Documentary Shows how Honduran Justice System can Work

  • August 30, 2016

In Honduras, where 95% of murders go unpunished, the families of victims of violent crimes often see an arrest, a trial, and a conviction as nothing more than a dream.

But it’s a dream that AJS is tirelessly fighting to make reality.

In one of the communities where AJS works, sixteen-year-old Sindy Marbella Alemán spent her time at school, with friends, or in programs in her church. Her family, friends, and teachers all remember her bright smile. “She was a light,” her cousin remembered, “She loved to make other people smile.”

A trusted church leader took a particular interest in Sindy, inviting her to walk the streets and preach with him. After earning her trust, one morning he led her from the bus stop where she was waiting to go to school, took her to the closed church, gagged her, assaulted her, and killed her.

It was a horrific, tragic crime, and it could have resulted like 95% of cases in Honduras do – with nothing: an opened investigation, lack of evidence, lack of testimony, another file on a tall stack of files.

But this case was different.

Supported by investigators, lawyers, and psychologists from AJS, police were able to collect forensic evidence and encourage terrified eyewitnesses to bring testimony before the court.

Because of this evidence and eyewitness testimony, the murderer was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Though nothing will bring Sindy back, her mother feels more peaceful knowing that the culprit is off the streets and that he has been dealt harsh punishment for what he did. In prison, he will be kept from repeating his crime on other innocent victims.

Revistazo, an independent online magazine run by AJS, published a short documentary on the case, “A Crime in the Shadows of Religion,” that showed not only the facts of the attack but also the resulting investigation and trial.

The documentary has struck a chord with Honduran audiences, who have watched it over 5,000 times on YouTube, and seen it 278,000 times on Facebook, sharing it 1,300 times.

Though it details tragic events, the video is also a more hopeful glimpse into a Honduran justice system that works.

“This story shows us that when there exists political will on the part of the authorities and active participation of the society in general, you have success,” Omar Rivera shares in the video, “That when the police act diligently, when the criminal investigators have the necessary equipment, when the judiciary responds, and the community comes together, especially the eyewitnesses: Justice is done.”

Guilty sentences play a large part in creating a more peaceful Honduras, driving down the impunity that fuels violence. The work of AJS in these communities is helping these successful convictions to “be the norm and not the exception.”

The video, subtitled in English is below. A warning to viewers, it contains disturbing content, including sexual violence.

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