Honduras Struggles to Prosecute Suspects

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A recent report from Honduras revealed how alleged criminals are arrested and released numerous times without ever going to trial, indicating the pressing need for judicial reform in one of the most violent countries in the world.

Alleged gang members and criminals in Honduras are repeatedly getting caught and released by authorities, as prosecutors consistently fail to produce enough evidence to press charges, reported La Tribuna

In one example, an alleged member of street gang the Barrio 18, Joaquin Ernesto Garcia Orellana, alias “El Topo,” has 17 arrest warrants on record, ranging from car theft to homicide charges, according to La Tribuna. He was arrested in January after he was caught driving a stolen vehicle while wearing a police vest, but was released due to lack of evidence. He was most recently detained by police in August.

The Honduran newspaper also described a case involving a woman with 10 arrest warrants to her name who has been detained at least three times, but never formally prosecuted; there is also the case of an alleged Barrio 18 member who was accused of involvement in the assassination of the son of a top police official, but despite being arrested was never charged with any crime. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The cases highlighted by La Tribuna point to a difficult security dilemma common throughout much of Latin America. On the one hand, Honduran prisons have swelled far beyond capacity thanks to the widespread use of pre-trial detention and the government’s hardline “Mano Dura” (Iron Fist) approach to crime. According to the country’s Secretariat for Human Rights, less than half of the Honduras’ 16,000 prisoners have been convicted of a crime.

SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles

But the situation described by La Tribuna’s report, recurring cases of repeat offenders who are arrested — but never prosecuted — is another problem. As one of the poorest countries in Latin America, Honduras cannot easily allocate more government resources to prosecutors and overwhelmed court systems, but without some kind of judicial reform the country’s security situation is unlikely to improve.

Other countries in Latin America face similar security issues. In Colombia only 15 percent of those arrested end up incarcerated, yet endemic overcrowding has recently led to hunger strikes in the country’s prisons. 

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