The Torture and Disappearance of Manfredo Velasquez

In 1981, 35-year-old Manfredo Velásquez was married with four children.  He worked as a primary school teacher while studying economics as a graduate student in Tegucigalpa. He also served as a leader of a socialist national student union.

On September 12, 1981, Velásquez was abducted from a street in downtown Tegucigalpa by seven heavily armed men in civilian clothes, two of whom were identified by witnesses as Sgt. José Isaías Vilorio and Lt. Flores Murillo. Velásquez was pushed into an unmarked white Ford and was never seen by his family and friends again.

A few days after the abduction, members of the Velásquez family filed a habeas corpus petition and eventually sought aid from the U.S. Embassy. None of their efforts succeeded in locating Manfredo.

According to sworn testimony, Manfredo Velásquez was transported by his abductors to a secret detention center, where he was tortured. A fellow detainee named Leopoldo Aguilar is believed to be the last person to speak with Manfredo Velásquez.

In a sworn deposition, Aguilar stated that he was detained in September 1981 and taken to the DNI headquarters in Tegucigalpa, over which Lopez Grijalba exercised command and control. Later, Aguilar was transported by a man whom he knew to be a DNI agent, to a house some distance away. At that house, Aguilar was tortured.

One day, Aguilar heard a man’s voice call out from an adjacent room. Although Aguilar could not see this man, he heard him say, in a pained voice, "Help me, fellow. My name is Manfredo Velásquez."  At some later date, Manfredo Velásquez was murdered on the orders of the director of the DNI, Colonel Lopez Grijalba.

When the family of Manfredo Velásquez inquired about his whereabouts, the Armed Forces denied all knowledge of his disappearance.  CJA client Zenaida Velásquez personally met with Colonel Lopez Grijalba, who denied having any knowledge of Manfredo Velásquez.  Lopez Grijalba promised to investigate his whereabouts, but never initiated any investigation.

On Oct. 7, 1981, the family of Manfredo Velásquez submitted a petition against the state of Honduras to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a body of the Organization of American States.  In 1986, the commission referred the Velásquez case and several other forced disappearances cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

In July 1988, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found Honduras responsible for Velásquez’s disappearance.