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Military to Open Files on Officials Named in Political Killings

December 30, 1993

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ The military will open its secret files on political killings and disappearances in the 1980s and let judges question the officers blamed for them, a spokesman said Thursday.

The announcement came a day after the release of a report by a government human rights commission accusing Argentine military advisers and right-wing Nicaraguan Contra rebels of helping U.S.-trained Honduran troops kill leftists in the 1980s.

The decision by the military is unusual in a country where the armed forces have long been powerful and not held accountable for human rights abuses.

By many accounts, more than 300 leftists were killed and at least another 184 are missing from the turbulent decade in this Central American country.

″We will observe the will expressed by the executive and judicial powers in this respect so that the truth will be known by our people, simply because the military has the responsibility to clarify the situation,″ army spokesman Col. Napoleon Santos Aguilar told The Associated Press.

Honduras is the first Central American country that appears willing to uncover the role of its military in human rights violations.

El Salvador passed an amnesty covering most of the violators during the 12- year war that ended there in 1992. The Guatemalan military still retains a measure of impunity, although some soldiers have been brought to trial there recently. In Nicaragua, many of the violations by both the right and left have not been dealt with, partly because of the continued Sandinista role in the police and army leadership.

″The military will hide nothing regarding the disappearances of people in Honduras,″ Santos Aguilar said. ″Thus the military is willing to open its files to civilian authorities and put at the disposal of the courts all officers who presumably were involved in these questions.″

Acting Supreme Court President Rigoberto Espinal Irias on Thursday asked all Honduran judges to act quickly to ″take out of your desk drawers and dust off all cases against civilians and soldiers involved in the painful subject of the disappeared in Honduras.″

The human rights commission’s report blamed Honduran counterintelligence units trained by Americans and Argentines and backed by the Contras for the torture and murder of leftists in the 1980s, when much of Central America was engulfed in civil wars.

More than 14,000 U.S.-backed rightist Contras used Honduras as their base to try to topple the leftist Sandinista government in neighboring Nicaragua.

The Sandinistas eventually were defeated in elections in 1990 and the Contras demobilized.

The 1,000-page report blamed much of the wrongdoing on Intelligence Battalion 316, formed in 1984 by the then-head of the military, Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez.

The battalion’s first leader, current military chief Gen. Luis Alonso Discua, left Honduras Tuesday for a vacation in Miami.

The independent Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared announced at a news conference Thursday that it would ask the legislature to suspend the general pending an investigation into the disappearances.

The commission’s report said the disappearances began in 1979 near the end of a military government and intensified between 1980 and 1989 under two civilian administrations.

Human rights groups say they have identified several clandestine cemeteries that may contain the bodies of many of the missing.

Update hourly