COFADEH celebrates 30th anniversary; symbolically presenting 4 cases before the ICC

4 EMBLEMATIC CASES

Just two weeks after celebrating its 30th anniversary the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) announced (link in Spanish) their intention to present four cases of human rights violations before the International Criminal Court  (ICC). According to a December 14th press release these cases are emblematic of the impunity of human rights offenders in Honduras as well as of the influence of United States hegemonic hemispheric security policy.

Ebed Yanes's father (link in Spanish). The 15-year-old was killed by the Honduran military. The case is one of 4 to be presented to the ICC.

Ebed Yanes‘s father (link in Spanish). The 15-year-old was killed by the Honduran military. The case is one of 4 to be presented to the ICC.

The four emblematic cases COFADEH will present to the ICC are symptomatic of a system of impunity in which the U.S. government has a heavy hand. Each of the cases point to U.S. involvement in rights violations and impunity for the perpetrators. In the Ahuás case, the role of U.S. DEA agents in the May 2012 massacre of indigenous villagers is addressed. Preliminary conclusions released in annex to COFADEH’s press release on December 14 state, “In the Ahuás case evidence threw light on direct intervention of U.S. agents in favor of the killers and in the interruption of criminal process.” They also highlighted the militarization of the country as a direct result of U.S. influence and a direct cause of human rights abuses in Honduras.

HISTORIC MEMORY

COFADEH is recognized as one of the foremost authorities on human rights in Honduras. Founded in the 1980s in response to the massive detentions and disappearances of that decade, the organization has grown from a small group of women demanding justice for their loved ones into a leading organizational force in the field of human rights. Members of COFADEH are regularly threatened for their work. COFADEH as an organization has been granted protective measures by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. Most recently, journalist Dina Meza reported threats she received on November 19, 2012. These follow threats made against her in April, which were denounced by international human rights organizations including Amnesty International.

COFADEH declared 2012, the year of their 30th anniversary, to be the “Year Against Impunity.” In commemoration, the organization raised a monument on August 30th, the International Day of the Disappeared, at the site of an unmarked grave exhumed in 1995 5 kilometers outside the city of Danlí. Days after the dedication, the monument was riddled with bullets and 50 days after its installation it was disappeared. COFADEH General Coordinator, Bertha Oliva denounced this attack on the memory of the disappeared at the organization’s 30th anniversary celebration.

First shots fired into COFADEH's monument to memory (photo credit COFADEH)

First shots fired into COFADEH’s monument to memory (photo credit COFADEH)

COFADEH celebrated its anniversary on November 30, 2012 with a discussion forum in the morning followed by a concert the same evening. The forum,  “Historic Memory and Impunity,” began with presentations by Lisa Sullivan (SOA Watch), Bertha Oliva (COFADEH), Ludivina Hernandez (COFADEH), and Oscar Aníbal Puerto (Honduran Institute for Rural Development, IHDER). During his address Mr. Puerto said, “We are celebrating the anniversary of the moral reserve of this country.” Lisa Sullivan underscored the role of the U.S. in Honduras and shared a symbolic story from her plane ride into Tegucigalpa when a Honduran man fainted and three North American doctors came to his aid. She noted that instead of stealing his wallet and his shoes in his defenseless state, they assisted the man and helped to revive him. “That’s how relations between our countries should be,” Sullivan said.  Bertha Oliva stressed the importance of memory to ensure that history does not repeat itself. COFADEH’s anniversary was also celebrated in London where COFADEH lawyer Kenia Oliva was visiting at the time.

Banner at COFADEH’s 30th anniversary celebration: "30 years of memory demanding justice"

Banner at COFADEH’s 30th anniversary celebration: “30 years of memory demanding justice”

The overwhelming message received from those present was one of gratitude.  COFADEH’s struggle will continue, according to journalist Marvin Palacio (link in Spanish), “with its memory, informing past and present acts, working for justice, communicating and articulating voices against forgetting.”

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