SOS Nicaragua Europa Campaign Shines Light on the Repression

Human rights defender Vilma Nuñez, and Bishop Rolando Alvarez.

They back the European Parliament joint nomination of Dr. Vilma Nuñez and Monsignor Rolando Jose Alvarez for the Sakharov Prize*

HAVANA TIMES – On September 20th, Tilly Metz member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Luxembourg and 42 other MEPs nominated Dr Vilma Nuñez and Monsignor Rolando Jose Alvarez from Nicaragua for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought – the European Parliament’s human rights prize.

The Sakharov Prize was: “Awarded for the first time in 1988 to Nelson Mandela and Anatoli Marchenko, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is the highest tribute paid by the European Union to human rights work. It gives recognition to individuals, groups and organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to protecting freedom of thought. Through the prize and its associated network, the EU assists laureates, who are supported and empowered in their efforts to defend their causes”.

Welcoming the joint nomination of Nuñez and Alvarez, SOS Nicaragua Europa, the network of civil society organizations of the Nicaraguan community in 14 countries in Europe, has launched a petition to urge MEPs to award the Sakharov Prize to them.  By doing so the European Union would not only be recognizing their tireless and intrepid defence of human rights,despite significant peril to themselves, but would also be acknowledging the longing of the Nicaraguan people to recuperate their right to freedom of conscience, thought and religion and all other human rights that have been brutally stripped away by the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship.

According to the International Federation of Human Rights, the joint nomination of Vilma Núñez and Rolando Álvarez “is a valuable recognition of the serious situation that exists in Nicaragua and the efforts made by Nicaraguan civil society for freedom in the country. Vilma Nuñez and 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 defence of human rights in the country.”

Similarly, in an interview with “Esta Semana” on September 24th, Spanish MEP Soraya Rodriguez stated that the joint nomination of Dr Vilma Nuñez and Bishop Rolando Alvarez lays bare the repression inflicted by the Ortega regime and is at the same time a display of support to the Nicaragua people.

Rodriguez lauded Vilma Nuñez’s resistance and dedication “to the struggle against dictatorship, in defense of the freedom of human rights” in the face of continued harassment by the Nicaraguan authorities and expressed her concern for Monsignor Alvarez’s wellbeing in prison, commenting that both “are a symbol of resistance against what is today and will be in the future one of the cruelest, most terrible dictatorships that Latin America has endured”.

Anyone of any nationality can sign the petition. The next round in the selection process is on October 12th and the European Parliament will make the final decision on whom to award the Sakharov Prize on October 19.

Those wishing to add their names to this petition can do so by clicking here:

Additionally, citizens of EU countries, can write to their MEP and ask them to support the candidacy of Dr Vilma Nuñez de Escorcia and Monsignor Rolando Jose Alvarez from Nicaragua for the Sakharov Prize. MEPs’ email addresses can be found here: Full list MEPs European Parliament and a copy can be sent to Tilly Metz MEP Luxembourg, [email protected], who is the MEP leading the campaign within the European Parliament for the Sakharov Prize to be awarded to Nuñez and Alvarez.   

Background information

Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, when a student opposed the Somoza dictatorship for which she was arrested. She was the first Nicaraguan woman appointed Vice-President of the Supreme Court in 1979. She is co-founder and has been president of CENIDH for 33 years, one of the most emblematic human rights organizations in the country, which has 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 the International Federation for Human Rights Deputy Secretary.

Since the protests of 2018, CENIDH has documented and denounced the serious repression and accompanied thousands of victims of human rights violations – murders, arbitrary detentions, persecution, torture – in the documentation and advice of their cases, and in the search for justice. On February 15, 2023, without any trial, the regime declared Nuñez 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.

Bishop Rolando Jose Alvarez Lagos, since 2018, has been a victim of persecution for prompting in his homilies reflection on the country’s crisis, state repression and on the victims of human rights violations. In August 2022, he was arbitrarily placed under house arrest. On February 9, 2023, the regime banished 222 political prisoners. Monsignor Álvarez refused to board the plane and was therefore transferred to prison. On February 10th, without charge 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, and held isolated in one of the country’s maximum security punishment cells, and his physical and psychological welfare is unknown, in flagrant violation of all his human rights.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.