The Honduran government stands exposed before the world for human rights crimes and violations of international law for the treatment of prisoners. The prison in Comayagua where 357 prisoners were burned to death (February 15, 2012) was a chamber of horrors. This facility built for 500, housed over 800 prisoners in filthy, unsanitary conditions. Inmates with mental illness as well as those with infectious diseases were held among the general prison population with no medical or mental health care. Each prisoner was fed on less than $1 a day and were severely malnourished. The families of those who died reject the government’s official explanation that a crazed inmate set fire to his bedding and then phoned the state governor screaming and warning he was going to burn the place down. They believe their brothers, fathers, sons were deliberately incinerated. Rescue crews claim they rushed to the prison but the prison guards wouldn’t let them enter for 30 minutes saying the prisoners screams were just a prison break or a riot. When rescuers were allowed in, they could not find keys or guards to unlock the barracks. But this tissue of lies unravels since there is previous documentation that when fires break out in Honduran prisons, guards will not open gates to release prisoners. Comayagua prison is not the first time prisoners have died from fire in Honduran prisons. In 2003 at El Porvenir Prison 68 people died in a similar fire, and in 2004 at the San Pedro Sula Prison,107 died. Over half of the inmates in Comayagua had not been convicted of any crime. It is now known over half of them were only suspected of crimes & incarcerated without due process. They were awaiting trial or being held as “suspected gang members”. This is according to a report sent to the UN by the Honduran government. That same report said people can be incarcerated for wearing tattoos which the police deem gang insignia.
The evidence for human rights crimes and violation of international law for treatment of prisoners has led several Honduran and international organizations to demand an independent investigation into the causes of the Comayagua prison fire and the prosecution of those directly and indirectly responsible, and an investigation more generally into the human rights situation for the country's prisoners. Organizations demanding this investigation include:
Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH, The Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras);
National Popular Resistance Front (Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular);
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights;
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
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