Day of the Imprisoned Writer
Republic of Honduras
Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa
Student leader, PEN member
Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa, journalism graduate, student leader, and board member and founding member of PEN Honduras, was convicted of ‘usurpation’ (‘usurpación’) at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras – UNAH) on 7 June 2017. The conviction represents the culmination of a pattern of harassment that he has faced since 2014 for his part in student protests at UNAH, which called for an end to plans to privatize the university and for the democratisation of its governing bodies. Padilla Figueroa has faced ongoing harassment, including surveillance, in connection with his involvement with the protests.
PEN International believes that Padilla Figueroa and other university students are being persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, enshrined in the nation’s Constitution (Articles 72-75 and 79), as well as the American Convention on Human Rights (Articles 13 and 15), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 19 and 21), to which Honduras is a state party.
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Please send Appeals to the Honduran authorities urging them to:
- Overturn the conviction of PEN Honduras member Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa, whom PEN International believes is being prosecuted for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly by peacefully participating in and observing student protests;
- Protect Padilla Figueroa; end any unlawful surveillance of him and investigate his reports of unlawful surveillance;
- Take all necessary measures to ensure that UNAH students can exercise their right to peaceful protest. As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has affirmed: ‘the right to publicly protest is an essential element of freedom of expression.’
- Decriminalise student protests and allow students to participate in UNAH’s decision-making bodies, and ensure that conflicts within the institution are resolved through inclusive dialogue, in accordance with Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 13 of the ACHR, to which Honduras is a state party.
Abogado Óscar Fernando Chinchilla Banegas
Lomas del Guijarro
Avenida República Dominicana
Edifico Lomas Plaza II
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
National Human Rights Ombudsman
Dr. Roberto Herrera Cáceres
Comisionado Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CONADEH)
Colonia Florencia Norte
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Please copy your appeals to the Embassy of Honduras in your country. Details of Honduran embassies may be found here.
Please send us copies of your letters or information about other activities and of any responses received.
Consider adopting Cesario Padilla as an Honorary Member of your Centre. Details of how to campaign for honorary members may be found in the Writers in Prison Committee Handbook, available here.
PEN members are encouraged to:
- Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting Cesario Padilla’s case;
- Organise public events, stage readings, press conferences or demonstrations.
Social Media: Please use the hashtag #ImprisonedWriter
Share information about Cesario Padilla and your campaigning activities for him via social media
- #Honduras: End harassment of @penhonduras member Cesario Padilla on trial for student protests #FreePadilla Imprisoned Writer
- On Day of the #ImprisonedWritertake action for writers resisting repression of their basic human right to #FOE
Protests at the UNAH have been ongoing since 2010, when students, teachers and trade unionists marched to protest the planned privatisation of the UNAH – the country’s only public university. Since then, the protests have grown and have widened to include calls for the democratisation of the institution’s governing bodies.
In December 2014, Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa and five other UNAH students, were arbitrarily suspended from the university after taking part in previous protests. They were subsequently re-admitted to the university after a ruling by the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice in February 2015.
As protests continued at the institution, Padilla Figueroa and colleagues founded the Human Rights Defence Committee (Comité Pro Defensa de los Derechos Humanos), in 2015 in order to document human rights abuses occurring as a result of the protests. Later that same year, on 17 July 2015, Padilla Figueroa – along with fellow students Moisés David Cáceres, Sergio Luis Ulloa and Josué Armando Velásquez – was charged with ‘usurpation’ (‘usurpación’) of UNAH property, under Article 227 of the Honduran Penal Code, for his part in the occupation of a university building during a student protest.
Padilla Figueroa and his colleagues were found guilty of ‘usurpation’ on 7 June 2017. At a hearing held on 7 August 2017, the public prosecutor reportedly requested that a three-year sentence, among other penalties, be applied. According to PEN Honduras, Padilla Figueroa and his colleagues currently find themselves in a form of legal limbo while they await a written copy of the sentence – which they requireto file an appeal. In the interim, he is unable to travel outside of the country or to approach the university grounds.
Shortly following Padilla Figueroa’s conviction, the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras reportedly stated: “the office expresses its grave concern regarding the ruling made in relation to the crime of ‘usurpation’, considering that on repeated occasions, the office has signalled – both publicly and in our discussions with judicial officials – that the use of this type of crime in the context of the criminalisation of social protest presents serious problems in light of international human rights standards.”
On 13 June 2015, PEN International and PEN Honduras requested the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to intervene in the case of Padilla Figueroa and the other students. The ‘precautionary measures’ requested would oblige the Honduran state to protect the students’ right to freedom of expression, association and education and to ensure a thorough investigation into alleged abuse of authority and human rights abuses within the UNAH. The case is pending decision by the IACHR.
In the interim, Padilla Figueroa has continued to face harassment and surveillance. On 15 August 2015, he reported that he had been tailed by two unknown armed men in his neighbourhood who had also been keeping watch over his home. The men had made it known to Padilla Figueroa that they intended to harm him. He and PEN Honduras believed that this surveillance was in retaliation for his activities as a student leader.
In June 2016, Padilla Figueroa and some of his co-defendants reported that they had been subject to unlawful surveillance by agents from the Technical Agency for Criminal Investigations (ATIC), who attempted to prevent the students from entering the university campus, among other irregularities. According to a complaint submitted to the Public Prosecutor’s Office on 10 June 2016, filed by their defence lawyers, the actions of the ATIC agents constitutes an abuse of power as the students are not accused of a crime that merits such surveillance. The case is still pending.
Please let us know about your activities and send us a report about them by 15 December 2017 so that we can share them with other Centres.
For further information please contact Emma Wadsworth-Jones at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: firstname.lastname@example.org