Rights Groups Ask Canada to Protect Death Squad Witnesses
Jul. 09, 1995
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ Human rights groups urged Canada on Saturday to stop trying to deport four former Honduran death squad members who have testified against former colleagues.
The men are important to investigations into military abuses in the 1980s and might be killed if they return to Honduras, said Bertha Olivia, coordinator of the independent Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared.
``The four men were official torturers,'' Olivia said. ``And they are key witnesses.''
She urged President Roberto Reina to seek asylum for them in another country.
Canada wants to expel Fausto Reyes of Brockville, Ontario, by Aug. 15. Another Honduran, Florencio Caballero, faces deportation. Also reportedly under investigation are Jose Becerra and Jose Valle Lopez.
All four were members of the secret counterintelligence Battalion 316, allegedly trained by the CIA, and have been in Canada since 1986 as political refugees. They have testified about their participation in the disappearance and torture of political prisoners.
The Honduran government is investigating more than 100 current or former officers suspected of involvement in the disappearance of 184 people, most suspected of being leftists, during the 1980s.
The president of Honduras' private Human Rights Commission, Ramon Custodio, also has decried Canada's move toward deporting the men.
The armed forces say Battalion 316 was created in January 1984 and disbanded in August 1987. But the federal prosecutor's office says there are indications the battalion functioned as early as 1982.
Its first commander was the current chief of the armed forces, Gen. Luis Alonso Discua.