Protesters in Honduras were being beaten and arrested by police and the military for opposing the de facto government, Amnesty International said yesterday.
The London-based rights organization said it has collected evidence of mass arrests and violence against protesters by authorities since the interim government came to power in the June 28 bloodless coup.
“Mass arbitrary arrests and ill treatment of protesters are a serious and growing concern in Honduras today,” Amnesty researcher Esther Major said. “Detention and ill treatment of protesters are being employed as form of punishment for those openly opposing the de facto government and also as a deterrent for those contemplating taking to the streets to peacefully show their discontent with the political turmoil the country is experiencing.”
Major said interviews with protesters, including students, detailed how police beat them with batons after their arrest at a peaceful demonstration on July 30 in the capital Tegucigalpa.
Earlier, the interim Honduran government ordered Argentine diplomats on Tuesday to leave the country within three days, sending a defiant message ahead of a visit by six foreign ministers who are seeking the restoration of ousted president Manuel Zelaya.
The Foreign Ministry said the diplomats were ordered to leave in response to Argentina’s decision to expel the Honduran ambassador, who has recognized the government of Interim President Roberto Micheletti.
It was another signal that Micheletti is not budging on international demands that Zelaya be restored to power.
“If Argentina decided to expel us, then we will do the same thing,” Micheletti said. “We have to act the same way they are acting with us.”
Argentine Foreign Relations Secretary Jorge Taiana dismissed the expulsion order.
“We maintain diplomatic relations with the legitimate government of Honduras and ignore any deadline about anything,” Taiana told reporters in Mexico, where he is on a diplomatic visit.
Also on Tuesday, US State Department officials met with a delegation representing Micheletti’s government at the Organization of American States headquarters in Washington.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that the US supports the peaceful restoration of democracy in Honduras and Zelaya’s return.
“We continue to believe in the need for a negotiated solution,” Clinton told reporters.
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