Honduran police accused of illegally detaining Guapinol human rights defender

Last night, Arnol Javier Alemán, one of the eight Guapinol defenders who had been released in February 2022 after spending 29 months imprisoned in a process characterized as arbitrary, was detained by the Honduran National Police. According to the defense attorneys’, the police have stated that there is still an active arrest warrant for Arnol within the police system. The defense attorneys’ expressed their disappointment over the absence of a protocol between the Judicial Power, the Police, and the Public Prosecutor's Office when a person is released. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (OHCHR) also expressed concern about this detention.

Text: Leonardo Aguilar
Photography: Amílcar Izaguirre

Translated by: Amy Patricia Morales

Arnol Javier Alemán – one of the eight defenders of the Guapinol River, who spent 29 months in prison for environmental and land defense – was illegally detained last night in Tela, Atlántida, as reported by human rights organizations on Wednesday.

The defender was arrested at about 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday by members of the National Police of Honduras who argued that a valid arrest warrant for him appeared in the National Police’s digital system.

The defender was transferred from the municipality of Tela, Atlántida, to the National Jurisdiction Court of San Pedro Sula, department of Cortés, at a distance of 94 kilometers, and subsequently, this Wednesday was transferred  from the San Pedro Sula to the court of Tocoa, Colón, covering a distance of 298 kilometers.

Alemán, according to information provided by the Bufete Justicia para los Pueblos (law firm justice for the people), was detained on the basis of case file 20-21, from which – according to details – he has already obtained a definitive letter of release. 

Ruy Barahona, the spokesperson for the San Pedro Sula’s Judicial Department, explained that no hearing for Arnol took place at their court. This decision was made after information reached the judiciary indicating that one of the arrest warrants against the defender had been rendered invalid. However, it was revealed that due to “another case” involving charges of unjust deprivation of liberty, aggravated arson, and criminal association related to the company Inversiones Los Pinares, he was relocated to a different jurisdiction. 

“In relation to the second accusation, he decided not to proceed with the case and all associated proceedings, citing jurisdictional reasons. This was because the jurisdiction for that criminal action falls under the purview of the Court of First Instance in the district of Tocoa. Today, the Court has issued an order to transfer the individual to determine the situation in said jurisdiction,” clarified Ruy. 

The attorney Edy Tábora, director of Bufete Justicia para los Pueblos, told Contracorriente that the explanation given by the policemen is that the arrest warrant remained active within the National Police system, and explained that this is a recurrent practice of the armed institution.

“Even if the counter-arrest warrants are sent, they are never removed from the system, even when the letter of release and the counter-arrest warrant were provided”, said attorney Tábora, who considered this new detention to be illegal.

Tábora regarded this as “an extremely serious situation. It is terrible that there is no protocol between the Judicial Power, the Police and the Attorney General’s Office when a person is released. There is no protocol to eliminate arrest warrants.” 

Until Wednesday afternoon, Arnol was still deprived of liberty, despite the fact that a group of attorneys’ had submitted documents verifying a letter of release and a counter-arrest warrant.

The legal professionals also filed a writ of habeas corpus to know the status of the detainee.

Arnol had been released in February 2022 after the Constitutional Chamber admitted a protective order and ordered his immediate release.

The Constitutional Chamber’s action in 2022 reversed the decision of the sentencing court in Colón that had found Arnol guilty as well as the other seven defenders of the territory: Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, José Abelino Cedillo, Orbin Naún Hernández, Kelvin Alejandro Romero, Ewer Alexander Cedillo, Daniel Márquez and Jeremías Martínez Díaz.


The Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions considered that the preventive detention suffered by the eight defenders was illegal and arbitrary and that the persons who deprived them of their liberty should be investigated and sanctioned.

Guapinol defender Arnol Aleman.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (OHCHR) expressed concern over the detention of Arnol, whom it identified as a human rights defender in Guapinol.

OHCHR reminded the Honduran authorities of their obligation to “guarantee the security and the right to free movement of human rights defenders, including those who have been acquitted in court proceedings”. 

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News editor and reporter at Contracorriente. Lawyer and journalist, having graduated from the National Autonomous University of Honduras, Valle de Sula (UNAM-VS). He has worked in radio, for print media, and as a web and investigative journalist. He has worked with environmental organizations and on investigations into forced displacement as a result of violence linked to drug smuggling.

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