On March 24, 2019, the Public Prosecutor's office announced that a military police (PMOP) officer, Second Sergeant Denis Omar Cáceres Ramírez was arrested and charged for the murder of 32-year old David Octavio Quiroz, who was killed in Guacamaya, Cortés on December 15, 2017 during the protests against the electoral fraud and re-election of Juan Orlando Hernandez.
Quiroz died in the early morning on December 16 at the public hospital in San Pedro Sula. His wife Sandy Mancia and many in his family have been forced to leave the country after experiencing harassment by state security forces for speaking out publicly various times about Quiroz's murder and demanding justice before state institutions.
While Quiroz was murdered in the December 2017 protest, several other protesters were injured including a young man shot several times in the leg and another man in his 60s who was shot in the head. No one has been held responsible for the injured protesters who to date, suffer long-term health impacts as a result of the deadly repression.
This afternoon, PMOP solider Cáceres was sent to pre-trial detention which he will serve in military barracks in Naco, Cortés. Note that he was not sent to a maximum-security prison and instead to a detention site where conditions are much better and visits are less restricted. PMOP Cáceres will be under guard by other military officers.
This is the second agent from a state security force that has been arrested for deaths related to the post-electoral crisis. The PMOP soldier is however, the first military officer to be arrested and accused. To date, no high-ranking military or police have been charged for commanding forces during the protests or for giving the orders to shoot at protesters.
The other accused is a national police officer, Olvin Fernando González Velásquez, charged with the homicide of 16-year old Virgilio Jared Avila González in Agua Blanca Sur, department of Yoro. The accused at the time of the protests, was head of the Agua Blanca Sur police post. As was the PMOP officer, González Velásquez was sent to pre-trial detention and is currently being held in the jail in the northern city of Tela.
Again, in the same protest when González was murdered, several young people were injured, at least 3 were brutally tortured by police, and several people were detained.
There are a few other small movements in cases that have been reported by the Honduran press regarding human rights violations, abuses by state security forces, and killings that occurred during the crisis. Unfortunately, cases involving state security forces that have either been indicted or have gone before a judge, have been dismissed or have not proceeded.
Some of these include:
Other than the two cases above, 18 other indictments have been presented by the Public Prosecutor's Office for abuses committed by state security forces during the crisis. According to criterio.hn, none of the military and police accused in the 11 indictments of 22 state security forces presented in July 2018, were charged with murder. Instead charges against them included breaking and entering, abuse of authority, torture and causing serious injury, and rape.
Of the above cases, four police including sub-inspector Rudy Ariel Brizuela Mejía and Preventative Police Sandro Exequiel Zavala Hernandez, Santos Rigoberto Mendoza Bonilla and Edwin Alberto Rodriguez Carrasco were absolved of charges of breaking and entering and abuse of authority when they illegally entered the home to arrest political prisoner, Jhony Andrés Salgado Fuentes in December 2017. On January 10, 2019, a judge in the city of El Progreso issued a definite dismissal of the charges against the police officers. However to date, political prisoner Salgado Fuentes, since released from pre-trial detention in May 2017, has to sign regularly before a judge on charges of illegal possession of comercial weapons and improper use of police equipment. The case against Jhony like other cases against the political prisoners and people criminalized for participating in protests, are examples of the unequal application of the law and abuse by investigative and judicial authorities and institutions.
As part of the 11 indictments, Police Sub-commissioner Raúl Martínez Alvarado was accused of abuse of authority against two journalists, Cesar Silva and Rony Martinez of UNETV, and LIBRE Congress representative, Jari Dixon. According to the online media source, Pasos de Animal Grande, a judge provisionally dismissed the charges against the Sub-Commissioner of the Police in September 2018. As a result of the judicial follow-up of the case, Honduran organization C-LIBRE has published the names of high-level military and police officials that commanded the operations in Tegucigalpa on the day of the incident against the journalists and congressional representative. The charges against the police officer stem from a protest in Tegucigalpa on January 12, 2018 close to the Presidential palace. While both journalists and the congress representative were harassed, beaten and abused by security forces; several young people were beaten, detained and then released; live rounds and tear gas was shot at protesters, the only concrete judicial follow-up in relation to the incidents of that day, as C-LIBRE notes, has been the detention of two political prisoners, Edwin Espinal and Raul Alvarez. Both still remain over a year later in a maximum-security prison.