x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Humanity in Honduras

Tragedies do not distinguish between good and bad or innocent and guilty.

Tragedy is great leveller. It does not distinguish between young or old; rich or poor; healthy or ill. Neither does it judge between good or bad.

On Tuesday, 358 prisoners perished when an overcrowded Honduran prison burnt down, the world's deadliest prison fire in over a century. Most of those detained in the Comayagua farm prison had not been convicted of a crime, or even charged. More than half were waiting for due process.

But the sadness felt by families of convicted criminals will be no less than for the innocent. The scenes of horror described by witnesses would not have differentiated between guilty and innocent. The fire was started by a lone inmate who had given prison wardens a warning minutes before, and when the blaze spread, many burnt to death in their cells or on the roof of the prison.

To be sure, the conditions in this prison were inhumane to start with, with no medical facilities and a budget of $1 per prisoner for food each day.

As with most tragedies, action will now being taken when it is too late. The president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, has suspended top prison officials. None of which will be of any consolation to the families and friends of the victims, both the guilty and innocent.