Albion Monitor /News
News Analysis

CIA Manual Explains Mystery of 'Disappeared'

by Carlos Castilho

Milestone investigation into 1980's Central America human rights violations
(IPS) SAO PAULO -- Late January revelations of secret CIA torture manuals has added a powerful element for Honduras to become a text book example of investigations into human rights violations committed in Central America of the 1980's.

The CIA disclosures by the Baltimore Sun, along with other evidence compiled by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the National Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras has produced a wealth of detail on the abuses committed by the military.

Journalists Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson spent nearly two years investigating the behavior of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Honduras before publishing a series of reports in June 1995 where they denounced the participation of the Pentagon in the disappearance of 184 Hondurans accused of subversive activities in the eighties.

Result of unique collaboration between a large U.S. newspaper and Honduran activists groups
The reports had an enormous impact in Honduras, but the newspaper did not stop there. It called for the disclosure of the secret torture manuals prepared by the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act.

Last month, after threatening to sue the CIA, The Baltimore Sun received the document which officially confirmed the long-denounced collaboration between the US secret services and the Latin American military groups responsible for repressing left-wing politicians.

The Honduran case took on special characteristics not only for the volume of information given on illegal action of torture and summary executions of prisoners.

It was also due to a hitherto unseen simultaneous action between a large U.S. newspaper and Honduran non-governmental groups like the Honduras Human Rights Committee (CODEH) and the Committee of the Family of the Disappeared.

The Honduran activists provided the U.S. reporters with concrete and credible information, and on the basis of this the paper carried out wider investigations, using the U.S. law, something beyond the reach of either group, and even the Honduras National Human Rights Commission. That official Honduran organism published a report on the political disappeared three years ago, entitled "The Facts Speak for Themselves."

The scandal generated by the newspaper reports prompted President Bill Clinton to remove official obstructions to efforts to identify those responsible and to locate the common graves where the 184 captives of the Honduran 316 battalion were buried.

These organizations are now in an unprecedented position to carry their efforts ahead, ten years on, in order to punish those responsible for the "black decade."

Ramon Custodio, the CODEH president, is taking a leading role in this, following his campaign to involve US organizations in the investigations into human rights violations in Honduras. thus Honduras now is in an excellent position to finally resolve the problem of the political disappeared definitively.

Also, confirmation of CIA participation puts the spotlight on the United States at a time when U.S. public opinion, and the Clinton administration, government want to put a full stop to the dirty manoevres of the intelligence agency.

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor February 15 , 1997 (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to reproduce.

Front Page