Bertha Oliva was recently honored with the Tulipan of Human Rights 2010 award, a recognition created in 2008 by the Dutch government to reward people who, at the international level, have distinguished themselves in this important area. The award was presented on December 10 during a ceremony in the city of The Hague.
Bertha’s story begins in the 80s. Years of hard revolutionary struggle against dictatorships throughout Central America and the “pseudo-democracies” funded by the U.S. Honduras was part of this history of violence. In those years, Bertha, three months pregnant, suffered the disappearance of her husband Thomas Nativí. His body never reappeared. He founded the COFADEH (Committee of Relatives of Detained and Disappeared in Honduras) and began working for the respect of human rights, defending the victims of violence and terror.
After the coup of June 28, 2009, the COFADEH and other national organizations gave rise to the Platform for Human Rights, in order to document and report many cases of violations against the people of Honduras. On the first anniversary of the coup, installed the Platform Committee of the Truth (QoL), a body that would have the task of clarifying what happened before, during and after the coup, denouncing the perpetrators of that crime.
The Association NO MORE! had the opportunity to interview Bertha Oliva on the human rights situation in the country.
– What is the human rights situation in Honduras after the coup?
“I want to be optimistic and always will be, but that optimism will not let me say that the situation has improved. Rather, the military coup d’etat was a clear setback. The authorities have taken the decision to raid the public and hide their violations with lies.
How can we think that the situation could change if the people who planned and legalized the coup are still in power? How can we trust that the guilty be convicted and to stop human rights violation if the prosecution, the Supreme Court, the same Congress in the hands of those who supported the coup and legalized the coup? How, therefore, to redress the situation?
Our task is to return the country to the institutions and we must remain optimistic, believing that is possible. Without optimism, we would feel defeated and here in COFADEH we do not allow ourselves to feel defeated. Defeated never!
– How is COFADEH working to rebalance the situation?
“It’s important to start a job training and support to FNRP (National Front for Popular Resistance) to provide greater security for their members.
For example, learning to identify the infiltrators, not be an easy target for the repressive forces of the State, to prepare documentation and reports, we are able to recognize when a case of violation of human rights occurs. The institutions have a strategy to erase all evidence. Falsify evidence and present political killings as common crimes. Additionally, we are condemning many cases before the International System of Protection of Human Rights. We must bomb information to the structures that are responsible for defending human rights worldwide.
We must involve them and overcome the obstacles imposed on us by the government, such as the recent approval of the Terrorism Act, which seeks to discredit and punish members of social and popular organizations that do not share the government’s policy. COFADEH is one of these organizations that are endangered, but all we do is to oppose a government and a system that steals people’s lives. Suffer threats, harassment, smear campaigns.
We request the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) precautionary measures for many people, but the state never applied, never respected them. And this is indication that there is no respect for anyone. Rather there is an attitude of defiance towards these international bodies like never seen in the past. Now the Commission passed these cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights based in Costa Rica.
– How has the Court reacted?
The court’s sanctions are directed at states, not individuals, therefore we are always citizens who pay the consequences. Somehow, these instances help to strengthen that unfair system.
– How is the work of the Truth Commission?
“Last November 23, 2010 we informed the High Commissioner for Human Rights on what is happening in Honduras. There is a clear strategy that aims to stop us. The coordinator and members of the Commission were threatened. Family members of the Commission went into hiding and the parents of some staff were assaulted and threatened. They had to leave their homes.
Unknown perpetrators broke into the homes of other employees, stole important documents and smeared the walls with blood. Shots were fired outside their homes, harass them to frighten them. Some of them were attacked and beaten. We reached a point where I said that we could not continue, but they asked me to move on and we’re doing this, because we have faith in our struggle.
– What is the relationship between COFADEH and FNRP?
“I was present when FNRP emerged after the coup and participated in initial meetings. Later, as coordinator of COFADEH, I thought it was not convenient to stay in the structure of the Resistance because I could lose objectivity in my work. We no longer participate in the meetings, but provide all possible support to its members in the area in which we work. If you ask me where my heart is, I reply that with the FNRP. But if you ask me where is my duty, I reply that is with the COFADEH.
– Besides the optimism of which I spoke What motivates her to keep going? Are not you afraid of being murdered?
“I lost my fear. I have an unshakeable faith in what I do and do not lie. My strength is the truth. I could live in peace. I have a family that loves me and that I need, but they know I’m doing the right thing. I will never stop and I know the truth is precisely what is missing in my country. Sooner or later they will sprout again and that day the balance in Honduras will return. Until you stop the manipulation of truth, COFADEH will be here. We are strong and they did not expect that. They did not expect that we could expose them. That the historical memory, the memory of injuries and loss of life from the past make us even stronger. They have the power of guns and money. We have the truth and that is why we have been unable to defeat us.
It happened in the 80’s, when the only power we had was the truth. When they said there was no missing persons, that our husbands were in Cuba or Nicaragua.
They told me that my husband was in the Soviet Union and already had another family. I asked them to give me a plane ticket to go find out. Only this way I managed to stop their lies. It was a terrible situation.
– Worse than now?
“It was more difficult. In the 80’s there was almost no talk of human rights. We had to multiply the information, fighting the U.S. policy that contributed to the demise of our loved ones. That’s why the people want a reworking of the country, a new constitution. The people no longer believe in this state, these institutions have earned and deserve the scorn of the people.
SOURCE: http://www.lavocedinomas.org/tools/News.asp?r=612&a=5660&s=8436&l=49546&t=5&v=3529 (original Italian) – (Spanish)