Luis Alberto Rubí
Attorney General of Honduras

Dear Mr. Rubí,

I am writing to express my concern regarding recent attacks on members of the National Popular Resistance Front (Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular), including killings, rape, torture, kidnapping, and assault. The fact that these attacks targeted members of this political group, which opposed the 2009 coup and advocated for the reinstatement of ousted president Manuel Zelaya -- as well as previous threats received by victims or comments allegedly made by the assailants -- raise the possibility that these abuses may have been politically motivated.

Without a thorough investigation to identify who committed the crimes, to establish motive, and to hold those responsible to account, these events could generate a chilling effect that would limit the exercise of basic political rights in Honduras, including the rights of freedom of association and freedom of expression. I therefore urge you to ensure that these crimes are investigated in a prompt, thorough and impartial manner. 

All of the following attacks were reported in February 2010:

  • Julio Benitez, a member of the National Popular Resistance Front and the Union of Workers of the National Service of Aqueduct and Sewer Systems (Sindicato de Trabajadores del Servicio Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, SANAA), was shot by men on a motorcycle as he left his home on February 15. He died in the hospital shortly afterwards. Benitez's wife said he had received numerous threatening phone calls warning him to abandon his participation in opposition groups.[1]
  • Hermes Reyes, a member of the "Movement of Artists in Resistance" and the "Broad Movement for Divinity and Justice," told Human Rights Watch he was leaving a meeting of the National Resistance Front on February 12 when a car drove towards him. A passenger emerged from the car and whipped him across the face with a wire cable. Reyes fell to the ground and his attacker said, "now we know where you are, you sons of whores."[2]
  • The body of Vanesa Yánez, a member of the Union of Social Security Workers (Sindicato de Trabajadores del Seguro Social) and the National Popular Resistance Front, was reportedly dumped from a car on the night of February 3. According to witnesses interviewed by CODEH, her body had signs of torture.[3] Yánez's mother told HRW that her daughter had left the home the day before to buy some notebooks, and never returned.[4]
  • Edgar Martinez, Carol Rivera, Johan Martinez, Meliza Rivera, and one other woman-all five of whom are active members of the National Popular Resistance Front-were abducted on February 10 and taken to an undisclosed location, according to testimony collected by a nongovernmental human rights organization, Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (Comité para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Honduras, CODEH). There, they reportedly were subjected to torture and two of the women were raped. According to victims' testimony, when they were set free, one of their captors said, "Pepe says hi," using the nickname of President Porfirio Lobo. The victims have since moved locations out of fear for their safety.[5]
  • Claudia Larissa Brizuela was murdered in her home on February 24. Her father, Pedro Brizuela, is a prominent leader of the National Popular Resistance Front, of which she was also a member.[6]

In addition to the attacks on members of the National Popular Resistance Front, we have also received a report of a politically-motivated attack on two journalists:

  • Manuel de Jesus Murillo from Globo TV and Ricardo Antonio Rodriguez from Noticiero Mi Nacion were reportedly detained on February 2 by plain-clothes men who identified themselves with police badges and told them to get into a car. According to testimony collected by CODEH, the men were then taken to a house where they were tortured and interrogated about arms possessed by the resistance. The journalists said they were told their families would be killed if they denounced their abuse.[7]

We understand the human rights unit of your office is investigating five of these cases.[8] Given the fact that such a unit has faced several obstacles in the past to investigate cases of alleged human rights abuses, we respectfully urge you to actively support the investigations into the crimes mentioned in this letter.[9]

Thank you in advance for taking into consideration this urgent matter.

Best regards,

José Miguel Vivanco
Americas Director
Human Rights Watch


[1] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lidia Fúnez, February 19, 2010.

[2] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Hermes Reyes, February 19, 2010.

[3] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Andres Pavon, Comité para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Honduras (CODEH), February 18, 2010. 

[4] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Vanesa Yáñez's mother, February 19, 2010.

[5] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Andres Pavon, CODEH, February 18, 2010. 

[6] AFP, "Activist of Front against the Coup in Honduras is murdered [Asesinan a activista del Frente contra el Golpe de Estado en Honduras]," February 25, 2010.  La Tribuna, "Search for gang member who killed daughter of popular leader continues [Buscan "marero" que mató a hija del dirigente popular]," February 27, 2010.

[7] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Andres Pavon, CODEH, February 18, 2010. 

[8] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sandra Ponce, head of the human rights unit of the Honduras Attorney General's Office, March 2, 2010.

[9] Human Rights Watch representatives visited Honduras in October 2009 and documented the serious obstacles human rights unit prosecutors faced in carrying out their investigations. For additional information, see Human Rights Watch, "Honduras: Stop Blocking Human Rights Inquiries," press release, October 16, 2009.