By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — American officials on Wednesday deplored the killing of a Honduran teenager by soldiers trained, vetted, and equipped by the U.S. government.
The Honduran military chased down and killed 15-year-old Ebed Yanes the night of May 26 after he drove through a military checkpoint. His father, Wilfredo Yanes, uncovered a high-level cover-up, including new information leaked this week that the unit in question previously had U.S. support.
“The incident with Ebed Yanes was a tragedy, and we urge the Honduran government to assure the perpetrators are brought to justice,” said State Department spokesperson William Ostick.
Not long after the May incident, U.S. Ambassador Lisa Kubiske discussed the case with the Honduran special prosecutor for human rights, as well as the country’s armed forces. U.S. officials “encouraged them to investigate the case fully,” Ostick said.
The Associated Press reported that the United States had vetted the unit before providing it with the Ford F-350 truck that it used to chase the teen from the checkpoint. By law, all foreign units must undergo a vetting process before receiving any U.S. military assistance equipment, or training.
By all accounts, Ebed was an obedient son who never ventured out after dark, but on the night he died, he was trying to meet a girl he had befriended on Facebook. He never found her.
Ebed’s body was found dead by 1:30 a.m., slumped over his father’s motorcycle, which he used to travel to meet his new friend. He had a bullet to the back of his head.
His father, Wilfredo Yanes, vowed not to let Ebed’s death be in vain.
“I’m not only reacting to the impotence that my son’s death made me feel,” he said. “I can’t allow for rights to be violated, and even less if it’s my family’s right to life.”
A witness told Yanes he saw at least half a dozen masked soldiers in dark uniforms approach a body, poke it with their rifles, pick up empty bullet casings, and return to their unusually large pickup truck. The next day, Yanes picked up the casings the soldiers failed to retrieve.
The military initially said Ebed brought this situation on himself.
“Everyone who does not stop at a military checkpoint is involved in something,” the army chief, Rene Osorio, told the press. One soldier, however, later told his own family that he was forced to lie about the shooting.
Within three weeks, three soldiers were under arrest, one of whom faced murder charges.
U.S. officials said Ebed’s death will not lead to withholding of funds from Honduras because that was already triggered earlier this year after reports that a national police chief had ties to death squads. Instead, it has called the U.S. support for current Honduran police and military into greater question.
For further information, please see:
ABC News — US Deplores Murder of Honduran Teen by Military — 15 November 2012
The New York Times — Killing of Honduran Teenager Could Jeopardize U.S. Aid — 15 November 2012
Terra — EEUU Alarmado por Uso de Ayuda Militar en Honduras — 15 November 2012
The Republic — A Father Crusades to Get Justice for Slain Teenage Son–and Fix a Profoundly Broken Honduras — 12 November 2012