Honduran Commander Accused of Torture, Disappearance, and Summary Execution to Face Trial In Florida Print
Pulsa aquí para el español.

What: A prominent foreign torture suspect residing in the United States, former Honduran military intelligence chief Col. Juan L?pez Grijalba, is facing trial in US federal court this month. Six plaintiffs, five of whom reside in the United States, allege that L?pez Grijalba is responsible for the torture, disappearance, and extrajudicial killing of Honduran civilians during the 1980s. L?pez Grijalba moved to the Miami area in 1998 where he lived until he was arrested by immigration officials in 2002.

Where: United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Courtroom 7, Judge Joan Lenard presiding. 301 North Miami Avenue, Miami, Florida 33128. Tel. (305) 523-5500.

When: Monday, October 18, 2004, 9:00 a.m.

Who: In the early 1980s, L?pez Grijalba controlled the notorious secret police force, DNI, and the death squad known as Battalion 316. Both were responsible for widespread human rights abuses in Honduras during that time. L?pez Grijalba was ordered deported this past June and is currently being held at Krome Detention Center in Miami awaiting removal.

The plaintiffs are: Zenaida and Hector Ricardo Vel?squez, the sister and son of Manfredo Vel?squez, a university leader abducted and disappeared by intelligence agents under L?pez Grijalba?s direct command in 1981; Oscar and Gloria Reyes, who were abducted in a military raid in 1982 and tortured by members of the Honduran Armed Forces also under the command of L?pez Grijalba; and relatives of Hans Madisson, a student who was abducted during the same raid and brutally murdered.

The suit was initiated by the Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA), a San Francisco-based human rights organization that works to end impunity by bringing lawsuits against perpetrators of human rights abuses who live in or visit the United States. Co-counsel on the case is the Florida law firm Carlton Fields. The trial comes on the heels of CJA?s landmark victory last month in which a federal judge in California found a Modesto resident liable for the assassination of revered Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero and ordered him to pay $10 million in damages.

Why: The case marks the first instance in which a Honduran military leader will stand trial for human rights abuses committed in the Central American nation during the 1980s. Plaintiff Zenaida Vel?squez states, ?The penalty we hope to achieve with this lawsuit cannot compare to what the perpetrators did to our loved ones, but CJA is helping us to achieve a moral victory. We are motivated by love for the ones we lost, and also by a voice of conscience that says we must do everything in our power to stop the cycle of impunity that leads to more human rights abuses. We are vindicating the memories of our family members. We can't give up.?

L?pez Grijalva and the SOA
(Note: Grijalba, an alternate spelling, is used in the legal work of the Center for Justice & Accountability.)

Summary of Juan L?pez Grijalva's Course History at the SOA:

Cadete L?pez Grijalva, Juan
Cadet (40 Weeks) -6 Dec, 1963

10 Tte Lopez Grijalva, Juan
Irregular Warfare Opns 0-6
31 Mar - 6 Jun, 1969

Mayor L?pez Grijalva, Juan 0-1
21 May - 1 Nov, 1973

Mayor L?pez Grijalva, Juan
Command and General Staff 0-3
24 Feb - 11 Dec, 1975

SOA Guest Speaker, 1991 and 1992
Ft. Benning, GA

Note: For the four courses between 1963 and 1975, L?pez Grijalva would have trained at the SOA in Panama.

L?pez Grijalva?s roles in Honduras:

?The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas?
by Lesley Gill (2004), p. 86-87:

General ?lvarez [The full name is Gustavo ?lvarez Mart?nez.] was not the only high-ranking member of Battalion 3-16 to receive training at the School of the Americas. Some of the death squad commanders attended multiple courses. Juan L?pez Grijalva, for example, was an SOA student on four separate occasions between 1963 and 1975. In 1978, he went on to head the Direcci?n Nacional de Inteligencia (DNI), the primary operations division of the military-controlled national police force (FUSEP). FUSEP, for its part, coordinated activities between the DNI and Battalion 3-16. L?pez Grijalva then became the armed forces? chief of intelligence in 1982, the same year he traveled to Argentina ?on intelligence matters.? [Footnote: The source is a declassified DOD document in the National Security Archives.] As the head of intelligence, L?pez Grijalva allegedly channeled orders from ?lvarez to death squad operatives and oversaw their activities. [Footnote: After the existence of Battalion 3-16 became public and L?pez Grijalva was implicated in its activities, he was still invited to speak at the School of the Americas in 1991 and 1992.] Generals Bali Castillo and Discua Elvir also participated in numerous SOA courses in the 1960?s and 1970?s before commanding Battalion 3-16 in the 1980s. Bali took Internal Defense, Joint Operations, and the SOAW?s flagship, Command and General Staff Officer course, and Discua trained at the School as a cadet and then returned three times to take Jungle Operations, Irregular Warfare, and Military Intelligence.

For more information, check out the Honduras section of the SOA Country Sheets.