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Honduras: Amnesty reveals photographic evidence of brutal police violence against peaceful protesters

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

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Amnesty stated that as human rights violations increase in Honduras there is an urgent need for the international community to seek a solution to the political crisis.

Amnesty International interviewed many of the 75 people detained at the Jefatura Metropolitana Nº3 police station in Tegucigalpa after security forces broke up a peaceful demonstration on 30 July.

Most detainees had injuries after police beat them with batons and threw stones and other objects at them. When they were arrested none of the group were told where they were being taken, the reasons for their detention or the charges against them. All detainees were released a few hours later.

Amnesty International’s Central America Researcher, Esther Major said:

“Detention and ill-treatment of protestors are being used as form 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.”

Amongst those detained on 30 July were ten students who were beaten by police with batons on the back, arms and backs of the legs. 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 that during the demonstration police officers wore no visible identification. They said some 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 30 July said:

“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.”

Esther Major continued:

“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.

“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 is also concerned at harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Honduras; 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 film crews covering the protests.

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 organisations 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 28 June. He was 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 with frequent clashes between the police, military and civilian protestors. At least two people have died after being shot during protests.

Read the full report: " Honduras: Human rights crisis threat as repression increases quot; (PDF)

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