Wednesday, June 17, 2015
|May 25th Protest Against Corruption, Tegucigalpa|
|Photos of the “disappeared” at Cofadeh’s
office in Tegucigalpa
COFADEH (Committee of the Families of Disappeared Detainees) was founded in 1982 by families of people who were forcibly disappeared by military and paramilitary forces linked to the Honduran and Salvadoran military, the US supported “Contras” (a counter revolutionary paramilitary fighting against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua), and U.S. covert operations in the region. Honduras was used as a US military base against the Sandinistas and against the insurgency of the FMLN in El Salvador but was not officially at war itself. Nonetheless by the end of the conflict there were more than 200 persons documented to have been disappeared in Honduras. Among those disappeared are Tomas Nativi – the husband of COFADEH’s coordinator, Bertha Oliva, disappeared in 1982.
|Delegation member at El Reventon|
|El Hogar en Contra el Olvido – COFADEH|
|House of Terror
Blood spatters found
The most difficult part of the journey on the Ruta was visiting the “Casa de Terror” (Terror House) located not far from the cemetery on a property that was owned by a military officer and is now abandoned. This location has been visited by survivors of kidnapping and torture who confirmed that they were held there. Blood splatters that were identified by chemical testing are outlined in black marker. On the property there are two odd concrete structures— concrete boxes with concrete lids that have only a very small opening, resembling some kind of detention box.
|Delegation member at “Terror House”|
One group of survivors were young high school and university students, kidnapped by masked men thought to be part of the Honduran death squad military Battalion 316. The survivors tell the story of being held for 8 days, tortured with beatings and electricity, starved and terrorized. It is believed that they were eventually released rather than being murdered only because the father of two of the students was a highly placed official in the Honduran government – he was beaten by the death squad members when the students were kidnapped from his home, but the youth were finally released.It is unknown how many people were detained at the site, tortured and then murdered. The presence of the disappeared is not only felt from the victims of the 1980’s who have yet to find justice for their loved ones — new disappearances continue.
|Press Conference May 26th
photo by Defensores En Linea
Members of SITRAUNH from Tegucigalpa and the northern La Ceiba region attended the press conference in COFADEH’s office. They talked of the many conflicts with the university administration both regionally and at the national level, especially since the coup. The rector, Julieta Castellanos, is very close to President Juan Orlando Hernandez who recently arranged for a decision to change the government university rules so she could serve another term as rector.
The family does not know what exactly happened to Donatilo the day he disappeared. At first local university officials claimed that he had left work in his car, although no one identified him, which was found abandoned; later officials said that he was killed and that they have someone arrested, but with no details and without Donatilo’s body. Donatilo’s sister explained that after Donatilo’s disappearance, the university administration did not issue any statement, show any concern, investigate what happened or call for any investigation into his disappearance. When COFADEH accompanied the family to the site of his disappearance they were first denied access to search for him, then they were told they could enter but with a warning that it was unsafe which caused the team to decide not to search the extensive grounds of the campus. Donatilo’s family insist that they want a real investigation that uncovers the intellectual and well as material authors of any crime. The university authorities have not only been uncooperative but the highest level administration of the National Autonomous University has had a lawsuit for “slander and damages” filed against Donatilo’s sister and his wife for their public statements about Donatilo’s concerns before he disappeared.
|Gladys Lanza at C-Libre event|
The use of defamation charges is the latest weapon used by the government and oligarchy against human rights defenders, victims of abuses, and journalists. On Wednesday, May 27th, we attended an event held by the organization C-Libre, an advocate for protection of journalists and the freedom of expression, in which they presented their report on attacks against journalists for the year 2014 and also gave awards to human rights defender Gladys Lanza and journalist Gilberto Gálvez. Gladys Lanza is a member of the human rights organization VIsitación Padilla which focuses on women’s rights. She is currently facing time in jail after a prominent head of an NGO filed a defamation lawsuit against her after her organization took on the case of a woman former employee who accused him of sexual harassment and violation of her rights. Besides Gladys Lanza and the Jimenez family, at least two journalists also are facing these charges and the indigenous and environmental activist, Bertha Caceres of the Lenca indigenous organization COPINH has been threatened with similar legal action after she denounced the murder of a member of COPINH this spring.
They have a website Cofadeh and the electronic press site, Defensores En Linea
Unless otherwise noted, all photos by V. Cervantes