Honduras: the case of Jhony Salgado

Honduras: the case of Jhony Salgado

Aug 3, 2021

With this joint statement, we are calling for a fair trial and the end of impunity for Jhony Salgado. His trial is taking place on August 10, 2021, around 9am at the Sentencing Court of the city of El Progreso.

Who is Jhony

Jhony Andrés Salgado Fuentes is a construction worker from El Progreso. He has two children with Elena Almendrares.

He is a victim of police brutality and flawed judicial process that seeks to criminalize his involvement in protest. The evidence shows he was not even present at the protest.

Context of Jhony's criminalization and abuses

After November 26, 2017, in Honduras, thousands of people came out to protest massively after the presidential elections, claiming the existence of electoral fraud. (1) Police forces harshly repressed these protests. On December 1, 2017, the Honduran government imposed a curfew prohibiting movement, assembly, and demonstration between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. for ten days, under the pretext of preventing looting and acts of violence. (2)

Experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations expressed their alert for the “illegal and excessive use of force to dissolve protests” . (3) The IACHR concluded that, as a result of the repressive actions of the State forces, 22 people died violently, the OHCHR reported 16 people killed by gunshot fired by security forces, and 183 complaints of injuries were registered before the National Commissioner for Human Rights (CONADEH). (4)

Many of those detained were transferred to military premises, beaten, insulted, subjected to torture, and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. (5) The OHCHR also observed that at least 118 people faced criminal charges for their alleged participation in crimes committed during the protests. Twenty-one were sent to pre-trial detention, (6) in contrast with the fact that no human rights violation case has obtained a conviction two years after the events. (7)

Wrong time, wrong place

On December 21, 2017, just a few days before Christmas, Jhony Salgado was detained by agents of the National Preventive Police (Policía Nacional Preventiva) at his home in the city of El Progreso in Yoro department. That day, the security forces violently dispersed the citizen protest held at the Quebrada Seca bridge, several meters from his house, and pursued protesters.

Jhony was illegally and arbitrarily detained when he opened the door of this house because of the noise, the tear gas and hammering at the door.

Minutes before, Jhony saw people escaping from the tear gas and shots fired by the police. He went inside the house with his partner and children to protect them. Suddenly, somebody started banging on his front door.

When Jhony opened the door, police officers arbitrarily detained him with violence. The police officers did not explain the reasons for his detention, his rights under the law, and put him in a patrol car. The evidence collected by human rights organizations shows that the officers left tear gas canisters at the door, affecting Jhony’s family and neighbors by the gas. (8)

Once in the police station, Jhony was threatened and forced to pose with a police shield and a firearm for the media. Even if he is not able to write, police officers forced him to sign a document acknowledging that he was carrying those objects during his detention.

After his arrest, Jhony’s wife Elena, went to denounce the police officers for breaking and entering her property, and for abuse of authority to the detriment of Jhony Salgado.

“For the crimes of trespassing and abuse of authority, the police officers Rudy Ariel Brizuela Mejía with the rank of sub-inspector, and the officers Sandro Ezequiel Zavala, Santiago Rigoberto Mendoza Bonilla and Edwin Alberto Rodríguez Casco were to be brought before the court. ” (9) (Radio Progreso)

Meanwhile, Jhony was criminalized and spent more than four months deprived of his freedom.

The authorities claim that Jhony participated in the protests and that he was detained in the streets with other demonstrators. Authorities are accusing Jhony for the crimes of illegally carrying a commercial weapon and using police clothing. Now, he is facing the risk of being condemned to 15 years in prison, far from his partner and children.

The evidence used to support the charges against Jhony is riddled with inconsistencies and irregularities.

“This raises serious concerns that the charges may have been fabricated for another purpose, for example to intimidate all those who have taken to the streets to express their discontent.” (10) (Amnesty International)

Selective justice

Jhony spent four months in preventive detention in El Progreso prison. It was until April 25, 2018 that the San Pedro Sula Court of Appeals repealed the preventive detention.

A court hearing took place in September 2018, several months after Elena filed the complaint to the regional Prosecutor’s Office. However, the judge concluded that Jhony was apprehended on the street while fleeing from the police, but did not sufficiently motivate her decision, nor did she adequately analyze the evidence.

Hope for justice started to vanish in December 2018, when the court denied that the police officers questioned for trespassing and abuse of authority to the detriment of Jhony Salgado participated in the crimes charged.

“Once again, this guaranteed the impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations.” (11) (ERIC-sj)

To comply with the precautionary measure imposed by the judge, Jhony must pay 200 Lempiras (approx. 9 USD) (12) each time he goes to court, which represents a heavy price to pay regularly for a humble family with few resources .

In addition, he has been required to sign in every fifteen days for almost four years. This not only affects his family finances, but also makes it even more difficult for Jhony to get a permanent job, because he needs to leave constantly to sign in.

Impact on mental health

For Jhony and his family, the psychological impact was strong. Since his imprisonment, Jhony has been afraid to go out on the street. He goes out only accompanied as he experienced panic and denial from the police.

When he sees a policeman or a patrol car, he trembles with fear because the policemen who entered his house threatened to take away his life.

He experiences emotional stress and anguish, and during all this time, he has feared for his life and that of his family.

There are others like Jhony

The criminalization of social protest is not a recent phenomenon. In the 1990s, those that sought to exercise their right to protest and to express themselves freely, demanding justice and contesting impunity, became increasingly criminalized.

In recent years, the trend of arbitrary detentions during social protests, criminalization of social leaders, harassment and threats towards members of social movements, and fabrication of crimes has worsened.

Violations of the right to life, personal integrity, personal freedom, the right of assembly and freedom of association and expression, and the right to due process, including the presumption of innocence, characterize today’s human rights landscape in Honduras.

Different human rights organizations, both national and international, have observed an unequal application of justice that affects due diligence in complaints filed as a response to human rights violations. On the contrary, the crimes for which political opponents and human rights defenders are accused are investigated and processed by the judicial bodies with surprising efficiency.

Between 2017 and 2021, the Honduran Public Ministry initiated a total of 31 judicial processes, affecting 225 people directly. Of these 225, 33 were held in preventive detention in maximum security prisons for periods of more than 18 months.

The probability that imprisoned political opponents or defenders will be convicted is very high.

Jhony’s case deserves international attention

We ask the international community to follow human rights developments in Honduras and put human rights at the center of all aspects of bilateral relationship with Honduras. We particularly call on the EU and member states, to implement numerous commitments undertaken in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy.

In the light of upcoming trial, we respectfully request the following:

a) To the EU delegation to Honduras, the Members of the European Parliament and EU member states to prepare a communication addressed to the State of Honduras demanding a fair trial for Jhony Salgado.

b) To the Supreme Court of Honduras and the Sentencing Court of El Progreso to facilitate virtual transmission of Jhony Salgado’s trial as an effective and transparent way of allowing public and qualified international observation. Requested virtual transmission of the trial is in accordance with international treaties and Honduran legislation.

Signing organizations:
  • People in Need, Czech Republic
  • Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC-sj), Honduras
  • CADAL, Argentina
  • CIPRODEH, Honduras
  • COFADEH, Honduras
  • Trocaire, Ireland

_________________________

Notes:

1. El País. Honduras protesta contra el fraude, December 16, 2017.

2. Executive order (Decreto Ejecutivo Número PCM- 084-2017), approved on December 1, 2017.

3. OHCHR. Honduras: Expertos condenan medidas contra manifestantes y prensa, December 20, 2017.

4. IACHR, Observaciones Preliminares de la visita de la CIDH a Honduras, August 3, 2018. Post-electoral conflict.

5. OHCHR. Honduras: Expertos condenan medidas contra manifestantes y prensa, December 20, 2017.

6. OHCHR. Las violaciones a los derechos humanos en el contexto de las elecciones de 2017 en Honduras, publicado el 12 de marzo de 2018, párr. 109.

7. OHCHR. Responsabilidad por las violaciones a los derechos humanos en el contexto de las elecciones de 2017 en Honduras: Avances y desafíos.

8. ERIC-sj. https://eric-sj.org/jhony/jhony-salgado-ejemplo-de-la-justicia-selectiva-hondurena/

9. Radio Progreso. https://wp.radioprogresohn.net/jhony-andres-salgado-el-rostro-de-la-injusticia-en-honduras/, September 17, 2018; and Amnesty International, Protest Prohibited: Use of Force and Arbitrary Detentions to Suppress Dissent in

10. Honduras, 2018. https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/AMR3782892018ENGLISH.PDF

11. Amnesty International, Protest Prohibited: Use of Force and Arbitrary Detentions to Suppress Dissent in Honduras, 2018.

12. ERIC-sj. https://eric-sj.org/jhony/jhony-salgado-ejemplo-de-la-justicia-selectiva-hondurena/

13. In Honduras, the minimum salary per hour is between 1-2 USD.



Author: PIN