COFADEH marks its 29th anniversary with a mixture of tears and pride

On 30 November, COFADEH (the Committee for Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras) marked its 29th anniversary with an event at the National Library.  The Honduras Accompaniment Project, which accompanies COFADEH, was present.  During the event, there was a presentation of the annual report of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). The report, which devotes a whole section to Honduras, expresses particular concern at the risks faced in their work by the country’s campesino and environmental human rights defenders, as well as those defending the rights of sexual minorities[1]. Sandra Zambrano of APUVIMEH (Association for a Better Life – Honduras) spoke about the persecution of the latter group, which has increased alarmingly since the June 2009 coup d’état.  She herself has been the victim of surveillance by armed men and, following the murder of her colleague, Walther Tróchez, in December 2009, several members of APUVIMEH, defenders of LGBTI rights, were forced to leave the country.  Javier Acevedo, of the Commission of Truth (Comisión de Verdad) [2], which is also mentioned in the report, described the numerous acts of harassment targeting the Commission and its employees, including surveillance and threats directed at them and their families.  He stated that that this persecution only made the  Commission all the more determined to fulfil its task.

Bertha Oliva, COFADEH’s General Coordinator, whose husband, Tomás Nativí, was disappeared in 1981 while she was pregnant, received the 2010 Human Rights Tulip Award from the Dutch government for her tireless struggle on behalf of the disappeared in Honduras.  She spoke of the organization’s achievements throughout these 29 years, stating that the biggest victory is that, after so long, COFADEH is still continuing its human rights work.  She stressed the importance of reporting attacks and human rights violations, and regarded one of the organization’s successes to be that of making known the names of the perpetrators of disappearances, as a way of combating impunity.  However, one of the major defeats of these 29 years, according to Bertha Oliva, is that, to date, none of those responsible has been tried and imprisoned.  Several relatives expressed their deep anguish at seeing the history of the 1980s repeat itself, with the resurgence of disappearances since the coup[3].  Some of the family members of the most recent victims were present at the event and, through their tears, spoke of their pain and anxiety, but also of their gratitude to COFADEH for all its help, emotional as well as practical.  Because of this, despite the tears, this event was a celebration – a celebration of solidarity and mutual support, of the memory of the victims, and of the courage and perseverance of their relatives who continue to seek justice for them.


[1] 2011 Annual Report, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders: http://www.omct.org/files/2011/10/21443/obs_2011_uk_ameriques.pdf
[3] During 2010-2011 COFADEH has documented at least 17 forced disappearances, in addition to the 184 cases recorded in the 1980’s and the beginning of the 1990’s.  Eye witness accounts indicate that police officers from the DNIC (National Directorate for Criminal Investigation) are responsible for 10 of the 2010-2011 cases.  See COFADEH’s web site (in Spanish only): http://www.defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1731:agentes-de-investigacion-y-policias-han-sido-responsables-de-desapariciones-forzadas-en-los-ultimos-5-anos&catid=37:mem-y-imp&Itemid=150

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