The lawyer Ricardo Rosales was murdered two days ago, three days after he was quoted in the newspaper Diario Tiempo as accusing police officers in the northern town of Tela of serious human rights violations.
Rosales (on the right of the picture) was leaving home, where he also has his office, to attend a court hearing when he was shot dead by three hooded gunmen.
He had recently defended Marco Joel Alvarez, nicknamed “el Unicornio”, who was charged, and later acquitted, of the murder of the journalist David Meza Montesinos on 11 March 2010.
“Lawyers, alongside journalists, academics human rights activists, trade unionists, community representatives and ordinary citizens, are equal pillars of freedom of information and too often pay for this with their lives,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“According to the Honduras College of Lawyers, 74 have been killed in the past three years with total impunity. This toll once again illustrates the total failure of the rule of law in Honduras – already classified as one of the most dangerous countries in the world – since the coup of June 2009.
“We hail the courage of Ricardo Rosales and urge that justice is done on his behalf and on behalf him of the others,” said the press freedom organization, recalling that 17 Honduran journalists had been murdered since 2010.
According to the lawyer, police recently assigned to Tela as part of a rotation scheme were reported to have carried out acts of torture and other forms of humiliation against detainees, including sexual abuse of young women, some of them minors.
The rotation scheme was part of “Operation Lightning”, launched by the security ministry in November and officially aimed at combating violence and crime.
“Is it really a question of fighting crime, or of deflecting attention from the worst human rights abuses by playing a transfer game?” Reporters Without Borders asked.
“The murder of Ricardo Rosales makes one wonder. Meanwhile, crackdowns and terror continue.”
Rosales learned of the police officers’ behaviour from statements made by victims’ parents and from an eyewitness account by a young girl who was unwilling to press charges for the time being.