Human rights campaigners from Honduras who spent years tirelessly fighting for the rights of relatives of the victims of forced disappearances between 1979 and 1989 in the Central American nation have been awarded with this year’s Emilio F. Mignone International Human Rights Prize.
The Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras, COFADEH) was founded in 1982 by the relatives of individuals who disappeared at the hands of state military forces. Veteran rights campaigner Bertha Oliva, one of the group’s co-founders, was in Buenos Aires on Thursday to receive the award on behalf of the NGO.
Speaking during an award ceremony at the Palacio San Martín honouring COFADEH, Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero hailed the work of the group, drawing parallels between their work and that of human rights organisations in Argentina in the wake of the country’s brutal 1976-1983 military dictatorship.
“For our country, democracy is synonymous with human rights, they go hand-in-hand, and Argentine foreign policy has a pillar, which is the unrestricted defence of these rights, always,” said Cafiero.
“Thanks to fighters like Emilio, Bertha, the Mothers and Grandmothers [of Plaza de Mayo] and other organisations, last year Argentina obtained an important recognition, which was to have presided over the United Nations Human Rights Council for the first time,” he added.
"We are awarding a prize to an institution that fights against all forms of forgetfulness and impunity, that vindicates democratic institutions and social peace, and warns about the current situation of our Latin American region, our democracies and the challenges that persist.”
Adopting a more political tone, which was echoed in a preceding speech delivered by Human Rights Secretary Horacio Pietragalla Corti, Cafiero slammed “new fascisms” he said were appearing across the region, as well as “new anti-democratic right-wing movements that question human dignity and life.”
“It is in this context that we must be united and raise our voices,” he concluded.
Also in attendance at the event was the leader of Madres de Plaza de Mayo – Línea Fundadora, Taty Almeida; the executive director of the CELS human rights group, Paula Litvachky; and, on behalf of the Mignone family, Isabel Mignone.
The prize is inspired by the work of Emilio F. Mignone, one of Argentina's most influential defenders of human rights and a founding member of the Centro de Estudio Legales y Sociales (CELS). It recognises the work of foreign institutions and individuals residing abroad who promote and protect human rights. A total of 122 organisations and individuals from various countries in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe were nominated for the 2022 prize, with CONFADEH selected as the ultimate recipient.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Emilio Mignone who, following the disappearance of his daughter at the hands of the military junta, dedicated his life to finding her and defending human rights.