Anexa Alfred: “My Banishment Was a Message to the UN”
“I was asked to send a message to the UN,” says the defender of indigenous rights. In July she will be one year after being prevented from returning to Nicaragua.
HAVANA TIMES – Indigenous activist Anexa Alfred Cunningham, a member of the UN Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People, will complete one year in July of having been banished from her country, without any justification, by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
Alfred concludes that her banishment “was a message” from the dictatorship to the “UN, to the Human Rights Council and the international community, because of their narrative, that they are sovereign and independent.”
At the end of March 2022, the Human Rights Council decided to establish a group of three human rights experts on Nicaragua (GHREN) appointed by the then president of the Human Rights Council, Federico Villegas, who also named Alfred to be part of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Ortega regime rejected the resolution that gave way to the creation of the Group of Experts and refused to receive them in the country. However, in April of this year, the GHREN’s mandate was renewed for two more years.
“During that same year the Group of Experts on Human Rights in Nicaragua was created. I was asked to send a message to the UN,” said Alfred.
Anexa also believes that through her banishment “they began to send a message to the indigenous and Afro-descendant communities because I do have a leadership in the communities. It is a message that Ortega sent to the communities and leaders who have been working, not so much on political issues, but in documenting and denouncing the situation being experienced in the Caribbean Coast region,” she stated.
The banishment order
As part of her mission, in the framework of the mandate granted by the UN Human Rights Council for the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Alfred travelled from Managua to Geneva on June 28, 2022.
The sessions were for one week, but some other activities were scheduled. The trip was scheduled for ten days, she would return to Nicaragua on July 9, 2022.
She explained that at the end of the activities she took a flight on the Amsterdam-Mexico-Nicaragua route. However, while in Amsterdam when she was about to take the flight to Mexico, “an airline employee told me that the Nicaraguan government would not authorize my entry into the country,” she recalled.
Alfred, who was shocked by the news, immediately told the Human Rights Council Office, which contacted the airline to confirm the information and were told the same thing.
The activist explained that there were other communications through diplomatic channels, because as an expert, “I have diplomatic immunities before the states and they must be respected,” however, the regime has ignored all communication attempts to date.”
Villegas labeled the banishment as “an act of reprisal”
Faced with the regime’s unwillingness to allow her return to Nicaragua, two months later, on September 28, 2022, the then president of the Human Rights Council, Federico Villegas, made a public appeal to the Ortega regime and condemned the situation as “an act of reprisal” that is unprecedented in the history of the Human Rights Council.
“I regret having to raise before this Council an unacceptable situation involving a member of the Experts Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People, Mrs. Anexa Alfred Cunnigham whom we have here present in the room. Mrs. Cunnigham, a Nicaraguan national, in July travelled from Nicaragua to Geneva on her first special mission to participate in the fifteenth session of the Experts Mechanism. After the session, Mrs. Cunningham was prevented from boarding her flight back to her country, Nicaragua,” denounced Villegas.
“It is a situation that has never been seen before that a State would deny entry to a person who collaborates with United Nations mechanisms,” commented Alfred.
Alfred does not forgo returning to Nicaragua
Anexa Alfred Cunnigham is currently in Geneva, Switzerland, where she has been able to be reunited with her two minor children, 8 and 14 years old, who have dual nationality, Nicaraguan and United States.
She made the decision to seek political asylum in Switzerland, to “give stability to my children,” however, it was never my intention to remain outside Nicaragua. To this date, I have not forgone returning to Nicaragua,” she said.
Likewise, she expressed that “in the midst of all the negative that this difficult situation may be, I have the opportunity to continue speaking for my people, for the situation of Nicaragua, additionally I have the obligation and the moral commitment with the indigenous people.”
The regime has prevented the entry into the country of dozens of Nicaraguans, including opponents, activists, academics, priests, among other. Last February, the dictatorship released and expelled from the country 222 political prisoners, who were later stripped of their nationality.
The most recent public case is that of the indigenous deputy, Brooklyn Rivera, who last April was denied entry to the country by the dictatorship. However, the leader of the Yatama party defied them by entering Nicaraguan territory by other routes.