On Friday, Latin America scholars sent an urgent letter to Human Rights Watch, urging HRW to speak out on violations of human rights under the coup regime in Honduras and to conduct its own investigation. HRW hasn’t made any statement about Honduras since July 8.
One of the things Human Rights Watch should be investigating is allegations by Honduran feminists and human rights groups that Honduran police are using rape and other sexual violence as weapons of intimidation against Hondurans nonviolently protesting the coup regime.
The Spanish news agency EFE reports:
The group Feministas de Honduras en Resistencia said Thursday that is has documented 19 instances of rape by police officers since the June 28 coup that ousted President Mel Zelaya. There have been many other cases of rape, but the women have not reported them out of fear of reprisals, Gilda Rivera, the executive coordinator of the Honduran Center for Women’s Rights and head of Feministas, told Efe.
The activists say that women taking part in the resistance to the coup are being targeted. “We’ve obtained testimonials from women who’ve been sexually abused, beaten with cudgels on different parts of their bodies, especially the breasts and buttocks,” adds the report presented Thursday at a press conference in Tegucigalpa.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights — part of the Organization of American States — also reported last week it had testimony from Hondurans alleging rape and other sexual violence by the Honduran police. If the IACHR can obtain this testimony, surely Human Rights Watch can obtain it.
One of the victims, Irma Villanueva, told her story to the Jesuit-run Radio Progreso. You can listen to the interview (Spanish) here. Here is an English transcript of the Radio Progreso interview with Irma Villanueva. (Translation by Maria Soledad Cervantes.)
Irma Villanueva: Good afternoon, last Friday we went to the march —
Host: Friday — you’re talking of the march at Choloma
Irma: Yes, that’s right. We went to the march, we stayed there a while. All of a sudden we saw like a people stampede coming. All was confused, they brought tear gas canisters. Lost myself from my group in the confusion, they started grabbing us — other persons and myself, we were forced into a [police] patrol pickup. They said they were going to Choloma, they came out through some part behind, and I heard them ask a police officer: “Chepe Luis, and this here [woman], where is she going?” “She goes to San Pedro,” he answered. And then — only I remained on the flat part [on the bed] of the pickup [starts sobbing] and .. . I don’t know where they were bound, because, the cop kept me pinned face down, immobilized with his foot on my back [sobs], and they took me to a very cloddy, gritty place [sobs], then took me down and told me: “Now bitch, now you’re gonna see what happens to you for you being where you shouldn’t be” (starts weeping). I was raped by four police. . . . I managed to see the name of two of them, one was Ortiz, another’s name is Lopez, and the other was the one called Chepe Luis, the fourth one I couldn’t — didn’t find out his name.
After they raped me [themselves], they stuck into me a . . . that black thing police strikes you with. They left me lying down in the open [i.e. in the wilderness] — I begged them: “Please, don’t hurt me, I have little children, I implore you!” And they insulted me and called me names, I only asked God to protect me for my children, because they’re young. They left me all alone there. I was unconscious, I guess, don’t know. Then I got up with what strength I had [left] and managed to reach the curb of a highway, I walked for around half an hour. I fell and stayed on the ground because I couldn’t stand the pain in my private parts [weeping] . . . and a lady picked me up, I told her: “please take me to my mom.” Don’t know how much time we took, the only thing I could see, we left through the side of Zincon[ph] . . . and I was taken where my mom was. . . . My mom was already there, and my husband was looking for me. No. . . . Didn’t want to go to the police, how could I if they had been the ones who injured me? Only — [she can’t go on]
Host: This is so difficult, Irma’s situation, Irma Villanueva, 25 years old, a mother of four kids — and girls? How many [girls]?
Irma: A boy and three girls.
Host: A boy and three girls. She has come here to Radio Progreso station in order to give her testimony, that we listen to her, that you, our friends, women and men who tune in with us, listen to what happened to her, what has not come out to the mainstream media, what everybody keeps silent, in this country, under this de facto government — and you do not remember exactly the place where they took you? And were you taken alone?
Irma: Me alone, several persons were going, men for the most part, because — I was going in a corner but me they left on the bed of the pickup — and they took only me, I guess me, I was the only woman. I only remember the place full of branches, trees, with mounts, for as long as I walked, the mountain blocked the view, and it. . . . When I managed to get out, I had to walk over some ditches, then like a little lagoon, and I knew it was Ticamaya where I got out as I noted that we left on the side of Zincon.
Host: And who helped you?
Irma: A lady who was passing by, I stayed lying on the ground as I couldn’t stand the pain in my abdomen [sobs]
Irma: and she saw I was fallen, and got down and helped me, I asked her to help me please, and [she asked] could she take me to a hospital and I said no, that I wanted her to take me to my mom because — what could I get in forensic medicine? They would take me to the police, when they were the ones who did this to me.
Host: That they mock, make fun!
Irma: Yes . . . yes, for they were telling horrible things to me, and I was frightened.
Where is Human Rights Watch?
Robert Naiman is National Coordinator of Just Foreign Policy. Naiman also edits the daily Just Foreign Policy news summary and blogs at the Web site of Just Foreign Policy, where this article first appeared. Click here to contribute for Just Foreign Policy.