Nicaragua: Vilma Nuñez and Bishop Alvarez nominated for European Parliament Human Rights Prize

CENIDH / Ramírez 22 nic - Wikicommons

European Parliamentarians from different parties nominated human rights defender Vilma Nuñez de Escorcia and Bishop Rolando José Alvarez Lagos for the Sakharov Prize 2023. This nomination is a valuable recognition of the serious situation in Nicaragua and the efforts made by the Nicaraguan civil society for freedom in the country. Vilma Nuñez and Monseñor Rolando Alvarez have decided to remain in Nicaragua despite the risk to their lives and integrity. They are one of the most courageous symbols of the struggle for the defense of human rights in the country.

Paris, 20 September 2023. The life and courage of these two people are congruent with the cause they defend. As a student, Vilma Nuñez de Escorcia , fought against the Somoza dictatorship for which she was arrested. She was the first Nicaraguan woman to be appointed Magistrate Vice-President of the Supreme Court of Justice in 1979. She is co-founder of CENIDH, one of the most emblematic human rights organizations in the country, and has been its president for 33 years. The organization led numerous struggles for the advancement of freedom and democracy. In December 2018, CENIDH was arbitrarily deprived of its legal status and assets. Vilma is currently Deputy General Secretary of FIDH. Since the social outbreak of 2018, CENIDH has documented and denounced the severe repression and accompanied thousands of victims of human rights violations - assassinations, arbitrary detentions, persecution, torture - in documenting and advising them on their cases, and in seeking justice. On February 15, 2023, without any process, the regime declared her a "traitor to the homeland" and a fugitive from justice, stripped her of her nationality, her property, etc., leaving her stateless in her own country, subject to multiple violations of her human rights.

Since 2018, Bishop Rolando José Alvarez Lagos has been a victim of persecution for his homilies in which he reflects on the country’s crisis, state repression and victims of human rights violations. In August 2022, he was placed under house arrest. On February 9, 2023, the regime banished 222 political prisoners. José Alvarez refused to board the plane and was therefore transferred to prison. On February 10, without accusation or trial, he was arbitrarily sentenced to 26 years in prison and his nationality was withdrawn, among other penalties. Since that day he has been imprisoned, stateless, in one of the country’s torture centers and his physical and psychological condition is unknown, in flagrant violation of all his human rights.

The regime’s intention is to destroy civic and democratic space

At least 3338 civil society organizations have been shut down and practically all independent media and human rights organizations operate from abroad. There is a clear intention of the regime to destroy the civic and democratic space in Nicaragua. The official discourse that points to human rights defenders, the Catholic Church, journalists, students and the opposition as the internal enemy, clearly seeks to dissuade people from defending human rights, to frighten those who speak out against the Government and to subdue them into silence.

"The nomination of our dear Vilma Nuñez and Bishop Alvarez for the Sakharov Prize is an important and symbolic recognition by the European community of the sacrifice of these two people and of all human rights defenders who have had to go into exile, who have been detained, who are now stateless and who are in difficult conditions in Nicaragua," said Alice Mogwe, President of FIDH.

The Sakharov Prize is the European Union’s highest tribute to those who work in the field of human rights. It is the expression of recognition to individuals, groups and organizations for their outstanding contribution to the protection of freedom of conscience. Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Denis Mukwege or Nadia Murad, have been some of the winners. From the list of nominees, a winner of the Prize will be chosen in October.

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