In New Report, Amnesty International Highlights Abuse of Protestors in Honduras

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In New Report, Amnesty International Highlights Abuse of Protestors in Honduras

Human Rights Group Investigates, Condemns Detainment and Abuse of Peaceful Protestors Following June 28 Coup

WASHINGTON - Amnesty International published
a series of exclusive photos and testimonies today, revealing serious ill-treatment
by Honduras police and military of peaceful protesters in the capital,
Tegucigalpa. The organization warned that beatings and mass arrests are
being used as a way of punishing people for voicing their opposition to
the military-backed coup d'etat in June.

As human rights violations increase, the
need for the international community to seek a solution to the political
crisis becomes ever more urgent.

The photos and testimonies were gathered
by an Amnesty International delegation which interviewed many of the 75
people who were detained at the Jefatura Metropolitana Nº3 police station
in Tegucigalpa after the police, supported by the military, broke up a
peaceful demonstration on July 30.

Most detainees had injuries as a consequence
of police beatings with batons and having stones and other objects thrown
at them. When they were arrested, no one was told where they were being
taken, the reasons for their detention or the charges against them. All
detainees were released a few hours later.

"Mass arbitrary arrests and ill treatment
of protesters are a serious and growing concern in Honduras today," said
Esther Major, Central America researcher at Amnesty International.

"Detention and ill treatment of protestors
are being employed as forms of punishment for those openly opposing the
de facto government and also as a deterrent for those contemplating
taking to the streets to peacefully show their discontent with the political
turmoil the country is experiencing," said Major.

Amongst those held in detention on July 30
were 10 students. They all had been beaten with batons on the back, arms
and backs of the legs by police. One of them said: "The police were throwing
stones; they cornered us, threw us on the floor, on our stomachs and beat
us. They took our cameras from us; beat us if we lifted our heads and even
when we were getting into the police wagons."

Several of those interviewed told Amnesty
International that during the demonstration, police officers wore no visible
identification. They said some police officers had told them "do not look
at us, sons of bitches" and that others wore bandanas to hide their faces.
 

F.M., a 52-year-old teacher also detained
on July 30, told Amnesty International: "We were demonstrating peacefully.
 Suddenly, the police came towards us, and I started running.  They
grabbed me and shouted ‘Why do you (all) support Zelaya's government?'
They beat me. I have not been informed as to why I am detained."

"Using excessive force and mass arbitrary
detentions as a policy to repress dissent only serves to inflame tensions
further and leads to serious human rights violations," said Esther Major.
"Force must only be employed in the most extreme of circumstances, and
certainly not as a method to prevent people's legitimate right to peacefully
demonstrate."

Amnesty International is also concerned at
harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders;  limits imposed
on freedom of expression and the number of attacks against journalists-including
the closure of media outlets and the confiscation of equipment and physical
abuse of journalists and camerapersons covering events.

The human rights situation outside of Tegucigalpa
is believed to be equally or even more serious. The checkpoints along the
primary roads in Honduras are currently manned by military and police who
often delay or refuse entry to human rights organizations to areas where
human rights violations are reportedly occurring.
 

Background Information

Concerns about human rights in Honduras have
intensified since the democratically elected President José Manuel Zelaya
Rosales was forced from power  on June 28 and expelled from the country
by a military-backed group of politicians led by Roberto Micheletti, former
leader of the National Congress. There has been widespread unrest in the
country since the coup d'etat with frequent clashes between the
police, military and civilian protestors. At least two people have
died after being shot during protests.
         

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