TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – A group of representatives from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, based in Costa Rica, visited Honduras this week to investigate allegations of police brutality and a press crackdown as the country’s political crisis nears two months.
The crisis was triggered when soldiers rousted President Manuel Zelaya at dawn June 28 at gunpoint and sent him on a plane to Costa Rica. The Supreme Court had ordered Zelaya’s arrest for defying the court’s orders to stop what the court said was his illegal push for constitutional changes.
Amnesty International released a statement, along with photos, on its Web site Wednesday, alleging Honduran police and soldiers have been roughing up protesters who are demanding Zelaya’s return to power.
“Mass arbitrary arrests and ill treatment of protesters are a serious and growing concern in Honduras today,” said Esther Major, a Central American researcher at Amnesty International. She said that detentions and beatings at the hands of police are being used “as a deterrent for those contemplating taking to the streets to peacefully show their discontent with the political turmoil the country is experiencing.”
The statement said that Amnesty International interviewed 75 protesters who had been detained at a local police station after a peaceful July 30 protest. It said that many of the detainees still showed bruises allegedly caused by police batons.
But not all protests have been peaceful. A demonstration turned violent last week when a group of protesters burned a bus and looted and set fire to a Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits franchise in the capital city of Tegucigalpa.
See the Aug. 21 issue of The Tico Times for more on this story.