OAS General Assembly: Race and Equality to dialogue with civil society and experts on racial discrimination, gender-based violence and hemispheric security

OAS General Assembly: Race and Equality to dialogue with civil society and experts on racial discrimination, gender-based violence and hemispheric security

Washington D.C., June 14, 2024 – Ahead of the 54th session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race & Equality) is reaffirming its commitment to the defense of human rights in the region by holding three parallel events. The first event, the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination, which has been part of the institutional calendar since 2005, will bring together leaders from different countries for a dialogue on reparations and the main demands of the Afro-descendant, indigenous and LGBTI+ population. The second event will address the human rights crisis in Nicaragua and international financial support; and the third event, coordinated by the Latin American Human Rights Consortium, will bring together key actors from different countries to discuss human rights as a pillar of hemispheric security in the Americas. 

The OAS General Assembly will be held from June 26 to 28 at Conmebol, located in the city of Asuncion, Paraguay, under the theme “Integration and Security for the Sustainable Development of the Region”. For Raza e Igualdad, the OAS General Assembly is a space for broad dialogue and exchange of best practices of civil society in the region, as well as an opportunity to strengthen its demands by listening to delegations from Member States and its Secretariat. In this way, the parallel events achieve the purpose of effective political advocacy before this international human rights mechanism. 

Inter-American Forum against Discrimination

This year, the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination will be held on Tuesday, June 25, and will consist of four sections with the following themes: “The role of human rights protection systems in the reparation of different groups discriminated against in the region”; “Experiences of reparation in the region and its scope in relation to racialized, mobile or displaced groups, sexual, religious, linguistic, political minorities, among others”; “Reparation in the context of gender”; and, finally, the section “The ethnic population and the 54th Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly”.

The opening panel of the Forum will feature Gloria De Mees, OAS Rapporteur on the Rights of People of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination. In the following panels, leaders from the region will join the debate with information about their contexts and their struggles for reparations, restitution and guarantees of non-repetition. In addition, in the context of gender reparations, several activists will present and discuss the implications of the general recommendation of the Follow-up Mechanism of the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI) on Afro-descendant women. 

The annual Forum will also discuss the strengthening of the Afrodescendant Coalition of the Americas and the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI). 

To participate, register here: https://tinyurl.com/2fx7uc29  


International financial support to Nicaragua despite democratic and human rights crisis

On Tuesday afternoon, June 25, Raza e Igualdad will bring together experts from the OAS, academia and civil society to discuss the responsibility of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in relation to crimes against humanity and human rights violations in Nicaragua. It will also analyze the strategic relevance of these institutions in the use of human rights due diligence to address the negative impacts of their development projects. 

In a regime historically marked by systematic human rights violations, the continuity of international financial support brings to light several questions from civil society. From 2018 to the present, the authoritarian regime of Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo and their followers have carried out widespread and systematic attacks against the Nicaraguan civilian population in opposition for political reasons. Since 2021, the democratic and human rights crisis has significantly worsened. On February 9, 2023, 222 people were released from prison, then banished to the United States and arbitrarily stripped of their nationality and citizenship rights. Among the most vulnerable groups are human rights defenders, journalists, religious leaders, women, indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, and LGBTI+ people.

However, the abundant evidence of the democratic and human rights crisis in Nicaragua was not enough for the International Financial Institutions to decide to change their strategy towards the country, strengthen their human rights due diligence, or suspend and/or cancel the implementation of their projects in the country. In February 2024, the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank Group and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration supported 97 projects in the execution phase in Nicaragua, with the approval of US$5,082.43 million, according to information available on their websites. Of these, 57 projects were approved for a total of US$2,784.43 million, following the onset of the crisis in 2018.

To participate, register here: https://tinyurl.com/57r4b22m


Human Rights as a Pillar of Hemispheric Security in the Americas

The Latin American Human Rights Consortium – formed by Race & Equality, Freedom House and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) – will hold the event “Human Rights as a Pillar of Hemispheric Security in the Americas” on Wednesday, June 26. This event aims to highlight human rights violations in Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Venezuela as a driver of the debate on security in the region. In these countries with insecure and repressive contexts, inequalities are generated in terms of freedom and security with a differential effect on the most vulnerable groups, such as Afro-descendants, women, children, LGBTI+ population and people deprived of liberty for political reasons.

Thus, new concerns and challenges, including the political, social, economic, environmental and human rights situation of OAS Member States, have led this organization to redefine its understanding of hemispheric security. Thus, on October 28, 2003, the States of the Americas promulgated the “Declaration on Security in the Americas”, proposing a new concept of multidimensional security that recognizes that the objective of hemispheric security is the “protection of human beings”.

In its declaration, the OAS considered that “representative democracy is an indispensable condition for the stability, peace and development of the States of the Hemisphere” and that it is “the responsibility of the specialized forums of the OAS, as well as inter-American and international forums, to develop cooperation mechanisms to confront these new threats on the basis of the applicable instruments”. 

In this context, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, Pedro Vaca; the Deputy Director of the Program for Latin America and the Caribbean of Freedom House, Alejandra Argueta; the lawyer of the organization Cubalex, Alain Espinoza; the legal professional of the Legal Defense Unit of Nicaragua, Arlette Serrano; the Venezuelan journalist from Voces de la Memoria, Victor Navarro; and the co-founder of the association Tracoda (Transparency, Social Controllership, Open Data) from El Salvador, Luis Villatoro, will discuss strategies to strengthen the security and protection of the population and human rights defenders, among the current challenges faced by authoritarian regimes in the Americas. 

To participate, register here: https://tinyurl.com/537cdu3w  


More information about the events 

Inter-American Forum against Discrimination

Date and time: Tuesday, June 25, 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (Asunción and Washington D.C.) / 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (Brasilia time)

Location: Dazzler Hotel, Aviadores del Chaco avenue

Live broadcast via Zoom and Facebook Live @RaceandEquality

Registration: https://tinyurl.com/2fx7uc29  

Simultaneous interpretation in Spanish, Portuguese and English.


International financial support to Nicaragua despite democratic and human rights crisis

Date and time: Tuesday, June 25th, 5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. (Asuncion and Washington D.C.) / 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (Brasilia time)

Location: Dazzler Hotel, Avenida Aviadores del Chaco

Live broadcast via Zoom and Facebook Live @RaceandEquality

Registration: https://tinyurl.com/57r4b22m  

Simultaneous interpretation in Spanish, Portuguese and English.


Human Rights as a Pillar of Hemispheric Security in the Americas

Date and time: Wednesday, June 26th, 5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. (Asunción and Washington, D.C.) / 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (Brasilia time)

Location: Hotel Esplendor, Avenida Aviadores del Chaco

Live broadcast via Zoom and Facebook Live @RaceandEquality

Registration: https://tinyurl.com/537cdu3w 

Simultaneous interpretation in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

Mother’s Day in Nicaragua: The International Community Must Amplify its Cry for Justice

May 30th marks Mother’s Day in Nicaragua, a day that should represent happiness and peace, but in this Central American country it is marked by mourning and pain. We at the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race & Equality) recognize the tireless quest for justice of Nicaraguan mothers and renew our commitment to their struggle. We call on the international community to amplify their cries for truth, justice, reparation measures, and guarantees of non-repetition, and consider suing Nicaragua before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Since April 2018, at least 355 mothers have lost their children to state repression against the protests. Exactly six years ago, the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo unleashed a massacre on a peaceful demonstration entitled “the mother of all marches.” Its purpose was for the Nicaraguan people to express their solidarity with the at least 83 women who had lost their children during the first days of protests. During that mobilization, police and parapolice killed 19 more demonstrators.

“We will never forget ‘the mother of all marches.’ It was a day of mourning, a day to show respect and empathy to those who lost their children, but the dictatorship showed its cruelest face by shooting to kill. Ortega and Murillo turned this day into an atrocious massacre,” said Carlos Quesada, Executive Director and Founder of Race & Equality.

“The mothers of April have not been able to live their mourning in peace. They cannot even go to visit their children’s graves. However, in the midst of pain, persecution and exile imposed by the dictatorship, they continue occupying spaces of denunciation and preservation of historical memory. Their commitment to truth and justice remains a beacon of hope in the midst of the darkness imposed by the dictatorship. Their memory will never be forgotten, and their voices will never be silenced!” stated Christina Fetterhoff, Program Director of Race and Equality.

The mothers have organized peaceful marches and demonstrations to demand truth and accountability in their host countries. They have created the Museum of Memory against impunity “AMA Y NO OLVIDA” to honor and dignify their children, and to counter the government-driven discourse that “they were criminals.” This museum, unable to continue with its traveling exhibition in Nicaragua, has been temporarily installed in different cities in the United States, Europe and Latin America. 

In addition, the mothers have collaborated with human rights organizations to document cases of violations and abuses, providing valuable testimonies that help to build a historical record of the events. They have also taken their struggle to international bodies, participating in hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the United Nations Human Rights Council and other venues to raise awareness of the situation in Nicaragua and press for concrete action.

“We must remember that in Nicaraguan prisons there are women who are mothers with zero contact with their sons and daughters, for using their voice to defend Nicaragua’s freedom. Nor can we forget that the regime has banished dozens of women who have sons and daughters who are minors, and whose family reunification has been severely hindered and even impossible to achieve,” said Carlos Quesada.

According to the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners, as of April 15, 2024, at least 23 women were being held for political reasons in unhealthy detention centers, in conditions that are considered cruel and inhumane treatment and torture, and exposed to additional gender-based risks, such as harassment and sexual violence.

On the other hand, there are dozens of mothers and grandmothers in the group of 222 former political prisoners of the regime who were banished to the United States and in the list of 94 people declared “traitors to the homeland” in February 2023. These women lost their nationality, citizenship rights, and their records in Nicaragua, directly affecting the physical and emotional stability not only of themselves, but also of their sons and daughters. The Nicaraguan administration insists on denying passports and, in the case of minors, not issuing exit permits, making family reunification impossible. 

Among these mothers and grandmothers are women over 60 years of age and suffering from chronic illnesses. The regime not only took away their citizenship and freedom of movement, but also stripped them of their retirement pensions and thus their right to a dignified old age. 

On this Mother’s Day in Nicaragua, the international community must listen and support these brave women in their struggle for justice and peace.

Cuba and Nicaragua: countries where independent journalism is a crime

On World Press Freedom Day, we demand that Cuban and Nicaraguan authorities respect independent journalism, without resorting to violence and repression against those who practice this profession.

Washington D.C., May 3, 2024 – In the authoritarian regimes of Cuba and Nicaragua, independent journalism is punished with imprisonment, exile, arbitrary deprivation of nationality, confiscation of personal property, and media outlets. On World Press Freedom Day, commemorated today worldwide, and recognizing that freedom is an essential pillar for accountability and the proper functioning of public institutions, the Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) highlights the work of Cuban and Nicaraguan journalists, who tirelessly strive to bring visibility to the democratic and human rights crises in their countries and advocate for their people’s right to access truthful and diverse information.

Cuba: Arbitrary Detentions and Repression

In Cuba, “home arrests, summonses, and detentions of journalists and reporters continue to be one of the main tactics used by the government to intimidate them or as a way to inhibit independent and critical journalism,” according to Chapter IV.B of the 2023 annual report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

According to the report ‘Cuba: Resistance against Censorship,’ prepared by the organization Article 19, there were a total of 274 attacks against journalists and activists on the island last year. At least five journalists and reporters remain deprived of their liberty for political reasons, facing unjust charges for exercising their right to freedom of expression. These individuals are Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, Jorge Armando Bello, José Antonio López Piña, Jorge Fernández Era, and Luis Ángel Cuza.

The authoritarian Cuban regime has also increased restrictions and obstacles for the entry and exit of independent journalists from the territory. As of April 2024, journalists Reinaldo Escobar, Camila Acosta, Anais Remón, and Henry Constantín were banned from leaving the country.

Additionally, Cuban authorities have imposed a series of regulations severely limiting the exercise of press freedom and journalistic work in Cuba. Among these measures are mandatory military service for women wishing to study journalism, Decree 370 which suppresses free expression on the Internet, and the Social Communication Law, which regulates media content on the island and disregards independent press as a legal entity.

This grim picture of Cuba forces independent journalists to work under precarious conditions, facing constant threats and reprisals; however, their determination to shed light on injustices and defend the human rights of this country is unwavering.

Nicaragua: Between Clandestinity, Exile, and Self-Censorship

In the 2023 Annual Report of the IACHR, the organization and the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression (RELE) warned that “censorship and repression reached alarming levels” in Nicaragua.

Since the beginning of the socio-political and human rights crisis in April 2018, more than 250 journalists have been forced into exile, 56 media outlets have been shut down and their buildings confiscated, 22 journalists have been stripped of their nationality and their properties seized, and the murder of journalist Angel Gahona, who covered the start of peaceful demonstrations six years ago, remains unresolved.

In the past year, the Ortega Murillo regime has extended arbitrary detention for political reasons to journalists who weren’t even covering political topics. Such as the case of Víctor Ticay, arrested while covering a religious procession and sentenced to 8 years in prison for unproven charges of ‘spreading false news and conspiring to undermine national integrity.’

There are also reports of five journalists who were accused of the same false charges and detained for a few hours, as well as cases of 22 female journalists who have been victims of sexual harassment by police forces.

It’s worth noting that agents of the National Police, both uniformed and in plain clothes, are the main aggressors against press freedom in the country. Additionally, the regime employs the Directorate of Migration and Foreigners and the Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications for coercive purposes. The approval of repressive laws, such as the Special Law on Cybercrimes and the Sovereignty Law, has exacerbated the situation by granting the regime powers to prosecute and punish anyone who criticizes the government.

This repression has led to independent journalism being completely silenced in 5 out of Nicaragua’s 17 departments. However, Nicaraguan journalists work clandestinely and in exile, overcoming censorship and disseminating the truth about the crimes against humanity committed in Nicaragua.

For Race and Equality, World Press Freedom Day recalls the importance of the right to press freedom and expression in the functioning of a democratic society. We take this opportunity to call on the international community to defend these rights and work together to ensure that the voices of independent journalists are no longer silenced by the authoritarian regimes of Cuba and Nicaragua. We demand that the authorities of both states guarantee this right and allow for the development of independent journalism, without resorting to violence and repression against those involved in this profession.

Six Years of Crimes Against Humanity in Nicaragua: Justice Must Not Be Delayed Any Longer! 

Washington D.C., April 18, 2024 – On the sixth anniversary of the socio-political and human rights crisis in Nicaragua, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) urges international solidarity with the direct victims of repression and their families, who deserve truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-repetition. Race and Equality urgently calls on countries allied with the Nicaraguan people to apply universal justice mechanisms to investigate the individual criminal responsibilities of dictator Daniel Ortega, Vice President Rosario Murillo and other high-ranking officials perpetrators of crimes against humanity, as well as to sue Nicaragua before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“On this date we cannot stop thinking about the mothers of April, the families of political prisoners and the rest of the Nicaraguan people who have been clamoring for peace for six years. Peace can only come with truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-repetition for the victims of these atrocious crimes. The more time passes, the more difficult it will be to rebuild Nicaragua, Nicaragüita; therefore, countries friends of the Nicaraguan people: Justice must not be delayed any longer, let’s act, let’s seek mechanisms for accountability!“, urged Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality.

The atrocities committed by the dictatorial regime of Ortega and Murillo have left thousands of victims: At least 355 people murdered and more than 2000 protesters injured by state or para-state agents in the context of the 2018 protests; 317 people arbitrarily stripped of their nationality and citizenship rights, 200 journalists exiled; more than 240 people exiled, including Catholic religious figures; approximately 6.5% of the population in exile, seeking asylum or refuge; more than 3625 civil society organizations cancelled; and 121 people deprived of their liberty for political reasons, including women, elderly people, artists, political leaders and Indigenous forest rangers.

“Ortega and Murillo, with their intellectual accomplices and direct perpetrators, have managed to sow terror beyond Nicaragua’s borders with the implementation of statelessness; however, we see mothers of lethal victims, human rights defenders, journalists overcoming censorship, monitoring and advocating despite the risks and reprisals. Their resilience is impressive, let’s not leave them alone in the fight!” said Christina Fetterhoff, Program Director of Race and Equality.

The second report of the Group of Experts on Human Rights on Nicaragua identified high-ranking State officials as perpetrators of crimes against humanity. These include: Fidel Moreno; Public Secretary (FSLN), Municipality of Managua; Ana Julia Guido, Attorney General of the Republic; Maria Amelia Coronel Kinloch, Minister of the Interior; Luis Cañas Novoa, Vice Minister and Political Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior; Gustavo Porras, President of the National Assembly; Horacio Rocha, Ministerial advisor for security matters of the Presidency of Nicaragua; Alba Luz Ramos, presiding magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice; Marvin Aguilar, magistrate of the Supreme Court; Francisco Díaz, Director General of the Police Nacimiento; and Néstor Moncada Lau, security and intelligence advisor. The Group recommended that states strengthen sanctions against institutions and individuals identified for their involvement in the crimes.

Likewise, a group of British parliamentarians, following their recent investigation “The Nicaraguan Inquiry: The Silencing of Democracy in Nicaragua,” suggested that the States go to the ICJ to sue the dictatorship for violations of the conventions to prevent torture and statelessness, and to apply the mechanisms of universal justice to investigate individual criminal responsibilities for crimes against humanity.

“This year, justice must be a priority on the agendas of the allied states of the Nicaraguan people. From Race and Equality, we continue to accompany victims in reporting before the United Nations and the Inter-American Human Rights System, and to provide information to the Group of Experts for their investigations. To the victims we reaffirm that we are here to listen to them and echo their demands. To the international community and states we say: here you have an allied organization, we put our efforts at your disposal. Justice for Nicaragua! Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality.

Nicaraguan Regime Commits Crimes Against Humanity: International Cooperation Urged for Judicial Investigations

Geneva, 29 February, 2024. – Following the release of the second report by the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua (GHREN), which identifies President Daniel Ortega, Vice President Rosario Murillo, and other senior Nicaraguan state officials as perpetrators of crimes against humanity, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) calls on the international community to collaborate in judicial investigations and other actions before the Universal and Inter-American Systems. Race and Equality also urges for stronger support for GHREN to further its research and achieve real accountability, both at the state and personal levels.

For this latest report, the Group of Experts conducted 642 interviews with victims of state repression and delved deeper into violations and abuses targeting specific groups such as Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, students and academics, members of the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations, and members of the peasant movement. The GHREN concluded that the regime “is close to permanently wiping out organized critical voices” in Nicaragua.

The GHREN identified key state institutions and officials, as well as other individuals “directly responsible for documented violations and crimes.” These include Gustavo Porras, president of the National Assembly; Rafael Solís, former magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice, who has been exiled since his resignation in 2019, and stripped of his Nicaraguan nationality; Marvin Aguilar, Supreme Court Justice; Ana Julia Guido, Attorney General of the Republic; and Luis Cañas Novoa, Deputy Minister and Political Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior.

“Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have not been committing serious violations of the human rights of the Nicaraguan population for years, but for decades. We note as a major step forward that the Group has identified a structure and chains of command within the state, including trusted advisers who carry out repressive acts against dissenting voices from the regime. The international community must – urgently – take legal action and extend sanctions to institutions and individuals identified as perpetrators of crimes under international law,” said Carlos Quesada, Director of Race and Equality.

Moreover, through interviews with 72 political prisoners, the Group corroborated patterns of torture and ill-treatment, and methods of arbitrary detention detailed in the first report. These patterns include searches without warrants, communication restrictions with families and lawyers, and prolonged ignorance of their whereabouts. According to the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners, comprising of civil society organizations, there are currently 121 individuals (102 men and 19 women) imprisoned for political reasons in Nicaragua, with 111 cases stemming from the events of April 2018, including 12 Indigenous peoples. 

The GHREN also warned that some of the regime’s new persecution strategies “extend beyond Nicaragua’s borders.” These include arbitrary revocation of Nicaraguan nationality, lack of access to official documentation and consular support, the hindrance of family reunification, among others. GHREN documented 317 cases of individuals deprived of their nationality, 145 cases of Nicaraguans barred from entering the country, 21 expulsions of foreigners, 263 expulsions of Nicaraguans, among other human rights violations.

Furthermore, the GHREN briefly addressed the need for the findings of this report to be considered when evaluating governance issues in the supervision and use of resources of International Financial Institutions. The GHREN called on the international community to “condition Nicaragua’s preferential market access on the fulfillment of non-trade policy objectives and/or assess the human rights impact on trade relations with Nicaragua.”

In this regard, Marcelo Azambuja, Legal Officer of Race and Equality, argued that “respect for democracy and human rights are economically relevant and must be considered by the International Financial Institutions in their decisions and activities towards sustainable development in Nicaragua. It is imperative that these institutions formulate and implement, in collaboration with the Nicaraguan State, human rights due diligence policies to identify, prevent, address and remedy the potential and consummate negative impacts associated with their projects and/or resources. Imposing conditions is an effective mechanism to incentivize the end to the crisis and a return to democratic normality and respect for human rights.”

Finally, the GHREN noted that the return to democracy in Nicaragua and the recovery of all that was lost under the Ortega government will require a significant amount of time and resources. In this sense, Carlos Quesada emphasized that “justice cannot be delayed any longer. The international community, particularly the countries allied with the people of Nicaragua, must take prompt action.”


Violent End of the Year in Nicaragua: Maximum Alert Due to Unprecedented Raid Against Catholic Church Leaders

Washington D.C., December 31, 2023.- Just hours before the close of 2023, the Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) issues a maximum alert to the international community regarding the unprecedented raid, arbitrary detentions, and forced disappearances committed by the dictatorial regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo against members of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua. Race and Equality calls for international condemnation of the detention of at least 17 religious figures in the last days of 2023 and urges the international community to exert greater pressure to compel the Nicaraguan regime to respect human rights and be held accountable for the crimes against humanity committed.

“This year-end raid is just a glimpse of the terror experienced in Nicaragua, undoubtedly foreshadowing what the year 2024 holds for this nation. The regime respects no human rights, and religious freedom is no exception. We continue to monitor and report the crimes to the Universal System and the Inter-American System of Human Rights. However, we are aware that the gravity of the situation exceeds our efforts. The international community must act urgently,” said Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality.

The regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, unfoundedly, has labeled the Catholic Church as a “coup plotter” since the institution’s participation as a mediator in the negotiations of the National Dialogue table to seek peaceful solutions to the socio-political crisis that began in April 2018. The attacks on the Church have escalated in violence, attempting to instill terror in Nicaraguans who practice their faith and follow their religious leaders.

In February of this year, the regime released, deported to the United States, and stripped at least eight religious figures of Nicaraguan nationality, who had been arbitrarily detained for political reasons since 2022. The regime also isolated Bishop Rolando Álvarez Lagos in “La Modelo” prison, sentencing him to 26 years for false charges of conspiracy and spreading fake news, and stripping him of his nationality and citizenship rights.

Additionally, in 2023, the regime severed diplomatic relations with the Vatican, de facto “institutionalized” the prohibition of religious activities, established permanent surveillance in Catholic churches, closed and confiscated the Jesuit Central American University (UCA), incarcerated and deported 12 other priests to the Vatican, and continued its “scorched earth” strategy against civil society organizations, including religious institutions. It is estimated that at least 76 nuns and 151 priests have been deported, expelled, or prevented from entering Nicaragua.

The religious victims of this year-end raid include Bishop Isidoro Mora and seminarians Alester Sáenz and Tony Palacios from the Diocese of Siuna; Monsignors Carlos Avilés, Ismael Serrano, Silvio Fonseca, Miguel Mántica, Mykel Monterrey, Jader Hernández, Gerardo Rodríguez, Raúl Zamora, and Héctor Treminio from the Diocese of Managua; Ervin López, Monsignor Jaime Ramos, and Monsignor Marcos Díaz Prado from Chinandega; Fernando Calero from Matagalpa; Monsignor Pablo Villafranca from Masaya. Currently, their whereabouts are unknown, placing them in a situation of forced disappearance.

It is noteworthy that Father Jader Guido and Monsignor Óscar Escoto from the Diocese of Matagalpa were arbitrarily detained and later released. Both are under threatening police and paramilitary surveillance.

“At this year-end, we want to express our strongest condemnation but also our solidarity and wishes of hope and resilience to the Nicaraguan people, particularly the families of the victims of arbitrary detentions and other crimes committed by the dictatorship that remain in impunity. We recognize the work of human rights defenders, including those defending religious freedom, who are tireless in their efforts. In 2024, restoring democracy in Nicaragua must be a priority on our agendas. Let’s not forget Nicaragua!” concluded Christina Fetterhoff, Race and Equality’s Director of Programs.

Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo Will Not be Able to Evade Justice – Institutional Statement Regarding Nicaragua’s Exit from the OAS.

Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo Will Not be Able to Evade Justice.

Institutional Statement Regarding Nicaragua’s Exit from the OAS.

Washington D.C., November 17, 2023 – The dictatorial regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo will withdraw from the Organization of American States (OAS) on Sunday, November 19, 2023, demonstrating its intention to isolate itself while strengthening its ties with other autocratic regimes to maintain the police state and impunity that prevails in the country. From the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), we are certain that the Ortega and Murillo regime will not be able to avoid justice, as they must comply with the agreements voluntarily signed during their membership in the OAS and other international treaties to which the State is a signatory.

The Nicaraguan government notified its “unavoidable decision to denounce the Charter of the Organization of American States in accordance with its Article 143, which initiates Nicaragua’s definitive withdrawal and resignation from this Organization” on November 18, 2021, days after Daniel Ortega’s reelection for a fifth term and the OAS’s rejection of these elections as “not free, fair, transparent, and lacking democratic legitimacy.”

While Article 143 stipulates that two years after the denunciation, the Charter will cease to have effect for the denouncing state; other inter-American and international treaties to which the State of Nicaragua has voluntarily signed remain in force as avenues for accountability. Additionally, Nicaragua remains bound by the American Convention on Human Rights and must adhere to it.

“The Nicaraguan people are an example of resilience and constant struggle for democracy, but Nicaragua’s exit from the OAS is still a serious matter, as it weakens the functioning of the Inter-American Human Rights Protection System. Let’s remember that Ortega has committed crimes seen only in the worst dictatorships. We cannot leave them alone; this fight must be collective!” said Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality.

Currently, the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo holds 91 individuals in political detention, including a priest in total isolation and 17 imprisoned women exposed to gender-based risks, such as sexual violence. There are still 355 summary executions of protesters in total, more than 316 stateless individuals deprived of their citizenship rights, including 222 people who were political prisoners until February 9, 2023.

Comprehensive investigations by the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua (GHREN) reveal that, through the instrumentalization of the Executive, Legislative, Judicial, and Electoral branches, high government authorities have committed widespread and systematic violations and abuses for political reasons, constituting crimes against humanity.

“The international community already has information to initiate legal actions and extend sanctions to institutions and individuals involved in these international crimes. I make an urgent appeal to the international community, particularly to the states in the Latin American region genuinely committed to democracy, to take immediate action,” added Quesada.

The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) is committed to seeking a peaceful resolution to the sociopolitical and human rights crisis that has plagued the Nicaraguan people since 2018.

We continue to demand that the State of Nicaragua fulfill its international obligations regarding human rights and reestablish significant cooperation with the international community.

We will continue to monitor and document the abuses of the dictatorship and support organizations and victims of state repression in their complaints to regional and international human rights protection mechanisms.

We are aware that ongoing investigations will lead to the identification of the perpetrators of these serious human rights violations constituting crimes against humanity. Therefore, to combat impunity and pave the way for democracy, we offer the results of our monitoring and documentation work to international protection mechanisms.

The Nicaraguan people deserve justice! The victims deserve justice!

CEDAW Committee Calls on Nicaragua to Withdraw Its Denunciation of the OAS Charter and Adopt Measures to Protect Women and Girls

Washington D.C., October 31, 2023.-  Twenty days prior to Nicaragua’s withdrawal from the Organization of American States (OAS), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), in its Concluding Observations, urged the Nicaraguan authorities to retract their complaint against the Organization of American States Charter. The Committee also urged the State to engage in dialogue and take necessary measures to comply with its observations on the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls in the country.

During the review on 23 October, Ambassador Rosalía Concepción Bohórquez Palacios made a statement calling the Committee “biased” and departed from the review without providing information on budget allocations for the Ministry of Women, the adoption of a national gender equality policy, or measures to ensure that women – particularly those residing in the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean –  benefit from public programs to promote gender equality and eliminating discrimination. The State of Nicaragua has progressively withdrawn from international treaties and has broken commitments to international human rights treaty bodies by not actively participating in their revisions.

Repeal of Laws that Discriminate Against Women

Considering concerning reports spanning the last four years, which have documented 7,000 cases of attacks against women human rights defenders branded as “traitors” and “coup plotters,” as well as the non-implementation of protective measures issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in connection with 38 cases of women human rights defenders subjected to intimidation and reprisals, the Committee called on the State of Nicaragua to repeal all legislation that discriminates against women on the basis of their political opinions and their participation in political and public life. Among these laws are the Foreign Agents Law (Law 1040), the Special Law on Cybercrimes (Law 1042), and the Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace (Law 1055).

The Committee further pressed the State to immediately release the women detained for their dissenting political views and ensure the safeguarding of their right to life, liberty, and physical and psychological well-being during and after their release. As of 31 August, 16 women were deprived of their liberty for political reasons, according to the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners

According to the Committee, the State should adopt a plan of action for the reparation, rehabilitation, and compensation of these women. Additionally, the State should conduct investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of individuals responsible for acts of reprisal and assaults against the women human rights defenders and activists, even if the perpetrators are state agents.

Safe Return of Stateless Women Defenders

In its observations, the Committee also requests the repeal of Law 1145 or the “Special Law Regulating the Loss of Nicaraguan Nationality,” which provides that persons sentenced under Law 1055, the “Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace” will lose their Nicaraguan nationality and has left more than 317 persons stateless. This includes women political prisoners, renowned feminist and women’s rights defenders and activists, and journalists.

The Committee concluded that the State of Nicaragua should restore nationality in all instances where women have lost it for political reasons and implement measures to reduce cases of statelessness (1961) in accordance with Article 9 of the Convention, prevent statelessness, and formulate a plan to facilitate the secure return of Nicaraguan women desiring to come back to the country. 

Justice for Victims of Gender-Based Violence and Mothers of Victims of Repression

Between 2018 and 2021, the number of femicides rose to 57 cases, with 220 cases of attempted femicides. These statistics deeply concerned the Committee, which repeatedly highlighted the restrictive definition of femicide in the Penal Code as problematic, as it applies solely to murders of women within relationship contexts.

The Committee also expressed with concern the closure of the National Commission to Combat Violence and the lack of information on the number and enforcement of protection orders and victim support services, including shelter, psychosocial counselling, and rehabilitation for women survivors of violence.

In response, the Committee called on the State to: broaden the definition of femicide to encompass all gender-related murders; implement a national strategy for the prevention of all forms of gender-based violence against women; restore and strengthen the mandate of the National Commission to Combat Violence; and compile data on the prevalence of gender-based violence against women, disaggregated by age, victim-perpetrator ratios, and other socio-demographic characteristics.

The Committee also demanded that perpetrators of gender-based violence against human rights defenders, journalists, women detained during the 2018 protests, and mothers of fatal victims of protest-related repression be properly prosecuted and convicted. It emphasized the importance of providing adequate remedies, including reparations, to the victims.

Laws that Address Intersectional Forms of Discrimination

Furthermore, the Committee expressed concern about the intersecting forms of discrimination faced by Indigenous and Afro-descendant women in Nicaragua, who encounter limited access to education, employment, economic opportunities, healthcare, and participation in decision-making processes within the State. These challenges are compounded by a heightened risk of gender-based violence, including sexual violence and forced evictions of Indigenous women, particularly in territories such as the Bosawás Reserve and the Mayagna Sauni As Indigenous territory, which frequently experience incursions by non-Indigenous settlers.

In this regard, the Committee urged the State to develop legislation and policies addressing intersectional forms of discrimination against Indigenous and Afro-descendant women and girls. Additionally, it called for effective investigations, prosecutions, and penalties for crimes occurring in ancestral territories, along with the provision of appropriate remedies and reparations for victims. 

The Committee stressed the importance of ensuring that Indigenous women obtain land titles and collective control over the land, water, forests, fisheries, aquaculture, and other resources they have owned, occupied, used or acquired.


The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) reminds the State of Nicaragua that the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women entails the obligation to submit reports, participate in constructive dialogues with the CEDAW Committee and comply with the recommendations made by the Committee. Therefore, we urge the State to comply with the recommendations made and to establish communications with the Committee in favor of the protection of women and girls and halt the repression and violence against women defenders, activists, and journalists expressing dissenting opinions. 

Lastly, Race and Equality acknowledges the invaluable role played by Nicaraguan civil society organizations that, despite significant risks, continue to monitor and document the human rights situation of Nicaraguan women inside and outside the country. Their dedication and reporting significantly contributed to this review and the formulation of valuable Concluding Observations, which serve a roadmap for the State of Nicaragua to fulfill its obligations outlined in CEDAW.

CEDAW: Laws Enacted by the Nicaraguan State Threaten Women’s Lives

Washington D.C., October 24, 2023- In the review of the State of Nicaragua, experts from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), expressed their concern about laws that pose serious threats against women human rights defenders and activists, as well as the neglect of Indigenous and Afro-descendant women on the Caribbean Coast, in the context of the closure of civic and democratic space in the Central American country. 

At the beginning of the session, the representative of the State of Nicaragua, Rosalía Concepción Bohórquez Palacios, abandoned the exam in a disrespectful manner. She expressed “total rejection of the malicious, biased, partialized and malicious questions on the report presented by Nicaragua on May 2, 2019.” 

This is the fifth time that Nicaragua has failed to comply with its obligation to actively participate in the periodic reviews carried out by the United Nations treaty bodies for the promotion and defense of human rights in the signatory countries. The Chair of the Committee, Ana Peláez, regretted the State’s position, “however, the work that the Committee has and the obligations and responsibilities that they assume in relation to the States Parties, makes us continue to advance in today’s work.” 

Law 1055: The Law with the Most Effects on Women 

The Committee’s Rapporteur for Nicaragua, Leticia Bonifaz Alonzo, expressed her deep concern that in the Central American country “femicide is not an autonomous crime.” The reforms limit the definition of femicide to the murder of women in the context of a relationship. It is also a matter of concern that victim-aggressor mediation has been incorporated, which increases the risk of impunity and exposes victims to re-victimization and reprisals.

“The figures provided by non-governmental organizations show how violence against women has increased,” she added. 

She then recalled that, between 2020 and 2021, the State issued three laws with content contrary to international human rights instruments:  Law 1040, Law on Foreign Agents which, with the indication that “they have interference in internal affairs,” has made it impossible for non-governmental organizations to accompany, protect and empower Nicaraguan women,  as well as the deprivation of their patrimony and forced abandonment of the country.  Law 1042, known as the “Gag Law” because it violates the freedom of expression of women human rights defenders;  and Law 1055 “Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace,” has seriously affected the civil and political rights of women. According to the expert, Law 1055 is the law that has most affected women human rights defenders.

In addition, “there are particular patterns of aggression against women, such as arrests and theft of personal items and the disproportionate presence of members of the armed forces,” Bonifaz said.

Arbitrary Detentions and Statelessness, Latent Threats to Women Defenders

“Women’s participation has been restricted due to gender-based violence against women human rights defenders. Women defenders are under siege in the State party,” warned expert Marion Bethel. In the last four years, women’s rights organizations have documented approximately 7,000 cases of attacks against women human rights defenders.

In addition, women’s human rights defenders and activists who oppose the government face possible loss of nationality in retaliation, leaving them in a situation of statelessness, a condition that hinders the exercise of other rights such as health, education, decent employment and family life. 

“The State party (Nicaragua), through legislative amendments, has arbitrarily deprived some persons of their nationality, and this is contrary to international human rights law,” he told the Committee. 

According to alternative reports from 2023, around 222 people who are stateless are mothers and fathers of children who continue to live in Nicaragua. For the expert, this violation of fundamental rights puts them at greater risk of discrimination and “exacerbates the vulnerability of women and girls who may already be exposed to gender-based violence and human trafficking.” 

Indigenous and Afro-descendant Women in the Absence of Protection

“Violence against women in the autonomous regions along the North and South Caribbean Coast continues to increase, particularly in the case of indigenous women who have legal provisions and protection orders,” said expert Rangita de Silva de Alwis

In August 2021, two women were sexually abused in an attack related to a gold mining dispute in the Mayangna Sauni As territory.

Expert Bandana Rana emphasized the determined struggle of Afro-descendant women as they confront challenges related to the preservation and respect of the treaty that grants them the right to inhabit their ancestral lands, preserving their unique customs and resources. The expert lamented that the incursions of third parties in the Mosquitia have worsened the human rights situation of Afro-descendant women, since “violence is committed against women, girls and adolescents, which includes murders and forced displacement.” 

In relation to health on the Caribbean Coast, expert Dafna Hacker said that “there is a gap between the law and reality,” since in general terms, there is a lack of health services that impacts especially women “due to a high prevalence of malaria, fever, dengue, HIV/AIDS, as well as the remoteness of care centers and the high costs of transportation.”

On several occasions, the Chairperson of the Committee called on the State of Nicaragua to express its point of view on the issues. Nonetheless, an unsettling silence prevailed in all of them. 

Finally, the Chair expressed her deep disappointment and concern over the accusations made by the State in relation to the work of the Committee and its experts “which call into question the loyalty, honor, impartiality, true commitment, and full awareness that all the experts of this Committee make when they assume their responsibilities and duties”. Despite these insults, the President insisted that they are willing to “extend their hand” and “open the doors” to the State of Nicaragua.


The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) rejects the position of the State of Nicaragua, which disrespects the work of the Committee and the civil society organizations that exercise their legitimate right to participate in this process. Both with respect to the Committee and with respect to the organizations, the State refers in disqualifying and inappropriate terms, completely refusing to be held accountable for its actions and seeking to circumvent its international obligations towards women. 

This pattern of non-compliance by the State of Nicaragua with its international obligations in the area of women’s human rights undoubtedly requires a forceful response from the international community.


The committee will submit its concluding observations before the end of the current session. The concluding observations will be adopted at the 87th session in February 2024.

Lesbian Rebellions: advances and setbacks in the rights of lesbians

Washington, 13 October 2023.- The Day of Lesbian Feminist Rebellions in Latin America and the Caribbean is not a day created by the United Nations. Born in 2007, following an accord adopted at the 7th Meeting of Lesbian Feminists of Latin America and the Caribbean (ELFLAC), in which around 200 lesbian feminists from across the region participated, delegates chose October 13th to commemorate the first Regional Meeting of Lesbian Feminists of 1987 in Mexico, the first lesbian assembly with a public presence. [1]

Since then, several countries in the region have developed different political and cultural actions promoted by lesbian feminists in favor of visibility and against discrimination. Their advocacy has also brought about legislative and regulatory advances in human rights; however, there has been more progress in some countries than in others.

For example, in Nicaragua there are no laws that protect the LGBTI+ population, much less lesbians specifically. “It is difficult to think of setbacks with respect to lesbian rights in a country where there has almost never been progress,” says Nicaraguan activist Tania Irías, of the Grupo Lésbico Feminista Artemisa, a collective that has been providing spaces for reflection, acceptance, and non-discrimination to young lesbian women in Nicaragua since 2006.

For Irías, the greatest setbacks in the lesbian struggle are linked to the organizational disarticulation caused by “state repression and the establishment of a dictatorship that, as a repressive strategy, has undermined the process of articulation, demand, and visibility of lesbians as political bodies with rights”.

However, in this context of dictatorship, in the “allied” spaces, the struggle for lesbian rights is also usually relegated. “We are not a priority, and we are always being asked to leave the visible struggle to others,” explains Irías, who also assures that as a movement they are clear about the need to continue to occupy their spaces of visibility and to continue joining “with those who join us and making efforts, because it will be difficult for us we don’t,” Irías emphasizes.

In contrast, other countries have made significant progress in the recognition of LGBTI+ rights. In Cuba, for example, with the approval of the Family Code in 2022, several rights that favor lesbian couples were included, such as equal marriage, assisted reproduction, and adoption. On September 28 of this year, Decree 96, an action protocol that prevents and addresses harassment and discrimination for reasons of sexual orientation, gender identity, among others, in the workplace, also came into force. Despite this, in real life the changes are not so evident. “In Cuba, sexist and patriarchal thoughts and attitudes continue to hold sway, which is why lesbian women continue to be victims of hatred and discrimination. We are frowned upon in the street, we are offended and insulted,” says Irina León Valladares, Cuban activist and member of the Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR).

In the same vein, Annery Rivera Velasco, independent journalist, and Cuban activist mentioned that “the setbacks –that are more like the normal state of affairs—are social characteristics, as it is part of our sexist and patriarchal society.” Additionally, she said that in Cuba a lesbian movement does not exist due to disarticulation, since Cuban authorities criminalize people who work for the defense of human rights.

Colombia also has broad legal protections for lesbians. Its Constitutional Court has granted transcendental protections, one of them being the historic recognition of LGBTI+ people in the peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Likewise, the Constitutional Court ruled in 2016 in favor of same-sex marriage.

However, there is still much work to be done so that norms are translated into actions, especially “in relation to reproductive rights, the right to life due to the rise in corrective rape and lesbofeminicide. In addition, discrimination and/or harassment at work due to lesbian sexual orientation,” said Sami Arizabaleta, activist, and director of the Afrodescendent Foundation for Social and Sexual Diversities (Somos Identidad).

“As a lesbian movement we are politically influencing the updating of the LGBTQI policy, with recognition of intersectional lesbian contexts. The strategies are diverse from the regional and social contexts, but in general terms we are advancing in organizational strengthening, political advocacy from the enforceability of rights, denunciations, and dialogue for the adoption of measures,” shares Sami.

In the case of Peru, a country mired in a deep political, social, and institutional crisis, the illegitimacy of the government and the Congress of the Republic prevails. According to the last poll by the Institute of Peruvian Statistics (IEP), around 80% of the population demands the resignation of the president of the Republic, Dina Boluarte, the closure of Congress and new elections.

Both the legislative and executive branches of government have promoted initiatives against the rights of lesbians, LGBTI+ people, women, children, and adolescents. In addition, several congressional members have presented various bills seeking Peru’s withdrawal from the Pact of San José. “The rights of lesbians have been completely ignored by the current government of Dina Boluarte and the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations (MIMP),” says Gabriela Zavaleta, lesbian feminist activist and advocacy coordinator of Más Igualdad.

She also mentions that the Working Group for the Promotion of Lesbian Rights of the MIMP has been deactivated and that for more than 5 years the approval of the investigation on the situation of lesbian rights in Peru has been postponed. “Only civil society organizations are resisting this situation, promoting the national and international articulation of lesbian organizations, carrying out advocacy actions before the CEDAW Committee for a general recommendation on lesbian rights, systematizing the proposals and demands of the organizations, and making efforts to unite lesbian organizations in a regional agenda that serves as a tool for advocacy with the different States and relevant institutions”, she indicates.

In general, various countries in Latin America have achieved significant legislative advances in the recognition of LGBTI+ rights. However, much work remains to guarantee that these rights are fully recognized and respected.

In light of this, Race and Equality highlights some recommendations for States in order to protect the rights of lesbians.

  • Guarantee the right to family and civil rights for lesbians through legal recognition of lesbian mothers and diverse families.
  • Guarantee access to equal marriage and keep unrestricted respect for rights acquired abroad.
  • Develop mechanisms to avoid the criminalization of lesbian mothers in child custody proceedings.
  • Strengthen training programs for State officials in order to guarantee the dignified treatment of lesbians in public services.
  • Implement Comprehensive Sexual Education policies that guarantee respect for sexual diversity.
  • Record, document, and analyze violence against lesbians to formulate policies that respond to their needs.
  • Guarantee access to justice andnvestigate and punish discrimination and crimes committed against lesbians.
  • Promote the access of lesbians to political spaces and positions of power in order to guarantee the right to political participation without violence and the representation of identities.
  • Implement programs of attention and containment for cases of violence due to prejudice inside and outside the home.

[1] Ochy Curiel (2007). Un encuentro trascendente e histórico. Available at: https://rebelion.org/un-encuentro-trascendente-e-historico/

Join Our Efforts

Help empower individuals and communities to achieve structural changes in Latin America.