Contact: Susan Peacock
For Immediate Release
HONDURAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER DECRIES LACK OF U.S. DOCUMENTATION FOR INQUIRY
New Report Criticizes Declassification Delays
Washington D.C. January 21, 1998 -- The National Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras, Dr. Leo Valladares, today called on the Clinton administration to "meet its commitment" to assisting his inquiry by declassifying relevant U.S. records. In a new report made available to the press, In Search of Hidden Truths, Valladares detailed four years of "exceedingly frustrating" efforts to obtain CIA, State and Defense Department documentation on human rights atrocities by the Honduran military during the 1980s.
The new report focuses on the Commissioner's attempts to recover classified documents on the disappearance of 184 citizens--among them an American priest Father James Carney--and numerous cases of torture and imprisonment at a time when Honduras served as a base for the U.S.-backed contra war in Nicaragua. "The United States played a unique, and at times dominant, role in Honduras; and therefore has a unique knowledge of events that transpired," states the Valladares report.
Some U.S. documents have been released, but many of those were not relevant to the Commissioner's inquiry; numerous others have been heavily censored on national security grounds, containing what the Commissioner described as "a few words amidst page after page of thick black ink."
"National security must never be a rationale for violating human rights," Valladares stressed, "nor an excuse for concealing evidence of such violations."
Dr. Valladares expressed particular interest in a 1997 CIA Inspector General's report on the infamous Battalion 316--a U.S. trained Honduran intelligence unit believed responsible for a surge of torture and disappearances between 1983 and 1988. Calling the IG report "critical to closing the wounds of abuse" in Honduras, Valladares once again requested its declassification. In a December 1997 letter, President Clinton promised that the report and other relevant CIA documents would be declassified "by the end of the year," but the records have yet to be released.
Dr. Valladares expressed hope that the Clinton administration would eventually declassify documentation in order to assist Honduras' transition to a full and accountable democratic state. "It is urgent that the truth be known," he noted. "The victims, their families, and the nation need and deserve to close this dark chapter of Honduran history."
In Search of Hidden Truths (In English)
En búsqueda de la verdad (en español)