Clients: Oscar and Gloria Reyes

Oscar Reyes is a native of Honduras, where he was a journalist and communications professional. He holds a master’s degree in mass communications from the University of Minnesota and was the founder and director of the School of Journalism at the National University of Honduras. He has also served as a communications advisor to the Honduran Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Information.

Gloria Reyes is a native of Nicaragua, and an interior designer and housewife. In July of 1982, Oscar and Gloria were abducted from their home along with their daughter and two employees. They were tortured and then detained for more than five months before being exiled to the United States. In the United States, Oscar and Gloria have once again become prominent members of their community. Oscar is the director of El Pregonero, a Washington D.C. area Spanish-language weekly newspaper affiliated with the Catholic Church.

As a young journalist in the 1960s, Oscar moved to Nicaragua, where he worked for the newspaper La Prensa. Gloria was the daughter of a general who had been repeatedly imprisoned for his opposition to the Somoza regime. During Oscar’s stay in Nicaragua, the two met and married. They returned to Honduras in 1970, and Gloria became a Honduran citizen. In Honduras, Oscar worked as a tenured professor of journalism and as a managing partner of a documentary film and advertising company. Gloria was busy raising two children and running a mini market next to their house in Florencia Sur, a residential neighborhood of Tegucigalpa.

Their Ordeal

On the evening of July 8, 1982, members of the Honduran armed forces stormed the Reyeses’ mini market and residence. The attackers bound and gagged the Reyeses, their 12-year old daughter Gloria Suyapa Reyes, and their employee Roberto Carrasco. Their housekeeper, María Acosta Ramirez, was abducted from a basement room. The Reyeses and Mr. Carrasco were taken outside and forced into a van that drove them to another location. The Reyeses’ daughter and maid were taken away in another vehicle in the custody of police forces, and released the following morning. At a clandestine facility, Oscar and Gloria were separated from each other and tortured over a period of several days. Oscar was severely beaten and subjected to electroshock torture; Gloria was beaten, electrouted and sexually assaulted.  Roberto Carrasco was also tortured. After a period of several days at the torture facility, the three were driven to the national headquarters of the DNI in Tegucigalpa. There, they were again separated, interrogated, and kept in detention.

After several nights at the DNI headquarters, Roberto was freed and the Reyeses were taken to a hearing in the chambers of Judge Wilfredo Madrid Paz. Judge Madrid ordered that the Reyes remain in detention pending investigation of accusations of "attempts against state security." For the first time since their abduction, the Reyeses were formally advised of the accusations against them, but still they were refused counsel. After the hearing, they were held in separate prisons for more than five months.

In December of 1982, after more than five months in detention, the Reyeses threatened to reveal photographs of their ransacked home and disclose to a newspaper journalist the acts of torture and abuse that they had endured. As a result, the chief of the Honduran armed forces ordered them released, under the agreement that they would remain silent, forget what was stolen, and immediately leave the country. On the evening of December 22, 1982, the Reyeses were released from prison under military surveillance to a house in Tegucigalpa and taken the following morning to the airport. Their passports were returned with "exit only" visas, and they flew that day to the United States.

The Reyeses have lived in the U.S. ever since. In February 1983, within two months of their release and entry into the United States, Oscar applied for political asylum for himself, Gloria and their children. They were granted political asylum in 1988. Oscar Reyes was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1994. Gloria and the Reyeses’ two children became citizens in 1995.

Oscar and Gloria have suffered permanent physical and emotional injuries as a result of the abuse they underwent while detained. In 1997, Oscar began to tell his story. He wrote a four-part account in the Honduran press about his detention and torture as well as an article in his paper El Pregonero. The Reyeses also lodged a criminal complaint in the First Criminal Court of Tegucigalpa against Billy Fernando Joya Amendola, a member of Battalion 316, for his role in their abduction. The court, however, dismissed the case.

Refusing to give up, the Reyeses joined a civil suit filed in the U.S in 2002 by CJA against Juan López Grijalba, the former head of Honduran military intelligence. The suit charged that López Grijalba "planned, ordered, authorized, encouraged or permitted subordinates in the Honduran military and paramilitary forces to commit acts of torture, disappearance and extrajudicial killing," and then helped to cover up the abuses.

On April 3, 2006, CJA received a default judgment and concluded a trial on damages in the case. The court held López Grijalba legally responsible for torture, extrajudicial killings and disappearances in the Central American nation, stating that his conduct was “highly egregious.”  This is the first case in which a Honduran military leader has been held liable for human rights abuses committed during the 1980s. López Grijalba was deported to back to Honduras in 2004, and the Attorney General of Honduras approached CJA in May 2006 to assist in a criminal prosecution of López Grijalba for human rights abuses based on evidence developed by CJA in our U.S. civil case.

As stated in a Miami Herald article on their testimony, Judge Lenard commended the Reyeses for coming forward.  ”You have spoken the truth,” Lenard told the couple when they finished testifying. “A painful truth . . . but it’s important for the world to hear what you have said, especially in this forum, and in the history of this great country of ours, the United States of America.”

For the Reyeses, the lawsuit is an important step on the road to recovery. As Oscar stated in an interview with the Washington Post: "I think it’s important for the world to know exactly what happened in that black period in our country and hold responsible the people who were in charge."