Day of the Imprisoned Writer - Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa

Republic of Honduras
Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa
Student leader, PEN member

Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa, journalism graduate, student leader, and founding board member of PEN Honduras, was convicted of "usurpation" ("usurpación") at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras­ – UNAH) on June 7, 2017. The conviction represents the culmination of a pattern of harassment that he has faced since 2014 for his part in student protests at UNAH, which called for an end to plans to privatize the university and for the democratization of its governing bodies. Padilla Figueroa has faced ongoing harassment, including surveillance, in connection with his involvement with the protests.

PEN International believes that Padilla Figueroa and other university students are being persecuted for exercizing their right to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, enshrined in the nation’s Constitution (Articles 72-75 and 79), as well as the American Convention on Human Rights (Articles 13 and 15), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 19 and 21), to which Honduras is a state party.

Take Action – Share on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media
Please send appeals to the Honduran authorities urging them to:

  • Overturn the conviction of PEN Honduras member Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa, whom PEN International believes is being prosecuted for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly by peacefully participating in and observing student protests;
  • Protect Padilla Figueroa; end any unlawful surveillance of him and investigate his reports of unlawful surveillance;
  • Take all necessary measures to ensure that UNAH students can exercise their right to peaceful protest. As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has affirmed: "the right to publicly protest is an essential element of freedom of expression."
  • Decriminalize student protests and allow students to participate in UNAH’s decision-making bodies, and ensure that conflicts within the institution are resolved through inclusive dialogue, in accordance with Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 13 of the ACHR, to which Honduras is a state party.

Write to:
Public Prosecutor
Abogado Óscar Fernando Chinchilla Banegas
Ministerio Público
Lomas del Guijarro
Avenida República Dominicana
Edifico Lomas Plaza II
Tegucigalpa
Honduras
Email: mprelacionespublicas@gmail.com; multilateralddhh@gmail.com

National Human Rights Ombudsman
Dr. Roberto Herrera Cáceres
Comisionado Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CONADEH)
Colonia Florencia Norte
Boulevar Suyapa
Tegucigalpa Honduras
Email: despacho@conadeh.hn; herreracaceres@conadeh.hn

Please copy your appeals to the Embassy of Honduras in your country. Details of Honduran embassies may be found here.

Publicity
PEN members are encouraged to:

  • Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting Cesario Padilla’s case.
  • Organize public events, stage readings, press conferences, or demonstrations.

Social Media: Please use the hashtag #ImprisonedWriter
Share information about Cesario Padilla and your campaigning activities for him via social media

Suggested tweets:

  • #Honduras: End harassment of @penhonduras member Cesario Padilla on trial for student protests #FreePadilla #ImprisonedWriter
  • On Day of the #ImprisonedWriter take action for writers resisting repression of their basic human right to #FOE

Background
Protests at the UNAH have been ongoing since 2010, when students, teachers, and trade unionists marched to protest the planned privatization of the UNAH – the country’s only public university. Since then, the protests have grown and have widened to include calls for the democratization of the institution’s governing bodies.

In December 2014, Cesario Alejandro Félix Padilla Figueroa and five other UNAH students were arbitrarily suspended from the university after taking part in previous protests. They were subsequently re-admitted to the university after a ruling by the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice in February 2015.

As protests continued at the institution, Padilla Figueroa and colleagues founded the Human Rights Defence Committee (Comité Pro Defensa de los Derechos Humanos), to document human rights abuses occurring as a result of the protests. On July 17, 2015, Padilla Figueroa – along with fellow students Moisés David Cáceres, Sergio Luis Ulloa, and Josué Armando Velásquez – was charged with "usurpation" ("usurpación") of UNAH property, under Article 227 of the Honduran Penal Code, for his part in the occupation of a university building during a student protest.

Padilla Figueroa and his colleagues were found guilty of "usurpation" on June 7, 2017. At a hearing held on August 7, 2017, the public prosecutor reportedly requested that a three-year sentence, among other penalties, be applied. According to PEN Honduras, Padilla Figueroa and his colleagues currently find themselves in a form of legal limbo while they await a written copy of the sentence – which they require to file an appeal. In the interim, he is unable to travel outside of the country or to approach the university grounds.

Shortly following Padilla Figueroa’s conviction, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras reportedly stated: “the office expresses its grave concern regarding the ruling made in relation to the crime of ‘usurpation’, considering that on repeated occasions, the office has signalled –  both publicly and in our discussions with judicial officials – that the use of this type of crime in the context of the criminalization of social protest presents serious problems in light of international human rights standards.”

On June 13, 2015, PEN International and PEN Honduras requested the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to intervene in the case of Padilla Figueroa and the other students. The "precautionary measures" requested would oblige the Honduran state to protect the students’ right to freedom of expression, association, and education and to ensure a thorough investigation into alleged abuse of authority and human rights abuses within the UNAH. The case is pending decision by the IACHR.

In the interim, Padilla Figueroa has continued to face harassment and surveillance. On August 15 2015, he reported that he had been tailed by two unknown armed men in his neighborhood who had also been keeping watch over his home. The men had made it known to Padilla Figueroa that they intended to harm him. He and PEN Honduras believed that this surveillance was in retaliation for his activities as a student leader.

In June 2016, Padilla Figueroa and some of his codefendants reported that they had been subject to unlawful surveillance by agents from the Technical Agency for Criminal Investigations (ATIC), who attempted to prevent the students from entering the university campus, among other irregularities. According to a complaint submitted to the Public Prosecutor’s Office on June 10, 2016, filed by their defense lawyers, the actions of the ATIC agents constitutes an abuse of power as the students are not accused of a crime that merits such surveillance. The case is still pending.