Fears for safety of community leader abducted in Honduras

Honduran authorities must urgently establish the whereabouts of an abducted community leader and bring his captors to justice, Amnesty International said today as his family and friends continue to demand his release.Two unidentified armed men wearing balaclavas forced José Reynaldo Cruz Palma, aged 49, from a minibus in the northern city of San Pedro Sula on 30 August. He was handcuffed and taken away in a pick-up truck, and has not been heard from since.His wife was travelling with him at the time and witnessed the abduction.“Until now, there has been no news, we haven’t had any response – either from the State or from anyone else,” José Reynaldo Cruz Palma’s wife, who asked to remain anonymous, told Amnesty International. “They took him away alive, we want him back alive. My husband’s captors have gone unpunished. I’m afraid for my family and our lives.” Community members from Cruz Palma’s neighbourhood and relatives publicly demanded his release at marches in San Pedro Sula and the capital Tegucigalpa last month.It is not known who was behind his abduction, although family members have said that no ransom has been requested and they suspect police involvement.  Cruz Palma has been outspoken against police abuse of local youth. When he expressed his concerns about police abuse at a public event on 27 August, a police officer present at the event warned him to “shut up because we reckon you’re a gang leader.”The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on 30 September called on Honduran authorities to take immediate action to find out Cruz Palma’s whereabouts and protect him, as well as to investigate the circumstances surrounding his abduction. The Commission gave Honduras five days to report back. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, no action has been taken to follow through on the Commission’s recommendations. “We’re very concerned that more than a month has passed since José Reynaldo Cruz Palma was abducted and the Honduran authorities have failed to take concrete steps to find him and bring those responsible to justice,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director of the Americas Programme at Amnesty International.  “Targeting community activists with abductions or threats shows a blatant disregard for human rights, and the authorities must send a strong message that this won’t be tolerated.”