October 30, 2014
The wheels of justice often move slowly in Honduras, especially when there are powerful people involved.
This was certainly true in the case of Santiago Martinez, an orphanage director charged with sexually abusing orphanage residents five years ago.
Since hearing about the case from a U.S-based organization that used to provide funding for the orphanage, Association for a More Just Society (AJS) lawyers, investigators, and psychologists have been working faithfully to win justice and safety for the children who were abused.
But Santiago’s power in the community has put “roadblocks all along the way” according to AJS attorney Cristian Rivera. He described their suspicions that Santiago bribed judges throughout the court proceedings, and threatened and paid off witnesses to testify in his favor (AJS anti-corruption lawyers are investigating these charges).
What Santiago didn’t count on was the tenacity of AJS staff who helped the Public Prosecutor assigned to the case gather evidence with countless visits to the town where the abuses took place, 45 minutes away from AJS’ headquarters in Tegucigalpa. AJS staff also played a key role in helping the victim and witnesses feel ready to testify through psychological support and legal advice.
In March 2014, the case finally went to trial. The 19-year-old victim who would be testifying in this trial was scared, but she told Cristian “I’m going to testify, even if no one believes me!”
The victim had no reason to worry. Her lucid testimony and the testimonies of other witnesses and experts made it clear to the judges that Santiago was guilty. He was sentenced guilty unanimously by the three-judge panel.
Cristian is thankful for the support that so many people provided in this case saying, “It was a difficult fight, but we, along with the authorities, the victims and witnesses, and our supporters around the world made this possible. Justice was finally done.”