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Home About Us Equipo Sur Stories of Honduras One Year Anniversary the Murder of 15-year old Ebed Yanes by the Honduran Military
One Year Anniversary the Murder of 15-year old Ebed Yanes by the Honduran Military PDF Print E-mail

One year ago, on May 27, 2012, 15-year old Ebed Yanes was heading home on his father's motorcycle in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa when he failed to stop at checkpoint. The military pursued him in a Ford 350 truck donated by the US.  Second Lieutenant Josue Antonio Sierra, a 2011 graduate of WHINSEC/SOA, "ordered the unit to open fire as he jumped out of the truck and started shooting." The unarmed 15-year old was killed immediately. Second Lieutenant Sierra is a member of the First Special Forces Battalion, a unit that had been specially vetted by the US for compliance with human rights and receives US aid and equipment, such as the Ford truck they used to chase down and kill Ebed.

When the soldiers informed the military official charged with supervising the checkpoint, SOA graduate Lt. Col. Juan Rubén Girón, that they had killed a boy, he arranged a cover-up. Soldiers involved in the operation say he told them to go back to the checkpoint to remove the evidence. "He told us what we had to say... that we shouldn't say what happened."

Fellow SOA graduate Col. Reynel Funes Ponce, Commander of the First Special Forces Battalion, ordered the soldiers to exchange their weapons so that they wouldn't be traced to the crime. Col. Funes Ponce had been specially vetted by the US for compliance with human rights as his unit receives US funding and equipment; he somehow passed this human rights vetting despite his previous role as Commander of the 15th Battalion, which has been linked to numerous human rights abuses, including extrajudicial executions.

Then 3-time SOA graduate Col. Jesus A. Marmol Yanes, the Commander of Operation Lightning, of which the checkpoint was part, is said to have lied to investigators. Col. Marmol, who the SOA considers a "Distinguished Graduate," claimed he was never informed of the murder despite testimony to the contrary and the registry for that night's events. When the Fiscalia began an investigation, he and Col. Funes Ponce handed over the wrong weapons to be investigated.

SOA graduate Lt. Col. Mariano Mendoza, who was the Deputy Commander of US-vetted First Special Forces Battalion, along with a military lawyer, suggested to the soldiers who were to be questioned in the investigation what testimony they should tell the investigators.

Six military officials have been charged with the cover up and either violation of official duties or abuse of authority. Despite their role in covering up the murder of an innocent kid, several of these military officials were promoted this year. Col. Funes Ponce, who exchanged the weapons to hide the murder, is now the Commander of the Special Operations Command.  Furthermore, the charges against them are considered to be crimes against the state – not against the victim – meaning that the victim's legal representative is excluded from the process. In a judicial system notorious for corruption, leaving the case to the government, the judge, and the military allows them to come to an agreement among themselves. The Committee of the Family Members of the Detained-Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH) explains that this is a way of enabling impunity and "denying the victims their inalienable right of participation in the criminal proceedings."

Indeed, if it were not for Ebed's father, Wilfredo, and his tireless search this case would have never even come to light. The 15 year old would have been one of the many murder victims in Honduras whose deaths are never investigated. When Wilfredo Yanes couldn't find his son on Sunday morning, he and his wife went out to search for him. When they finally found their son's body in a morgue, they were told he had been the victim of a street crime. Wilfredo didn´t believe it and began to investigate on his own.  He found witnesses who had seen masked soldiers chasing down his son, described the vehicle, and gave him bullet casings. Wilfredo went to Honduras' National Human Rights Commissioner, who he says refused to even take his report. Wilfredo also took the case to the Special Prosecutors Office for Human Rights, who did receive his report. They didn't have a vehicle to start the investigation, so Wilfredo had to drive them around.

Ebed's father and the Committee of Family Members of the Detained-Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH) are also challenging the decree that puts the military on the streets in the first place. Following the 2009 military coup, the military was part of the repression against the peaceful protestors demanding a return of their democratically elected president. Then came decree 223-2011, which officially enabled the Armed Forces to take on police functions in a "state of emergency of public security." Since this state of emergency was declared in November 2011, it has been extended every time it is slated to expire. You don´t have to drive far to come across a military checkpoint like the one Ebed was killed at.

The US continues to pour millions into military aid for Honduras, despite the human rights abuses and extremely high levels of impunity -- which is concretely manifested in the promotion of military officers who cover-up the murder of a 15 year old boy and the lack of accountability for murders of innocent civilians. The influence of powerful interests in the Honduran justice system runs deep. In the case of the murder of Ebed Yanes, even with testimony from other soldiers who are now protected witnesses, only one soldier has been charged with homicide. Conveniently, it is not US-trained Lt Colonel Sierra who was part of the US vetted unit and was in charge of the US donated vehicle – despite the fact that he gave the order to shoot and jumped out the car and started shooting himself.

COFADEH presented a motion to extend the homicide charge to Lt. Col. Sierra and Felipe de Jesus Rodrigez but the court denied it and threatened to throw COFADEH's lawyer out of the courtroom. The motion is pending resolution in the Supreme Court.

You can join COFADEH in their postcard campaign calling for justice for Ebed by downloading the electronic postcard below and e-mailing it to the following Honduran authorities: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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