Update: February 5, 2018, by Karen Spring
See original Urgent Action & Demands here
On January 22, Honduran judge Claudio Elvir, ordered pre-trial detention for two Honduran political prisoners, Edwin Espinal and Raul Eduardo Alvarez. Since then, Edwin and Raul are being held in a US-style maximum security prison, La Tolva in southern Honduras. Since then family members and various national and international human rights delegations have been unable to verify the conditions of their detention. Visits by family members are extremely restrictive and often have to wait several months to get permission to enter.
International Human Rights Observers Denied Entry Into Honduran Prison
On Wednesday, five international human rights defenders and accompaniers (three from the US faith-based delegation) along with the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH) attempted to enter the prison. The purpose of the visit to the prison was to enter and see Edwin and verify the conditions of his detention and his physical and emotional health.
After waiting over 5 hours, the five international defenders finally spoke to military coronel Najera who oversees the prison and who refused to allow the observers to enter. Coronel Najera made several arguments against the international defenders entering to see Edwin despite their insistence that they had come specifically to accompany COFADEH to talk to Edwin.
Citing several laws of Honduras, Coronel Najera ridiculed the international defenders and specifically, Karol Cardenas of COFADEH (Edwin’s legal representation), for not explaining Honduran laws to the delegation. Drawing on the façade of institutionality and the so-called rule of law, the Coronel would not budge. The international human rights delegation spend the entire day trying to enter the prison and despite their efforts, were turned away. The US Embassy, who met with the members of the faith-based delegation, was notified.
Attorney Karol Cardenas from COFADEH was able to enter to see Edwin for one hour. She met briefly with Edwin but was not taken to his cell to inspect or verify the conditions. She was unable to take in food or reading material. According to what Edwin told Karol, he is being held in a very small cell basically in isolation. He is allowed outside for two hours a day and spends the rest of the time by himself. There is a small window inside his cell that looks out to a cement wall.
Honduran Institutions Not Responding to Urgent Requests by Human Rights Groups
Since Edwin’s detention, representatives of COFADEH have requested a meeting with the Honduran institution that oversees the prison system – the National Penitentiary Institute (INP). The purpose of speaking to the INP is to ensure they are taking all necessarily measures to guarantee Edwin’s integrity and life while in prison (as per the state’s obligations since Edwin was granted protective measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) as a result of state persecution against him). The other reasons for meeting with the INP are to request for Edwin to be transferred to another detention center; and authorize the entrance of human rights representatives and Edwin’s family members into the prison.
In 10 days, the INP did not respond. COFADEH followed up with several phone calls. Finally, on the 10th day, the INP requested a meeting with COFADEH for Thursday (yesterday) at 2 pm in the INP offices in Tegucigalpa. Upon arrival at the office, COFADEH’s General Coordinator Bertha Oliva and three other human rights defenders waited 1.5 hours to be received by the sub-Director who never showed up.
We received this response from the Canadian Government:
“As promised, we have shared the information provided with our colleagues in Ottawa for their awareness and also to seek guidance on the points you raised. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to provide definitive responses at this time. We will let you know as soon as we can offer you more information.”
Despite receiving several letters of concern about Edwin and other political prisoners, there has been no official or unofficial response from the US Government about Edwin’s case, political prisoners or the human rights situation in the country in the context of the post-electoral crisis.
Karen Spring, HSN (Honduras Solidarity Network)
firstname.lastname@example.org; + (504) 9584-8572
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