Hollman Morris's Nuremberg Award Speech

While receiving the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award, Morris asked president Santos to amend the victims of the DAS, and demanded from the guerillas to release all hostages.

September 25, 2011

Sunday September 25th 2011, by Camilo Segura, Juan Pablo Morris

After receiving the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award, journalist Hollman Morris, director of the program Contravia, gave an emotional speech at the city’s Opera House. More than 3,000 citizens of Nuremberg gathered in order to have lunch with him on “The Street of Human Rights”, by the National Germanic Museum, where they released balloons in honor of his work. This way, they expressed their solidarity with the victims in Colombia, as well as asking for the countries peace. Below you can read Hollman Morris’ complete speech, who quotes the musical group Calle 13:

Latin America, “people without legs, but who walk”.

He who speaks in front of you comes from a big neighborhood called Latin America. Mixed blood runs through my veins: Indigenous, European, and African as well. The genes of our people contain the memory of the tragedies, the suffering, dreams and hopes. To have a Latin memory is to know that one day we are immigrants jumping borders, unwanted visitors, prostitutes, exiles, missing. We know populist leaders and cruel dictators. But within our tradition we also have the never-ending capacity of solving problems, and creating in the middle of the crisis.

All the people in my neighborhood share the same problems, and the same hopes as well.

Let me tell you:

Today, in the South of the continent, a beautiful movement of Chilean university students is uprising to protest for more and better public education. Their slogan is valid in all of Latin America. In our continent a secondary education and public health access are not acquired rights, but merchandise that is traded like any other. The Chilean youngsters refused to be stripped from the little education they already have, or to have it’s cost increase. They were successful in stopping that reform.

If we go north, all the way to Mexico, we see a citizen movement rising against violence and drug-trafficcking, against the death lords, against corruption and bad government. Mexico today lives in the terror of the drug wars, while the government responds with more violence and takes advantage to persecute social leaders and cover up the corrupt.

But the “Caravans for Peace” that today cross the whole country, listening to the tales of the family members of the victims of murder and kidnapping, show that these victims are not isolated cases. They insist in remembering their friends and family, in recovering the memory, and bringing a message of peace.

Across the continent the indigenous movements remind us that not everything in this world can be bought, and that not everything in this world has a price. That people are not worth what they produce and consume. They remind us all the time, that in the roots of our original people, relations are defined by the “WE”, and not by the “ME”.

Today, while we are going through a new mining boom, our ancient people remind us of a story that is more than 500 years old: the conquistadors of “El Dorado”. El Dorado, that city of gold mentioned by our natives, that was frantically sought by the conquistadors in the times of the colony.

In their search, the conquistadors destroyed territories, killed indigenous people, and transformed relationships inside their communities forever. Today, that same “Dorado”, are the large deposits of Cupper in Chile, gas in Bolivia, carbon in Argentina, gold in Peru and Colombia, all sought by powerful companies with the same perseverance than five centuries ago.

However, unlike great indigenous leaders like Atahualpa, or the great Cacica Gaitana, the current bosses of our nations make it very easy for the big mining companies to exploit our resources. The madness in the search of the big Dorado continues. It is the source of a wave of human rights violations and the cause of more violence in the whole continent.

We will keep denouncing, but one more step needs to be taken. It can not be, for big companies to keep operating and taking advantage of serious social problems, of the fragility of the governments, and from the greed and democracy pose of some Latin American leaders.

A woman from a banana region in Colombia, where the multinational Chiquita Brand financed extreme right and leftist groups, support that ended up with the killing of thousands of farmers, said: “here, there is no banana tree that has not been fertilized by a dead body”. Quoting her, we might say that in Latin America there is no oil without blood stain, carbon not involved in the pollution of a swamp, gold that has not ended the life and resources of indigenous communities in this continent called Latin America.

However, our isolated struggle will not be enough. Just like with one of our biggest problems, drug trafficking, in the field of mining it is necessary to seriously assume the principle of co-responsibility. We can’t continue to pay for the social and environmental cost by ourselves, as well as for the cost in human lives associated with these struggles, while the first world countries do not implement politics with the purpose of controlling the demand for these products. We are willing to cooperate, but we need people outraged in the developed world, who question themselves about the origin and “how” of so many natural resources. We are tired of contributing with the dead for development.

Let me finish this trip along our continent by mentioning to worrying cases. In our indigenous Guatemala it is very possible that an ex-military man, with a past full of human rights violations, ends up elected president. In the meanwhile, in Honduras, we have an outraging number of murdered journalists; their current situation is very worrying.

And so, despite of certain improvements that we have seen in terms of democracy, when comparing our current situation to the one a few decades ago when the whole region was run by authoritarian governments, the road ahead in the defense of human rights is still very long. This must be a fundamental part of our agenda.

Now allow me to talk about my home in that neighborhood: Colombia, a country in which neither my Grandparents, my parents, myself, nor my children, have known one single day of peace. On the contrary, the tree of war has grown very strong, growing roots of hate. Producing unimaginable fruits of a barbarism that traps us, and grows stronger every day. There are four million domestic victims of forced displacement, humble farmers stripped off their land, fifty thousand missing, two thousand unionists murdered in the last decades, one hundred and seventy journalists murdered in thirty years. And I could continue with the numbers.

To continue with the demonstrations of greatness and dignity of our people, the civil society in Colombia gathers to talk about peace; an audacious posture in the middle of a centenary conflict. And precisely those communities, who have most suffered the assassination, forced displacement and disappearing, are the ones that nowadays take the initiative in order to find a negotiated way out to the conflict; the only possible way out.

Another great example that shows how in the face of adversity, Latin America does not give up; she rises and keeps moving forward.

In the last chapter of history written in Colombia, we have the previous government betting for war. A bet, that some say made the country safe again. However, other of us emphasize in how much it did cost us.

For example, the unlawful execution by military forces of more than two thousand poor youngsters; massive and arbitrary detentions, and a criminal persecution by the state’s own security forces against whoever dare to think different. My family and myself being victims of this hunt, just like more than three hundred people and their organizations. If this wasn’t enough, it was the ex-president himself who publicly disqualified us, knowing very well that this disqualification meant putting our life in danger.

There are many sad passages left after this persecution, but some of the most damaging and sickening was the labeling of every single one who talked about peace. As a consequence, a good portion of Colombian society continues to view the human rights defender, the peace advocate, the independent journalist, as an enemy of society, and not as what we really are: it’s ally.

This is why, today, from here, and with you as my witness, I ask the president of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos to call for a public act of amendment, in a gesture of greatness with the victims of this persecution by the state. It is necessary for the society to understand that in any country that claims to be democratic, human rights defenders are vital for their functioning.

I also take the opportunity from this stage, in the light of the Nuremberg tribunals that so much good have done to humanity, to make a calling, so the crimes organized from the state during the last government do not remain in impunity. In the case of espionage by the government security forces, the investigation has reached high levels, and we, the victims, do not believe in the lack of awareness by the ex-president Alvaro Uribe Velez regarding these facts.

Reality is harsh, but there are plenty of us Colombians who from diverse fronts work for a dignified and peaceful country. We are not naïve by thinking that peace is only about the silence of the guns, but we believe that peace is about structural reform; in the re-distribution of the countries wealth, of it’s land: in access to public health and education, and equal opportunity.

I demand from the guerrillas to cease the affliction of kidnapping, to release all the kidnapped now, and to send clear signs of a strong will for peace. I am not alone in this. I speak in the name of many who are the recipients of this distinction; those who are waiting for justice from the solitude of the graves of their loved ones or those from whom we never heard again; those who moaned in torture and are still moaning in the pain of their family members; those who lost everything due to terror and fear.

For me, this prize won’t be passive; on the contrary, I put it in the service of Colombia’s peace; for the freedom of expression and for human rights; in order to have more citizens able to express different points of view. We believe that better-informed citizens will be more independent, and freer. We believe in peace, and freedom of expression as fundamental rights of the men and women of the world.

I want to thank Nuremberg’s major Ulrich Maly, the office of human rights of the city of Nuremberg and it’s director Martina Mittenhuber, as well as Doris Gross, and all of those that have worked from the city hall in order to make this prize happen. I also thank you, because you have put your eyes in Latin America.

I want to thank my Contravia work team. We firmly believe that poverty and suffering have a face that society must get to know. We also believe that the voice of the victims needs to be heard stronger than the sound of the guns. It is the work of journalism to make sure that the voice of the weakest and poorest raises higher.

I also want to mention the hundreds of people that from Colombia and abroad have supported our journalism project, specially the Open Society Institute and it’s Media Program.

I have infinite gratitude for those who still believe that in our huge neighborhood, Latin America, not everything is lost. For our workers, students, farmers, and intellectuals, who show us day by day that Latin America is about “people without legs, but who walk”.

Finally I want to thank Patricia, my wife. Also my children Daniela and Felipe, who at their young age have been through very difficult moments. But they also know that working for the people, and fighting for a better world has its happy moments and recognitions.

There is still a long way ahead in order to leave them the world they deserve. A more humane world. This is what we are working for. I am going to finish my speech with a phrase that is already part of my country: “Because we have memory, we are still in Contravia”.

We carry on!

[Spanish original here: http://www.contravia.tv/Discurso-Pronunciado-por-Hollman ]