Assertion: "Legal guarantees exist against arbitrary arrest or imprisonment, and against torture or degrading treatment. Habeas corpus is guaranteed by the Constitution, and Honduran law provides for arraignment within 24 hours of arrest. This appears to be the standard practice."

-- State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1982

Fact: "The court got so many petitions of habeas corpus. But whenever we sent them to the police, the police would say they did not have the prisoners," Rumaldo Iries Calix, a justice of the Supreme Court in 1982, said in an interview with The Sun. "They had moved the prisoners to some secret jail. It was like a game to them."

The experience of Zenaida Velasquez was typical. Her brother, Manfredo, a 35-year-old graduate student, teacher and political activist, was abducted by Battalion 316 on Sept. 12, 1981, and has not been seen since.

Zenaida Velasquez filed habeas corpus petitions on her brother's behalf on Sept. 17, 1981, Feb. 6, 1982, and July 4, 1983, asking that he be brought before a court and his detention justified.

"It didn't do any good at all," she said.

Assertion: "There have been reports in the press and by local sources of the use of torture by local police forces during interrogation. Honduran officials assert that it is a common practice for persons held in connection with politically motivated crimes to allege that they were tortured during the investigation and interrogation process."

"The Honduran armed forces chief, Gustavo Alvarez, recently issued a public statement denying that the government used torture and specifically stated that torture was not to be used on prisoners."

-- State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1982

Fact: Alvarez had made it clear to Ambassador Negroponte's predecessor, Jack Binns, that he intended to use Argentine-style, "extra-legal" means to eliminate suspected subversives. Battalion 316 was created largely for this purpose.

According to Florencio Caballero, a former sergeant in Battalion 316, Alvarez demanded torture as "the quickest way to get information."

In one highly publicized case of torture and intimidation, human rights attorney Rene Velasquez (no relation to Manfredo) was arrested on June 1, 1982, in front of his law office in Tegucigalpa and taken to a secret jail where he was kept for four days.

"They undressed me, they tied my hands and they put a rubber mask over my face," he said. "They put something on me to attract flies, because those were my companions for four days.

"I was beaten a lot," Rene Velasquez said. "They hit me in the ribs and stomach. ... I could barely endure the pain."

Assertion: "Access to prisoners is generally not a problem for relatives, attorneys, consular officers or international humanitarian organizations."

-- State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1982

Fact: Not only were they denied access, dozens of relatives of the "disappeared" told The Sun, but police would not even tell them if or where their relatives were being held.

Fidelina Perez and Natalia Mendez visited every police station in Tegucigalpa after finding out that their sons, who were student leaders, had been arrested on a bus as it crossed the border from Nicaragua on Jan. 24, 1982.

Their sons have not been seen since and are presumed dead.

"[The police] all said they had no information. They had not seen them," Perez said. "The police told us to go and look for them in Cuba or Nicaragua."