Get AJS Updates!
Justice for Prison-Torture Survivors
The day Carlos Merlo arrived at Renaciendo (Rebirth)
Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in 2004, he was given the worst welcome
he could imagine. One of the police officers told him to hold the tips
of his fingers together facing up. The officer then hit them so hard
with a wooden ruler that a few days later Carlos’s
fingernails turned purple and fell off. A second officer kneed him in
the stomach. He doubled over in his bed as fists rained down on his
head and body.
This kind of torturous abuse was rampant at Renaciendo, so much so that the youth inmates pressed charges for human rights abuses against the police officers and an instructor. The charges, and the boys’ pleas for justice, were ignored for six months, until the staff of AJS’s Peace & Justice Project learned of the case.
In 2007, AJS achieved the first conviction ever for
human rights abuses against juvenile inmates in Honduras—an
abusive Renaciendo teacher was sentenced to 10 years in prison. This
July, thanks to AJS’s help, three of Renaciendo’s
most violent police officers were also found guilty of human rights
Despite challenges presented by post-coup
government-imposed curfews and police blockades, two of the more than
80 youth who lived at the center, Arnulfo Rodriguez and Carlos Merlo,
came to Tegucigalpa to testify in the trial. A Peace &
Justice investigator talked his way through police
checkpoints and drove through a dangerous, unpaved mountain road to
bring in Carlos, who lives near the Nicaraguan border.
The long trip from rural Olancho was worth it for
Arnulfo, whose testimony helped seal the conviction. For him, the
sentence means that justice was done. "They don't always listen to
people like us," he said. "They treat you like you're
In recounting the horrors he lived through, Arnulfo
says he still feels intense anger against those who abused him five
years ago. He remembers how he felt seeing fellow inmates locked away
in tiny cells for days at a time, and can’t forget how he
suffered beatings and psychological torture. Before the trial both he
and Carlos spoke by phone with an AJS psychologist, Ixchel, who helped
them recover their mental strength, and face their abusers in the
The AJS Peace & Justice project lawyer,
Luis, accompanied the human rights prosecutor in all aspects of the
case: gathering and presenting evidence, preparing witnesses, writing
motions, and (Continued on page 2)
Thanks to AJS’s investigations Renaciendo has been cleaned up significantly. The inmates no longer face beatings, torture, and humiliation. Luis says that this is due in part to the clear precedents that these two cases have set that human rights abuse will not be tolerated at any level.
Donate to help AJS do justice for survivors of violent crime like Carlos and Arnulfo