Impunity through the Honduran Public Prosecutor’s Office

Extracts from an interview with Berta Oliva, Coordinator of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), 23 August 2010, Tegucigalpa, conducted by Martin Mowforth and Lucy Goodman.

The international human rights institutions ask us: “Have you already made a denunciation to the Public Prosecutor?” By doing so we are strengthening a broken and criminally corrupt institute of the state. The worst thing for us to do is to make a serious denunciation and to name witnesses. We’ve had so many witnesses who have been assassinated.

On 30th July 2009 a teacher in a protest march was assassinated – he was called Roger Iván Murillo. There was a teacher ready to give his testimony about Roger’s assassination to the Public Prosecutor. He was a witness who knew who shot Roger because he was close to his colleague. Prior to his testimony the Public Prosecutor offered to give him protected witness status and within the month he was assassinated.

In September there was a lad who filmed when they entered the barrios and shot a union president. He went to the Public Prosecutor with his film to say that he had the proof and that if they would guarantee his safety he would give it to them because on the film you can see and identify who shot him. The event was on the 22nd September, and he went to the Public Prosecutor on the 25th September. In December his wife was killed. She was driving their vehicle and it was an attempt on his life, but they killed his wife instead.

Berta Oliva gave a number of other examples of how citizens’ resort to the Public Prosecutor gave rise to attacks on the person of those who had tried this approach.

How on earth can people go to give testimony in a legal action to the Public Prosecutor when the first thing they do is kill them? That is an indefensible situation in a failed state; that is what little hope we have in justice.