Human rights and anti-coup activist gunned down on Tegucigalpa street

Published on 16 December 2009

Human rights activist Walter Tróchez’s fatal shooting on 13 December in Tegucigalpa is a “cruel reminder that the repression that began with the 28 June coup d’état is far from over,” Reporters Without Borders said today, warning the international community it would be wrong to think that the elections organised by the de facto authorities on 29 November have ended Honduras’s deep political crisis.

“Tróchez paid with his life for his commitment to human rights, exposing the truth about the abuses resulting from the coup, and defending sexual minorities,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Ensuring that his murder is punished will be an early, crucial test for the incoming government, which was elected in questionable circumstances and which says it wants to promote national reconciliation. Reconciliation without justice is meaningless.”

An active defender of the rights of gays, lesbians and people with HIV/AIDS, Tróchez, aged 25, was also a critic of President Manuel Zelaya’s ouster last June and had been a researcher and spokesman for the Centre for Human Rights Research and Promotion (CIPRODEH) since the coup. He was shot in the chest by a drive-by gunman as he walked along a Tegucigalpa street on the evening of 13 December.

Tróchez was beaten and humiliated because of his homosexuality when arrested during a demonstration outside parliament in Tegucigalpa on 20 July. Kidnapped on 4 December by masked men who threatened to kill him because of his anti-coup activism, he managed to escape. The abduction was reported to the authorities the next day but he was not given any protection.

The serious violations of the right to news and information since the coup, which Reporters Without Borders and six other international press freedom organisations confirmed during a joint visit to Honduras from 1 to 7 November, were not brought to an end by the 29 November elections.

On election day itself, police tried to storm the San Pedro Sula headquarters of regional radio station Radio Uno, equipment was again seized from Radio Globo and the Canal 36 TV station, and Spanish freelance photographer Mario Gazcón Aranda was briefly arrested. On 5 December, gunmen ransacked the headquarters of opposition online newspaper El Libertador, whose editor, Jhony Lagos, has been threatened many times since the coup.

As a result of the coup and its aftermath, Honduras’s ranking in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index fell from 99th last year to 128th this year. The index covers 175 countries.