained locked in their cells during the fire. A formal complaint for negligent homicide was presented against the then director of the prison, but the charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence.

Fifty-one people, including police officers, soldiers and prisoners, were indicted for their involvement in the deaths of 68 people, including 61 imprisoned members of the M-18 gang, at El Porvenir prison in April 2003. According to the prosecution, the killings were planned by the authorities in the context of a dispute over the supply of drugs within the prison. In December the man who was Prison Director at the time of the incident was found guilty of the deaths; he was to be sentenced in February 2005. Trials were pending for the other accused.

Human rights defenders

Members of human rights organizations faced harassment and intimidation. Andrés Pavón Murillo, President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Honduras (known by its Spanish acronym CODEH), received threatening phone calls and was verbally attacked on television and radio after alleging that members of the government were implicated in human rights violations, negligence and denial of justice following the fire at San Pedro Sula prison in May. Staff at the non-governmental Centre for the Prevention, Rehabilitation and Treatment of Victims of Torture (CPTRT) received death threats in the context of a break-in at their offices.

Despite reports that two of those responsible for the murder of journalist Germán Antonio Rivas in November 2003 had been identified, the authorities failed to apprehend them.

Indigenous people

Indigenous activists were subjected to threats and harassment and two were held as political prisoners.

  • In May, leaders of the Regional Coordination of Popular Resistance (CRRP) and the Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations (COPINH) in the department of Intibucá were harassed and received death threats. CRRP leader José Idalecio Murillo and seven members of his family escaped unhurt when four men fired shots at their home.
  • Despite evidence of serious procedural irregularities, an appeal court confirmed the 25-year prison sentence imposed on brothers and COPINH leaders Marcelino and Leonardo Miranda, both of whom were repeatedly tortured in pre-trial detention in 2003. However, in November an appeal to the Supreme Court was upheld and the case was referred back to the Santa Rosa de Copán appeal court. AI was concerned that the two did not receive a fair trial and that the charges against them had been filed in order to punish them for their human rights work.

Lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people

There was continuing concern about the climate of intimidation facing the LGBT community in Honduras. In September, at the instigation of the Evangelical Church, the National Congress recommended that the legal status granted in August to three LGBT organizations be revoked on the grounds that it constituted an attack on "the family, public order and decency". However, government officials defended their decision to grant the organizations legal status, stating that it did not violate domestic legislation and was in line with international treaties signed by Honduras.

No progress was made in the police investigation into the killing of Erick David Yáñez (Ericka) in 2003. Members of the Comunidad Gay Sampedrana, a non-governmental LGBT group based in San Pedro Sula where the killing took place, were harassed and intimidated even though the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had in 2003 ordered the authorities to adopt precautionary measures to protect four members of the group.

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