Update Dec.3, 2018
House of Commons e-petition
The Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor Committee urges you to read, sign and share the House of Commons e-petition on the Political Prisoners in Honduras .
petition e-1868 was initiated by Janet Spring, sponsored by Alexander Nuttall, Barrie–Springwater–Oro-Medonte and will be open for signature for 120 days, until February 7, 2019. You will find the e-petition webpage by clicking here.
TWO DEAD IN LA TOLVA PRISON, HONDURAS
BUT HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS STILL HOPE for AMNESTY for POLITICAL PRISONERS THROUGH A DIALOGUE PROCESS
By Janet Spring
My son-in-law Edwin Espinal and fellow political prisoner Raul Alvarez have been incarcerated in La Tolva maximum-security prison in Honduras for over eight months for speaking against the Hernandez government.
On Sunday September 30, there was a large uprising in one of the prison modules in La Tolva (a module holds 100 men). Notifications came out on Twitter late in the evening reporting that two men were dead, seven seriously injured.
In these instances, the families of prisoners are not notified; they must await media coverage or travel to the prison to inquire as to the state of their loved ones. Like other family members, we spent the night in dread, thinking the worst might have happened to Edwin. It was only through a chance encounter at the Tegucigalpa hospital to which the injured had been taken that my daughter Karen was reassured that Edwin had not been killed or harmed.
The horrific conditions and neglect of all prisoners by the Honduran authorities are the cause of these serious and deadly outbreaks. Prisoners are desperate. They are starving, ill, deprived of sunlight, fresh water, they have limited family visits and no contact with the outside world; no phone or written communication is allowed. They have no reading materials; they sit in overcrowded modules and at night in their cells with no hope for change. Tempers mount, desperation sets in and serious conflicts begin with deadly consequences.
All prisoners in La Tolva live in dire conditions. Edwin and Raul have each lost over 35 pounds as have many others. Their weight loss is so significant that pressure from an international human rights organization forced prison authorities to send both men to a nutritionist.
Due to their lack of a proper diet, which is less than 2000 calories per day and based on starch and very little protein, the nutritionist reluctantly prescribed additional nutrients to be added to their diet. Edwin’s family members were given a prescription to purchase oatmeal and fresh fruit. But in Honduras, extra food ordered by a doctor for prisoners must be found, purchased, and delivered to the prison by a family member.
However, the family has no way of determining if the extra food is actually given to their family member or if the amounts are sufficient. Other prisoners whose families either do not have the funds or ability to advocate for their loved ones continue to languish in La Tolva without proper nutrition.
There is no change in the water shortage and water quality at the prison. All prisoners are drinking a limited water supply that is brought in by truck, pumped out of the local river. Their living accommodations are deplorable; they sleep on very think pieces of foam; fights break out due to the high stress level of prisoners.
Throughout September a dialogue process to deal with the unrest occurring throughout Honduras and the political prisoner situation, has been underway. It is facilitated by the United Nations. One of the mandates of the dialogue is to give amnesty to all political prisoners arrested during and after the illegal election of Hernandez. We fear the amnesty will not include the dropping of all trumped-up charges. We also are concerned that some prisoners will not be granted amnesty due to the seriousness of the false charges levied against them.
This dialogue is a flawed process for it only includes representatives from certain political parties that are vying for power. There is no representation from the people or the human rights or social movement groups who understand the poor conditions that the people of Honduras are living in. Over 60% of the population lives in poverty. Much of the male population is unemployed.
A recent report by the human rights organization @fosdeh states that in 2017, the Hernandez government spent over 120 million lempiras (5 million USD) on teargas, grenades, gun cartridges and projectile weapons. These weapons were deployed in the streets to suppress any human rights workers like Edwin and Raul who speak out and take a stand against the violence of the government and recently the illegal election of Juan Orlando Hernandez.
The Hernandez government officials have also been accused of money laundering, drug trafficking, and theft of monies that fund the hospitals and social security. Yet political prisoners like Edwin and Raul are wrongly incarcerated and have no hope that the corrupt justice system or the dialogue process 4 rule in their favour. There is no rule of law. Corrupt officials are free. The situation is horrendous.
Free EDWIN ESPINAL Libertad
Update #11 – October 15
There are now a total of 15(now 14) political prisoners in Honduras – five including Edwin Espinal, Raúl Álvarez, Edy Gonzalo, Gustavo Cáceres and (Jose Godínez)–(freed November 14) arrested between December 2017 and February 2018 and an additional ten political prisoners that were recently arrested in August and September 2018.
The ten newest political prisoners were arrested in relation to protests against electoral fraud in the municipality of Las Vegas, Santa Barbara. Many have a long trajectory of involvement in the Honduran social movement, defense of natural resources, and human rights work. All 10 are being held in the military-run, maximum-security ‘El Pozo’ prison in Ilama, Santa Barbara, which is also where political prisoner Edy Gonzalo (arrested in February 2018) is imprisoned. To date, the family members of the prisoners from Las Vegas have not been able to visit or communicate with them.
For five of the original political prisoners arrested during the months after the November 2017 elections, it has been between almost 9 to 10 months since their detentions.
No judicial way out: Violations of due process continue in Edwin and Raul’s case
On August 30, Edwin and Raul’s attorneys were notified that the Appeals court in Tegucigalpa had denied their appeal. The Appeals court like the entire judiciary in Honduras is highly politicized and for years since the 2009 coup, its independence has been questioned.
In the ruling, the Appeals court confirmed all decisions made by the lower level judge, Claudio Aguilar, ignoring serious violations of due process – the malicious delay of justice (taking seven months to send the appeal to the Appeals court); the lack of impartiality of Judge Aguilar; the harshness of and unjustified pre-trial detention in a maximum security prison; and the lack of jurisdiction of the lower court.
In addition, the Appeals court also violated due process by acting outside of its mandate by adding an argument that neither the previous judge or Public Prosecutor’s Office had argued in the lower court. It is not the mandate of the Appeals court to make additional arguments but instead mediate between the prosecutors and the defense and rule on the presented arguments.
Given that the national jurisdiction court system cannot legally justify hearing Edwin and Raul’s case, the Appeals court added the argument that Edwin and Raul are part of an “organized criminal group.” No evidence demonstrating Edwin and Raul’s involvement and membership in such a criminal group was ever presented nor did the Public Prosecutor’s office make this argument in the case. By adding this argument, the Appeals court has not made it impossible for the case to be removed from the prejudiced national jurisdiction court presided by judge Claudio Aguilar to the regular Honduran court system.
This month and as part of next steps in the case, Edwin’s attorneys from the Honduran organization, Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) will present an injunction (or ‘amparo’ in Spanish) that will argue how Edwin’s constitutional rights have been violated since his arrest on January 19, 2018.
The Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor committee has contacted all Simcoe County candidates for mayor and deputy mayor to inform them of this urgent matter and will be calling on the councils in the remaining 16 municipality councils to pass the following resolution passed by Springwater Council:
Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor & Spring family, Elmvale thank local family owned company Datamax for donating this billboard in support of release of family member and human rights defender Edwin Espinal, spouse of Karen Spring, imprisoned in Honduras!
Billboard located on County Road 90 in Barrie Ontario, Canada.
August 10, 2018
Political prisoners Edwin and Raúl send messages from jail!
Honduran political prisoners Edwin Espinal and Raúl Alvarez, criminalized on trumped up charges related to protests against election fraud, have been in jail for nearly seven months. This week, from inside the La Tolva maximum security prison, they wrote open letters with messages of hope, thanks, and commitment to the struggle.
Here are their messages:
In this video below , Dr. Janet Spring of the Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor, presents the case for the immediate release of the political prisoners in Honduras.
“If Canada makes a statement regarding the release of a political prisoner in Saudi Arabia, it must do so for Edwin Espinal in Honduras, who is a very loved member of the Spring family of Elmvale, Ontario.” (Janet Spring, mother-in-law of Edwin Espinal, political prisoner in a Honduran maximum-security military jail)
Free Edwin Espinal Now
Press Release: For immediate release
Tegucigalpa, Honduras, August 10, 2018
Contact: Dr. Janet Spring at: email@example.com or +504 9637-6056
The Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor is calling on the Canadian government to apply the same standards and expectations to human rights violations in Honduras as it is does regarding Saudi Arabia. “It has been six months since we first urgently appealed to Chrystia Freeland and Justin Trudeau to help our family member Edwin Espinal and other political prisoners incarcerated in atrocious conditions in Honduras,” said Janet Spring of Elmvale Ontario, in a statement today from Tegucigalpa.
“We consider it hypocrisy for Canada to ignore the desperate pleas coming from our family and from our rural community, for whose unwavering support we are so grateful. It’s time for Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Freeland to make clear that Canada will cease political and financial support for the corrupt Hernandez government, until prisoners are allowed basic human rights in the legal process and their treatment meets basic civilized norms. Those prisoners like Edwin who have been arrested for political reasons must be released and all charges dropped.”
Edwin has been incarcerated for over six months and has suffered greatly. Edwin and Raul have lost at least 35 pound due to lack of proper nutrition. The sanitation standards in the maximum-security prison are deplorable due to the lack of clean and sufficient water. Prisoners have access to water for only 5 minutes per day. Unflushed toilets, lack of fresh air, and insect infestation exacerbate sanitation levels as documented by the Canadian Ambassador to Honduras’ office staff after they visited Edwin in July.
Prime Minister Trudeau recently remarked on Canada’s stand on human rights abuses, “Canadians have always expected our government to speak strongly, firmly, clearly and politely about the need to respect human rights at home and around the world. We will continue to do that, we will continue to stand up for Canadian values and indeed for universal values and human rights at any occasion.”
Spring said she is confident Espinal would be released if Canada took a firm stand and demanded his freedom. “If Canada makes a statement regarding the release of a political prisoner in Saudi Arabia, it must do so for Edwin Espinal in Honduras, who is a very loved member of the Spring family of Elmvale, Ontario.”
Open Letter to the Canadian Government Officials by the Canadian Union of Public Employees
“Every person I speak to is appalled to learn of the blind eye that Canada has turned to [Honduras’] terrifying repression”
Keep pressure on U.S. and Canadian governments: Edwin Espinal –and all political prisoners in Honduras- must be released
Letter by Kevin Skerrett (CUPE, Canadian Union of Public Employees) to the Canadian government.
From: Kevin Skerrett, 2018 3:59 PM
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; Isabelle.SolonHelal@international.gc.ca; Kyle.Sundstrom@international.gc.ca; Bertrand-Xavier.Asselin@international.gc.ca; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: Urgent message re political prisoners in Honduras
Monday, June 4, 2018
Ambassador James Hill
Embassy of Canada in Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua
Dear Ambassador Hill,
I write today to join my voice to those of hundreds of others demanding the immediate release of Edwin Espinal from a Honduran prison, either with conditions pending trial, or (more fairly) with the immediate dropping of all charges.
The Canadian government must openly advocate for his immediate release if it is to continue to claim to be a defender of human and democratic rights.
From the information that has come to my attention, it is clear:
• that Edwin Espinal has been a target of regime repression and harassment, on multiple occasions, going back to 2009
• that the Honduran legal system has been used against him on numerous occasions as a tool of repression
• that Edwin’s jail living conditions, right now, are harmful and abusive, and a violation of multiple legal and human rights; and
• that his current punitive (and illegal) jailing is being used by the regime to send a message to other human rights and democracy defenders in the country.
I agree strongly with the concerns already communicated to you by the organization Rights Action. The Government of Canada’s policies and actions in Honduras are contradictory: on the one hand, Canada legitimized the 2009 military coup / regime change, and then – against all evidence – rubber-stamped three sets of fraudulent, violent elections since the coup, while turning a blind eye to the increasing rates of human rights violations, corruption and repression committed by the regime since then; on the other hand, Canada funds human rights organizations that are, sometimes, trying to address the violations and suffering caused by the regime.
I work as a Senior Research Officer for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, based in Ottawa. I am discussing the detention of Edwin Espinal and other political prisoners in Honduras with my colleagues at the CUPE National Office and across the labour movement. Every single person that I speak to about this issue is appalled to learn of the blind eye that Canada has turned to this terrifying repression. The information about this case, and about Canada’s role in Honduras, is growing by the week. It is urgent that these concerns and issues be immediately addressed.
I ask that you do everything in your power to secure Edwin’s immediate release and to keep us informed of your actions. Further, I urge that the Government of Canada withdraw all support for and recognition of the fraudulent election processes carried out since 2009, and to initiate a thoroughgoing review of Canada’s relationship with the current de facto government in Tegucigalpa.
Minister Chrystia Freeland, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Global Affairs Canada,
Catherine McKenna, Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, MP for Ottawa-Centre
Keep on writing
There is NO EXCUSE for the U.S. and Canada not to be advocating directly and relentlessly for the release of Edwin, and all political prisoners. Since the 2009 military coup, the U.S. and Canada’s unwavering support for the undemocratic, repressive and corrupt post-coup regimes continues to be part of the problem.
Contact directly your elected Senators (https://whoismyrepresentative.com/) and Congress members (https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative) and make your demands known to them.
Directly contact your Member of Parliament and make your demands known to them (https://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members) and ask them to write directly to:
Ambassador James Hill, Embassy of Canada in Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua, James.Hill@international.gc.ca,
Minister Chrystia Freeland, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Global Affairs Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org
Demands – short term
The U.S. and Canadian governments must:
• Do an about face and rescind their “legitimization” of the Nov. 26, 2017 elections
• Condemn the multiple acts of electoral fraud carried out by government of Juan Orlando Hernandez
• Condemn the repression including the killing of over 40 pro-democracy protesters, and the illegal detentions of dozens of political prisoners, including Edwin Espinal
• Suspend all economic, military and political relations with the government of Honduras, until the political / electoral crisis has been resolved and impartial justice processes are proceeded against the intellectual and material authors of the electoral fraud and stolen elections, and the endemic repression
Demands – medium term
There must be legislative inquiries in the U.S. and Canada into the causes of Honduras’ now endemic repression and exploitation, corruption and impunity, with specific focus on the role played by the U.S. and Canadian governments:
• In support of the 2009 military coup
• In support and legitimization of fraudulent and violent elections in 2009, 2013 and 2017
• In support (in the case of Canada) of the promoting and signing of the potentially illegitimate “Free Trade Agreement” with the government of Honduras; In support of the expansion of corporate investments in Honduras (mining, garment “sweatshop” industry, bananas, hydro-electric dams, tourism, African palm, etc.), while turning a blind eye to and – in effect – benefitting from repression, fraud, corruption and impunity.
from Springwater News…Edition 526 July 26, 2018
Six-month Anniversary of Edwin Espinal’s Unjust Incarceration:
Simcoe County Honduras Right Monitor Continues to Fight for His Freedom
On July 19, 2018, Edwin Espinal reached the six-month mark of his unjust incarceration in La Tolva maximum-security prison in Honduras. He was arrested for his peaceful opposition to the repressive government of Honduras, exercising his right to speak with a pro-democratic voice against the corrupt and illegal election of Juan Orlando Hernandez. This election occurred in November, 2017. Edwin has been a target of the Honduran regime due to his human rights work in his community in Tegucigalpa since 2009.
Edwin’s illegal incarceration has resulted in his health being compromised. The problems of the lack of water and food, and filthy, fly infested, unsanitary living conditions continue, despite voiced concerns from our community of Elmvale, demands to the Honduran government by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and an e-petition sponsored and circulated by Amnesty International Canada demanding Edwin’s release from prison. To date, the Canadian government has not issued a public statement to demand his release, despite our appeals for this to occur.
We appreciate concerned citizens of Canada to phone the Honduran Ambassador to Canada – Sofia Cerrato Rodriguez – to voice opposition to Edwin’s illegal incarceration and the Honduran government’s suppression of human rights. To date, Ms. Rodriguez has been unresponsive to emails, and has been indifferent to phone calls that she has received from concerned citizens. She has minimized the circumstances of Edwin’s incarceration, she has deflected the facts of the case by claiming ignorance, she has been indifferent. But it is important that we keep pressuring Honduran authorities, also Global Affairs Canada – Minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Trudeau – to seek a successful resolution to not only Edwin’s case but to all remaining political prisoners’ cases. They are suffering along with Edwin. We continue to demand a public statement from Minister Freeland, Global Affair, Canada.
The Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor moves forward with further action to demand Edwin’s release and trumped up charges be dropped. We thank Adam Zimmerman, owner and operator of Datamax Outdoor Advertising, Canada, for assisting us in our campaign and being a champion of human rights in Honduras. Mr. Zimmerman has donated a Datamax highway billboard of our choice to assist our community in our advocacy for Edwin’s release and he has offered to help in any way he can. The billboard will be erected in the very near future. We greatly appreciate this opportunity to spread the word regarding the human rights abuses that are occurring in Honduras, an issue that has touched our Spring family member of Elmvale.
The Simcoe County Honduras Rights Monitor committee and the Spring family thank our federal politicians – MP Bruce Stanton and MP Alex Nuttall – and our local Springwater politicians who continue to be extremely supportive of our cause. We thank our community members who have banned together to advocate for Edwin’s release and to call for the upholding of human rights in Honduras. Many have made phone calls, sent emails and letters to government authorities.
We appeal to the community to continue to contact those in the Canadian and Honduran governments to act on Edwin’s behalf. Edwin must be released. He was arrested without warrant, without due legal process, on false charges, his lawyers denied full legal files, yet he still awaits release from La Tolva prison after 6 months of inhumane treatment in deplorable living conditions.
We thank you all for your continued support. We will fight until we are achieve positive results.
Honduran Ambassador to Canada: Sofia Cerrato Rodriguez:
Minister Chrystia Freeland
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
from Springwater News…Edition 525 July 12, 2018
MOUNTING CONCERNS REGARDING EDWIN ESPINAL IN HONDURAS
APPEAL TO THE SPRINGWATER COMMUNITY
I am writing to the very supportive community members of Springwater Township to express my mounting concerns regarding Edwin Espinal and to ask for your help in contacting the Government of Canada through Minister Freeland’s office.
We urge Minister Freeland’s office to make a public statement to demand Edwin Espinal’s release and to drop all charges. Our family is very worried about Edwin’s safety as well as his physical and mental state. We have been in contact with Minister Freeland’s office for this request, yet no action has occurred from the government of Canada to date.
Family members and friends have also tried to contact the Honduran Ambassador to Canada, Sofia Cerrato Rodriguez, yet she does not respond to emails and rarely answers her phone calls.
For two weeks, we had not received any word regarding Edwin, which concerned us. Was he ill? Was he alive? Had he been transferred to another prison without our knowledge? His three lawyers working on his case were denied access to him; they had traveled to La Tolva Prison three times and were told by the guards and the director himself that they had come on the “wrong day,” even though they had arrived to visit him on the days scheduled for legal visits. This made us very worried. Finally, Edwin’s lawyer was granted entry last Thursday, but was not allowed to bring any legal documents in with her. She is never able to meet with him alone to discuss his ‘case.’ There are no lawyer/client privileges.
In Honduras, the legal system is wrought with corruption. The judicial system fails the innocent yet protects the corrupt members of the Hernandez regime. Government officials act with impunity. They are above the law. Most of the prisoners in La Tolva maximum-security prison have been denied due legal process, held without evidence, and often without proper legal counsel, awaiting ‘trial’ for a period of 2.5 years. When that time is up, they will not get a fair trial.
Prison authorities are able to impose new ‘rules’ on a whim. Families have no legal rights or recourse to question the broken system that bans them from visiting family members. They are bullied. They are terrorized. They are scared to question the ‘rules’ and restrictions and to speak out.
Another grave concern is that the phone system is still off in the prison; prisoners have not been able to have phone contact with families since April 4th. Families must physically travel to the prison and are unable to visit loved ones unless they have purchased visitor permits and have received them. Some members of Edwin’s family are still waiting for their permits. Then families must make that horrible trip to La Tolva, which is at least a 2-hour drive each way from Tegucigalpa, as it is in the middle of nowhere. Their visits are at the whim of the prison officials. Many times, they are turned away. This is totally unacceptable and breaks all international human rights laws on visitation rights.
On top of the deplorable political prisoner situation in Honduras, I am totally horrified and dismayed at the continual reporting of the great number of money laundering, drug trafficking, and legal scandals that the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez has been involved in – his court appointees, his Ministers, and himself, since he illegally took office back in 2014. I feel that Hondurans have been totally robbed of any chance for a decent life in their country, which accounts for the very upsetting migration and separation of families at the US border, further sparked by the aftermath of the disgusting, illegal ‘zero tolerance law’ brought in by the Trump administration. It seems that Honduran jails need to be emptied to make room for corrupt government officials who are breaking the law both in the US and Honduras. I truly feel there is not enough space in these maximum-security prisons to house them all.
I am becoming more frustrated and disgusted as time moves on and can only imagine how devastated the Honduran population is regarding this government corruption in the country. I can’t imagine the upset and despair of those who have emigrated from Honduras (the very fortunate ones) to move for a better life elsewhere as they listen to how the state of affairs in their home country is worsening and impacting family members who may still live there.
I would greatly appreciate you making a call to Minister Freeland’s office or emailing her staff to DEMAND THAT CANADA MAKE A PUBLIC STATEMENT TO FREE EDWIN ESPINAL AND OTHERS AND TO DROP ALL CHARGES. I ask you to also call or email SOFIA CERRATO RODRIGUEZ – HONDURAN AMBASSADOR TO CANADA to make the same demand for their freedom.
Amnesty Canada has published an e-action to demand Edwin Espinal’s freedom and the dropping of all charges. Please help us and sign this e-petition and pass it to others. This may be retrieved at: http://www.amnesty.ca/SpeakUpForEdwin
We are fretting about Edwin’s safety. Furthermore, Edwin and Raul Alvarez (also in La Tolva on the same charges) should not even be in this maximum-security military prison. Their rights have been completely violated; their detention is illegal, charges are trumped-up, breaking all international human rights and legal rights standards.
We need Canada to make a stand to demand their freedom now. Please help!
Minister Chrystia Freeland: Chrystia.email@example.com
Ambassador Sofia Cerrato Rodriguez: firstname.lastname@example.org
I thank you for your continued support and for all the comforting words you have given our family.
Amnesty International and Amnesty International Canada announcements.
Sign the call for immediate release of Edwin Espinal and all political prisoners.
Signup at link below. Support signing sent to Attorney General Honduras and to Chrystia Freeland.
Click on TAKE ACTION for information on how you can help.
Report on the Simcoe County Honduras Right Monitor Delegation to Honduras
Ben Prowess-Honduras Delegation Day 6: The conclusion.
Today the members of the official delegation departed for Canada and the United States. Last night, reflecting upon our work, we felt that we had actually accomplished a lot for such a short trip.
We had meetings with the Canadian and US embassies, with the UN, and with different Honduran government officials. More importantly, with the help of local lawyers, media, and activists, we were able to gain access to visit the jail where political prisoner Edwin Espinal is being held – despite heavy resistance from the government. We also got to meet with the family of Berta Caceres, who urged us on in our work.
And we know that the work will not stop. Karen and I are staying in the country longer. We will be attempting to organize meetings in DC and Ottawa. We will keep trying to get Edwin out of jail, and charges dropped for all political prisoners. And we will be back.
Ben Powless-Honduras Delegation – Day 5. (Day 4 was spent just meeting with embassies and the UN) We travelled the night before to La Esperanza, hometown of murdered Indigenous leader Berta Caceres.