Human rights violations of people arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for political motives in Nicaragua

Human rights violations of people arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for political motives in Nicaragua

The Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) prepared this policy paper with the aim of analyzing the situation of people who were deprived of their liberty since May 2021 in Nicaragua, and the strategies that the Nicaraguan state has used to criminalize them. Likewise, this report presents a proposal of guidelines to determine in which cases there is a situation of arbitrary deprivation of liberty for political reasons, and a brief overview of the approach and role of international human rights bodies to contribute to the enforced protection required by people who are arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for political reasons.

Since 2018, the authoritarian Ortega and Murillo regime has resorted, in a systemic and generalized manner, to the detention and arbitrary deprivation of liberty for political motives. In the last quarter of 2020, the regime perfected its mechanisms with the approval of a series of laws to restrict the civic space and the advocacy capacity of non-governmental organizations (NGO); however, according to information gathered, it was until May 2021 that, in the pre-elections context, the regime initiated a new wave of repression characterized by arbitrarily detaining those who projected themselves as potential candidates to the presidency of the Republic, and by using these laws to criminalize them.

Subsequently, this wave of detentions extended to other sectors of the population such as: journalists, representatives of the private sector, human rights defenders, rural and farmer leaders, and political leaders; and in February 2023 more than 235 people were deprived of their liberty for political reasons in detention centers in Nicaragua, in conditions that constituted ill-treatment, torture, and crimes against humanity. Out of that number, at least 30 were women who suffered violations and different impacts based on gender, among which are: prolonged isolation in cells which are completely sealed, the denial of visits and letters from their sons and daughters, among others. 

On February 9, 2023, 222 of the people who were deprived of their liberty were released and presented with the dilemma of having to choose between prison or exile to the United States. Yet, violations against their human rights did not end there; subsequently these people were stripped of their Nicaraguan nationality and civil rights perpetually, and arbitrary detentions have not ceased.

For Race and Equality it is of special importance that all these people are recognized as persons arbitrarily deprived of liberty for political reasons, when they have been criminalized under vague and imprecise laws that make it impossible to invoke any legal base that justifies the deprivation of liberty; for the exercise of rights or freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; for discrimination based on political opinions; and/or with total or partial non-observance of international norms related to the right to a fair trial is of such seriousness that it confers the deprivation of liberty arbitrary in nature. These are the four applicable categories of the five categories that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGDA) uses to determine the arbitrariness of detentions in United Nations member countries, confirming the existence of this pattern in Nicaragua.

The profound level of cruelty from the regime against political prisoners is also worrying.  President Ortega has insulted and discredited them publicly on repeated occasions; they were kept in a situation of enforced disappearance for a long period of time; and the conditions of deprivation of liberty were and continue to be much more severe than those of common prisoners.

 Race and Equality found that the most frequently charged crimes between May 2021 and February 2023 were treason, conspiracy to undermine national integrity, and spreading misinformation.

Finally, Race and Equality concluded that the Nicaraguan regime has committed systematic and widespread violations of human rights that include crimes against humanity towards a specific group of civil society. These crimes remain in absolute impunity and therefore establishing a mechanism to investigate, judge, and sanction all those responsible is urgent.


Based on what was previously presented in this policy paper, Race and Equality formulated a series of key recommendations for the Nicaraguan State, the mechanisms of protection of human rights, and the States. The purpose of these recommendations is to guide strategic litigation in favor of the release of those arbitrarily deprived of liberty for political reasons, as well as to promote the adoption of reparation and non-repetition measures, and advocacy in favor of the recognition of their vulnerable situation.

 To the State of Nicaragua, which has obligations under international law to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights, we recommend:

  • Abandon the pattern of arbitrary arrests.
  • Immediately release the more than 64 people who are still deprived of their liberty (numbers updated June 19th, according to the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners)
  • Investigate those responsible for human rights violations towards those arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for political reasons.
  • Implement the recommendations resulting from the review of the status of compliance with the obligations of the Committee Against Torture, Human Rights Committee, the Universal Periodic Review carried out by Nicaragua in 2019, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and other United Nations Special Procedures.
  • Take into consideration the measures at their reach to eliminate arbitrary imprisonment for political reasons and adopt indispensable guarantees to prevent these events from happening again.
  • Close legal cases against people arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for political reasons, proceeding to eliminate criminal records.
  • Guarantee justice and reparation for people who are arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for political reasons, recognizing publicly that those deprived of their liberty for political reasons suffered unjust imprisonment for exercising their right to freedom of expression and universally recognized human rights.
  • Abolish the Special Law Regulating the Loss of Nicaraguan Nationality and the initiative for a Law to reform Article 21 of the Political Constitution of Nicaragua, approved in the first legislature, which expresses that those who commit treason lose their Nicaraguan nationality.

To the human rights protection mechanisms, which monitor and cooperate with the fulfillment of the obligations and commitments accepted by the States, derived from treaties and other international human rights instruments, we recommend:

  • Continue demanding the immediate release of the more than 64 people who are still arbitrarily deprived of their liberty (numbers updated June 19th, according to the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners)
  • Recognize as torture the treatment people arbitrarily deprived of liberty for political received (and some continue receiving) while they remained in state custody.
  • Recognize as crimes against humanity the events described in this report, in particular, the arbitrary detention for political reasons, temporary forced disappearance, acts of torture, and forced disappearance that political prisoners were subjected to by the State of Nicaragua.
  • Advance quickly in the cases and individual petitions that have been presented before the different bodies, in order to establish the State of Nicaragua’s international responsibility and advance in the victims’ fundamental reparation, including the establishment of guarantees of non-repetition.

To the states, by virtue of the collective guarantee of human rights, we recommend:

  • Generate strategies to require Nicaragua to comply with its international obligations.
  • Develop mechanisms to protect the exiled political prisoners of Nicaragua, including granting nationality to those who are stateless.

Inter-American Forum against Discrimination celebrated the 10th anniversary of CIRDI and CIDI within the framework of the OAS General Assembly

Washington D.C., June 20, 2023 – The Inter-American Forum against Discrimination, an annual event organized by the International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality), took place during the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). It brought together representatives from the governments of the United States and Brazil, as well as experts and Afro-descendant, indigenous, and LGBTI+ leaders from the region, for an effective dialogue on racial discrimination in the Americas.

This year, the Forum’s theme was the “Tenth Anniversary of the Adoption of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance (CIDI),” which was held at the iconic National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington D.C.

Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality, highlighted in his welcome speech that the CIRDI is a Convention that broadly addresses racial discrimination, serving not only Afro-descendant peoples but also indigenous peoples and Romani communities.

The first panel, “The Historical Debt: State Responsibility towards the CIRDI and the CIDI,” featured the participation of Joy-Dee Davis Lake, Counselor Minister of the OAS Embassy and Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda. In her remarks, the Minister emphasized the importance of building a better world for diversity, free from discrimination, where every individual can fulfill their full potential. This panel also included Luz Elena Baños Rivas, Ambassador of the OAS Permanent Mission in Mexico, who could not attend in person but sent her message calling for commitment and strengthening of the CIRDI to OAS Member States.

Moderated by Carlos Quesada, the second panel, “International Efforts to Combat Racial and Ethnic Discrimination,” featured the contributions of Margarette May Macaulay, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH); Desirée Cormier-Smith, Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice (SRREJ) of the U.S. Department of State, and Symmy Larrat, National Secretary for LGBTQIA+ Rights of the Ministry of Human Rights and Citizenship of Brazil.

“It is necessary to pay attention to racial representation in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) and in the United Nations Secretariat. Additionally, I call on government ministers and political parties to reflect on their resistance and inaction regarding the approval of the CIRDI by OAS Member States,” stated Margarette May Macaulay.

“We must commit to keeping the window of racial and social justice open. It is our responsibility to prevent this window from closing,” emphasized Desirée Cormier-Smith, urging all Afro-descendant individuals to empower themselves and influence their governments to build an antiracist democracy.

In her speech, Symmy Larrat celebrated the reestablishment of the LGBTI Popular Participation Council and announced the creation of a Working Group on ‘Memory and Truth,’ which will include experts and members of civil society to implement public policies addressing the historical reparation of the LGBTI population. “It is a challenge to strengthen LGBTI social movements with such a conservative congress. We won the elections, but we didn’t win the fascist wave,” she said.

Afro-descendant and indigenous leaders from civil society in Latin America shared their experiences in the panel titled Regional Experiences: Inclusion as a Tool to Strengthen Diverse Voices.” Moderated by Cecilia Ramírez, Executive Director of the Center for the Development of Afro-Peruvian Women (CEDEMUNEP), the dialogue included participants such as Maurício Yek’uana, Director of Hutukara Yanomami Association, who drew attention to the advance of drug trafficking in the countries bordering Yanomami indigenous lands in Brazil. “In addition to the miners we have been denouncing for years, criminal factions are arriving, and the government’s action is still insufficient to contain the invaders in the region,” stated Maurício Yek’uana. Adailton Moreira, Babalorixá Ilê Axé Omiojuarô, denounced religious racism and the State’s consent due to the lack of public policies that could curb violence against African-origin religions.

Representing the LGBTI agenda, the panel included Sandra Milena Arizabaleta, Legal Representative of the Afro-descendant Foundation for Social and Sexual Diversity (SOMOS IDENTIDAD) from Colombia, and Yader de los Ángeles Parajón Gutiérrez, an LGBT activist and member of the Mothers of April Association and the Unamos Party from Nicaragua.

Education and political will for anti-fascism are necessary for real inclusion. Authorities must bridge the gap between activism and the government,” expressed Sandra Milena Arizabaleta.

Yader de los Ángeles Parajón concluded, “Nicaragua owes a debt to gender identity. The violence generated by the dictatorship permeates all levels and remains silent. Many activists are persecuted. In this system, they no longer live, but they survive.” The panel also featured Wendy Geraldina López Rosales, an indigenous Guatemalan member and lawyer of the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA), and Cuban activist Jorge Luis García Pérez, who called for an effective alliance for the rights of their peoples.

The Guatemalan state issues arrest warrants against indigenous peoples, criminalizing them and subjecting them to inhumane treatment. They treat us as invaders, but no one can be an invader of land that historically belongs to them,” warned Wendy López.

I am a former political prisoner of Castro’s regime. My family is also a victim of fierce persecution because we are Black, because we are opponents. The dictatorship does not tolerate any form of faith either,” said Jorge Luis García Pérez, pointing out that religious persecution based on racial discrimination also exists in Cuba.

The last panel, “Coalition of Afro-descendants of the Americas and the 53rd Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly,” moderated by Elvia Duque, Senior Officer of the Race and Equality Program on Race and Ethnicity, provided the audience with a deeper understanding of the 53rd OAS General Assembly. It featured Paulina Corominas, Director of the Office of Civil Society of the Department of International Relations of the OAS, and Rosa Castro from the Association of Women of the Oaxaca Coast and Coordinator of the Afro-descendant Coalition of the Americas at the 53rd OAS General Assembly.

Paulina Corominas explained that there are 34 thematic coalitions formed within the 53rd OAS General Assembly, and on June 21, a dialogue would take place between OAS representatives and civil society. Rosa Castro highlighted some of the demands of the Afro-descendant Coalition of the Americas, which include a high-level meeting for the 10th anniversary of the CIRDI and an agenda that considers a fund for Afro-descendants.

Based on the diverse voices that resonated with the different realities and contexts of Afro-descendant, indigenous, and LGBTI peoples in Latin America, Race and Equality issued a call for unity in the Americas in the fight against racism and racial discrimination. With the CIRDI as the motto for an effective plan for its implementation by all OAS Member States by 2024, the alliance continues to support and empower civil society organizations to occupy these strategic spaces such as the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination.

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At OAS Assembly: Race and Equality to Commemorate 10th Anniversary of CIRDI and Denounce Human Rights Violations in Cuba and Religious Persecution in Nicaragua

Washington D.C., June 14, 2023 – On the occasion of the 53rd session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) will hold three parallel events. In the first event, the organization will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (CIRDI) and promote its signature, ratification and implementation. The second event will denounce human rights violations in Cuba; and the third will demand that the Nicaraguan regime cease the persecution of religious leaders and release all persons deprived of their liberty for political reasons.

The OAS General Assembly will be held June 21-23, 2023 at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., under the theme “strengthening a culture of democratic accountability with promotion, protection and equality of human rights in the Americas.” In this sense, the Race and Equality events aim to encourage OAS Member States to take action to combat impunity, promote inclusive and sustainable peace and a democratic transition in the region.

Inter-American Forum Against Discrimination: Tenth Anniversary of CIRDI and CIDI

Race and Equality, as part of its ongoing advocacy work on behalf of the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, will bring together renowned representatives of the OAS and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the governments of the United States and Brazil, and civil society leaders from Latin America at the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination: “Tenth Anniversary of the Adoption of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance (CIDI)” on June 20, 2023.

The Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) was approved by the OAS General Assembly on June 5, 2013, after thirteen years of advocacy by Race and Equality and other ethnic civil society organizations. This is an instrument that consolidates the commitment of States to the total eradication of these scourges; however, of the 35 member States of the OAS, only 6 States are party to CIRDI, only 7 have signed it, and 29 have not signed, ratified, or implemented it.

In this sense, the Forum will be divided into thematic panels on the historical debt and the responsibility of the States before the CIRDI and CIDI treaties, international efforts to combat racial and ethnic discrimination, and towards LGBTI+ people; as well as the participation of civil society leaders, regional experiences, and inclusion as a tool to strengthen diverse voices. Finally, there will be a dialogue on the coalition of Afro-descendants of the Americas and the 53rd regular session of the OAS General Assembly.

Cuba: At Pen Point

In order to continue denouncing the serious human rights violations in Cuba, particularly the cases of harassment against activists and human rights defenders, Race and Equality invites you on June 20 to the art exhibition “At Pen Point,” an exhibition co-organized with the platform El Toque, which brings together a selection of 20 cartoons and vignettes by Cuban artists who traverse with humor, nonchalance, and wit several transcendental socio-political events of recent years on the island.

In Cuba, as of May 31, there were 1,880 people deprived of liberty for political reasons, according to the 11J Justice working group, which has also documented that 773 people continue to be imprisoned for having participated in the peaceful protests of July 2021, the most massive in the last decade. Parallel to these human rights violations, there are already 38 cases of femicides on the island, a figure that exceeds the annual record for the year 2022. 

In this regard, the opening of “At Pen Point” will be accompanied by a discussion entitled ‘Graphic humor, art, and satire in the face of social protests and the human rights crisis in Cuba’, with the participation of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, Pedro Vaca; the editor of El Toque, José Nieves; the Cuban visual artist and columnist, Camila Lobón; and the Cuban independent journalist, Orelvys Cabrera.

Nicaragua’s Crisis: A Threat to Democracy Throughout the Region

Finally, to reflect on Nicaragua’s deepening socio-political and human rights crisis and how this country is setting a standard for democratic setbacks in the region, Race and Equality – in coordination with the Legal Defense Unit (UDJ) – will hold the event “Nicaragua’s Crisis: A Threat to Democracy Throughout the Region” on June 22.

Five years after the start of the peaceful protests of April 2018, 355 murders of protesters continue in impunity, more than 47 people remain deprived of liberty for political reasons in Nicaraguan prisons, at least 2,090 people have been arbitrarily detained, more than 320 people have been stripped of their nationality, and the repression is at a stage characterized by the persecution and criminalization of the Catholic Church and restrictions on religious freedom.

Given this context, in the first part of the event, legal experts will discuss the repressive patterns against people considered opponents and against the Church; and in the second part, victims of the regime and representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will discuss arbitrary imprisonment for political reasons and other reprisals against those who exercise their fundamental freedoms.

*** More information about the events ***

Inter-American Forum against Discrimination

Date: Tuesday, June 20, at 9:00 am

Venue: National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Washington D.C.

Live: via Zoom and Facebook Live 

On-site registration here

Simultaneous translation in Spanish, Portuguese and English. 

Cuba: At Pen Point

Date: Tuesday, June 20, at 6:30 pm

Venue: National Press Club, Washington D.C.

Live Broadcast: Zoom and Facebook Live 

On-site registration here (R.S.V.P.)

Simultaneous translation in Spanish and English. 

Nicaragua’s Crisis: A Threat to Democracy Throughout the Region

Date: Thursday, June 22, at 5:30 pm.

Venue: National Press Club, Washington D.C.

Live Broadcast: Zoom and Facebook Live 

On-site registration here (R.S.V.P.)

Simultaneous translation in Spanish and English.

Day against LGBTI+phobia: Celebrating advancements and achievements in Human Rights

Washington D.C., May 17, 2023 – Since 2004, every May 17th serves as a reminder that the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), a significant step towards the depathologization of LGBTI+ identities. Therefore, on this International Day Against LGBTI+phobia, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) commemorates the right to live free from violence, with dignity, celebrating who we are, and the achievements made by LGBTI+ persons in favor of human rights.

The struggle for equality and human rights for LGBTI+ persons has achieved significant advancements in many parts of the world, and it is important to recognize the efforts and relentless advocacy behind these achievements. From Race and Equality, we highlight some of the accomplishments from the past year in the region.

In Colombia, the Truth Commission (CEV) incorporated a gender perspective to analyze the disproportionate impact of the armed conflict on the lives of LGBTI+ persons. This serves as an important reference for other Latin American countries that have experienced similar armed conflicts but did not adequately consider the rights of LGBTI+ persons in their peace processes. Such advancements provide a starting point to clarify patterns of violence and subsequently advocate for state recognition, reparation, and accountability measures for perpetrators.

Furthermore, the Constitutional Court ordered the National Registry to include a non-binary category in identification documents. Thanks to the initiative and fight of Dani García, who requested a new document in 2019 with an “indeterminate” sex marker. The Court also instructed the Congress to regulate the rights, services, and obligations to ensure that non-binary individuals can access them. 

In Peru, for the first time, the State apologized to a transgender woman, Azul Rojas, and recognized international responsibility for violating her rights in 2008. This comes after two years of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruling on the first case of torture due to discrimination against an LGBTI+ person in the region.

Another historic ruling from the IACHR was the recent achievement in the case of Crissthian Olivera vs. Peru, the first complaint of discrimination based on sexual orientation in the country before this international body. Both judgments by the IACHR held the Peruvian state responsible and ordered comprehensive reparations for the victims, along with a series of measures to promote equality and non-discrimination in the country.

In Brazil, the National Secretariat for LGBTQIA+ Rights was created by the government, and for the first time, a transgender person, Symmy Larrat, assumed the position. Additionally, Benny Briolly became the first transgender person to receive precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Benny Briolly, a black transgender councilwoman, received these measures due to being in a situation of gravity and urgency, at risk of irreparable harm to her rights based on her gender identity, her work in politics, and as a human rights defender.

In Nicaragua, despite an authoritarian regime and a context of censorship, civil society created and maintains the Observatory of Human Rights Violations against LGBTI+ Persons. These organizations play a fundamental role in promoting equality and visibility for the LGBTI+ community in the country.

In Cuba, the Family Code was approved, legalizing same-sex marriage and the possibility for same-sex couples to adopt.

It is crucial that we continue to promote diversity and respect for gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression, and sexual characteristics of LGBTI+ persons, and continue celebrating the achievements of civil society in favor of human rights.

To continue contributing to the recognition of LGBTI+ persons and their rights, it is urgent for states to develop measures aimed at:

  • Decriminalizing same sex relationships;
  • Enacting laws that prohibit discrimination;
  • Penalizing hate crimes committed against LGBTI+ persons;
  • Granting recognition to transgender individuals to obtain identification documents without the need to comply with abusive and stigmatizing requirements;
  • Implementing training programs for police officers, personnel in correctional facilities, teachers, social workers, caregivers, and public officials in general, to better serve the LGBTI+ community.

Díaz-Canel and Ortega: Enemies of Press Freedom in Latin America

Washington, D.C. May 2, 2023. – Until May 2023, Cuba and Nicaragua will hold at least three journalists in prison solely for their work of informing the population about the constant human rights violations committed by the authorities. This May 3, World Press Freedom Day, these people will not be able to exercise their freedom. They have been silenced.

The figure is a small sample of the enormous amount of aggressions that these two States have committed against journalists since two historic moments experienced by their populations: April 2018 in Nicaragua, when citizens came out en masse to protest to demand the resignation of President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo from power; and July 11, 2021 in Cuba, when its citizens demonstrated against shortages and the difficult political, social, economic, and rights situation on the island. 

In Nicaragua, journalist Victor Ticay was arrested on the morning of April 6 of this year when he went out to film a religious procession as part of the commemoration of Holy Week. Since then, the police in the service of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have not released any information about him to his family or to the public. 

About 1,243 kilometers away, in Cuba, journalist Lázaro Valle Roca was sentenced to five years in prison under the false crime of “contempt”, after publishing the report “Se calentó la Habana, lanzan octavillas conmemorando el natalicio de Antonio Maceo”, which told how some messages launched from a building in Havana, demanded that people deprived of their freedom for political reasons, be released immediately. He was arrested in June 2021.  

Also in prison in Cuba is Jorge Bello Domínguez, who was sentenced to 15 years for having participated in the historic protests of July 2021. 

Ticay, Valle, and Bello are not the only journalists who have been deprived of their freedom. In February 2023, the Ortega-Murillo regime released a group of 222 people who were in prison for political reasons, and banished them to the United States. 

Among this group were three staff members of the press freedom organization “Fundación Violeta B. de Chamorro” journalists Miguel Mora, Miguel Mendoza; the directors of the newspaper La Prensa, Cristiana Chamorro and Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, arbitrarily detained in 2021 and at least two staff members of the newspaper and the general manager of the newspaper, Juan Lorenzo Holmann, arbitrarily deprived of their freedom in 2022.

In addition to them, at least 185 Nicaraguan journalists are currently in exile, in countries such as the United States, Costa Rica or Spain, some fled to avoid arbitrary imprisonment after the approval of the Cybercrimes Law at the end of 2020 and others were prevented from returning by the regime when they had left to do work in other countries. 

Journalist Angel Gahona was killed in April 2018 with a gunshot to the head while covering protests in the city of Bluefields. The Nicaraguan regime attempted to frame innocent citizens and, to this day, there has been no serious investigation to bring the culprits to justice.

The Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and Press (Iclep) partially recorded that 40 independent journalists or those who worked or worked in the state media, emigrated during 2022 to different countries such as Spain, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Germany, Peru and the vast majority to the United States.

According to the 2022 Annual Report presented in April 2023 by the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Nicaragua had an intensification of the repressive escalation against journalists and media, while in Cuba the repression against journalists, artists and human rights defenders, constitutes an “incessant pattern”.

Cuba and Nicaragua have used laws to censor, repress, besiege, assault and confiscate media outlets, as a State policy to silence independent journalism and thus prevent complaints of human rights violations from reaching international bodies. 

That is why the numbers of aggressions against media and journalists are so high in these countries: between 2021 and the first 10 months of 2022, the organization Article 19 in its report ‘Silence and banishment: The forced exile of independent journalists in Cuba’, documented that journalists suffered a total of 246 aggressions; while ICLEP recorded that on the island there were 1637 violations of press freedom during the same period of time, and 208 arbitrary detentions last year alone. On the other hand, in Nicaragua there were at least 3344 press freedom violations in the last five years, according to data from Voces del Sur.

Both Díaz-Canel and the Ortega-Murillo family know the power of independent media to denounce, and their eagerness to silence different opinions has the media as its main target. In spite of this, from exile, journalists have continued to work, gathering information on human rights violations, for example in the case of Nicaragua, their work contributed to the UN Group of Experts on Human Rights to issue a strong report in which they qualified the events in that country as crimes against humanity. 

The work of journalists in denouncing, documenting and disseminating the violations of rights occurring in Cuba and Nicaragua is essential for the search for justice and reparation for the victims and the eventual justice processes to which both the leaders of those governments and those who executed their orders against a citizenry that has done nothing more than civically resist the repression of both regimes must submit. 

Therefore, from the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) we condemn the imprisonment, exile, banishment and stripping of nationality to which journalists are subjected in these countries and we celebrate that, despite the difficulties, microphones and cameras continue to collect the testimonies of the victims who demand truth, reparation and justice, and contribute to the creation of historical memory of both countries. 

Time has shown that censorship cannot win over the dissemination of truth and that the repressive policies of both States only strengthen the credibility of independent media. 

No more censorship! Stop the repression against independent journalism!


Five years after crimes against humanity in Nicaragua, violence and impunity reign in the country

San José, April 18, 2023.- The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) held a conversation called “Nicaragua: 5 years of crimes against humanity” in San José, Costa Rica, in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the socio-political and human rights crisis that the country has been experiencing since April 2018.

It was attended by victims of crimes against humanity committed by the authoritarian regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, civil society organizations and experts from international human rights protection bodies, who gave their testimonies, reflected on the progress and prospects of the crisis, and demanded progress in the processes of truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-repetition. 

María Luisa Gómez, lawyer for Race and Equality gave the opening remarks and expressed that the socio-political and human rights crisis, far from being resolved, continues to deepen. 

“To date, not only has justice not been guaranteed for the victims of serious and widespread human rights violations, but the Ortega-Murillo authoritarian regime has established a continuum of violence and an oppressive climate that makes the exercise of human rights impossible and continues to claim victims in the country,” said Gómez.  

Justice without impunity

The event was divided into three panels. The first: “crimes against humanity in impunity: arbitrary deprivation of liberty for political reasons, extrajudicial executions, torture, forced population transfer, and arbitrary deprivation of nationality” was moderated by Braulio Abarca, Founder and Area Coordinator of Education and Historical Memory of the Human Rights Collective Nicaragua Never Again. It was attended by Azahálea Solís, feminist and member of the Autonomous Women’s Movement (MAM), Francisca Ramírez, from the Peasant Movement and Azucena López, member of the Mothers of April Association (AMA), mother of Erick Antonio Jímenez López, murdered in Masaya Monimbó in 2018,

Azahálea Solís, one of the 94 people who were arbitrarily stripped of their nationality and citizenship rights recently, explained that for the first time in the history of the country, children and senior citizens have been affected by repression and explained  that previously children and senior citizens had not suffered repression in the various dictatorships, but that the massiveness with which it has occurred is something unique to this regime. “They have been affected by extrajudicial executions, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, torture, cruel treatment, forced displacement, exile, violation of their identity”.

For her part Francisca Ramirez, exposed that the Peasant Movement has been a victim of the regime since 2013, when protests began over the concession granted to Wang Jing of the Interoceanic Canal, since then they have been arbitrarily arrested, persecuted, injured, and killed.

Ramirez asked for support from the international community for reparations for all the human rights violations that have been committed. 

Azucena López, of AMA recalled that July 17, when her son was murdered, was the darkest day of her life, having to watch over her son in the dark with one candle and four people. “Today we are still without justice, I continue to be mistreated, because my sister is in El Chipote with her husband, she was taken out as a criminal for asking for justice for my son,” said López.

Lopez added that in AMA what they are asking for is justice without impunity, since the regime denied them justice, so the current challenge is to complete the documentation on the victims.

Attacks on indigenous people have intensified.

The second panel, “Violence against indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples as a crime against humanity that must be investigated”, was moderated by María Luisa Gómez of Race and Equality. The panelists were Maria Luisa Acosta, Coordinator of the Center for Legal Assistance to Indigenous Peoples (Calpi), Amaru Ruiz of the River Foundation and Becky McCray, an indigenous leader from the Alliance of Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples of Nicaragua (APIAN).

Maria Luisa Acosta denounced that the Miskito and Mayagnas indigenous communities in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve and in the rest of the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region have been under attack since 2015 by paramilitary gangs made up of non-indigenous people, arrived from other parts of the country with equipment, clothing, military tactics, and also weapons of war.

“The State has implemented a policy of internal colonization over the autonomous regions of the Caribbean Coast through the impulse of immigration of non-indigenous people who bring with them the advancement of the agricultural frontier and more recently they have implemented an extractivist policy through forestry and mining companies,” Acosta said.

Acosta said that although the communities are asking the State for their protection, currently there is no knowledge that any gang is being investigated and on the contrary they are accusing the indigenous people of being perpetrators of the Kiwakumbaih massacre, which is why last April 13 the IACHR granted precautionary measures in favor of three Mayagnas indigenous people.

Amaru Ruiz explained that the situation of violence and invasion of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ land is the result of a neo-extractivist model imposed by the Ortega-Murillo regime. “A model of looting and dispossession of indigenous and Afro-descendant territory throughout the Caribbean Coast, this model has allowed the establishment of at least 141 mining concessions in indigenous and Afro-descendant territory, the advance of African palm  which is around more than 48 thousand hectares, the increase of invasion processes has increased the processes of deforestation and forest degradation that has impacted the main protected areas of the country (…) and has generated at least some 146 thousand hectares of annual deforestation.”

Ruíz denounced that one of the impacts in the area is the increase in cattle ranching and one of the caretakers of these cattle is the Nicaraguan Army “which looks after the cows more than the indigenous and afro-descendant communities, because even though they are militarized territories, they cannot find the gangs that attack the indigenous communities.”

For her part Becky McCray, said that “as a result of the political crisis of 2018 the situation has worsened at the level of violence and in violations of autonomous and self-determination rights.”

McCray explained that there is impunity for crimes against humanity against indigenous peoples, but they also face other threats such as food insecurity, because the lands are remaining in the hands of settlers and when the lands are used for livestock they are not useful for agriculture.  

Another problem that indigenous people are facing, according to McCray, is the forced displacement of entire communities that leaves indigenous people in precarious conditions in municipal capitals. 

One of the participants in the event asked how the people of the indigenous communities make known what is happening in their territory. Acosta explained that the people of the indigenous communities have had to be their own investigators, because civil society organizations and the media cannot enter the territory. “They do their census, take their photos, make videos, they have had to develop their capacity to make known the precarious situation in which they live”.

The third panel “Challenges and perspectives of the International System for the Protection of Human Rights in the face of the deepening crisis in Nicaragua” was moderated by María Luisa Gómez of Race and Equality and included Alberto Brunori, representative for Central America and the Dominican Republic of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Jon Izaguirre, Human Rights Officer of the OHCHR, Virgina De Abajo, Head of Research at the Secretariat of the United Nations Group of Experts on Human Rights for Nicaragua and Alejandra Manavella, Advocacy Coordinator of the Mesoamerica Program of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).

Alberto Brunori, said that despite the fact that they have tried to move all the mechanisms of the Universal and Regional Systems, the socio-political and human rights crisis continues to worsen. He sent a message of support, solidarity and commitment to Nicaraguans and human rights defenders and invited them not to lose hope.

“We must persevere, from the United Nations Office we are doing our best to accompany you, but we know that the conquest and reconquest of human rights requires not only tenacity, but also sacrifice, and we know that you have made a tremendous sacrifice.” 

Jon Izagirre explained that since 2019 the office has submitted 4 written reports and 10 oral updates to the Human Rights Council, which has allowed them to keep Nicaragua on the annual agenda. He added that they have also adopted five resolutions, the last one on April 3.

Izagirre added that another component of the Universal System is the Special Procedures. 

“In the last five years they have sent 26 communications to the government of Nicaragua on behalf of 35 thematic mandates and of these 26 they have only responded to three communications, the last one in November 2018.”

He added that another tool available to the Special Procedures are country visits, since 2018 five mandate holders have expressed interest in visiting Nicaragua and have requested an invitation to the government, however although Nicaragua has had an open invitation since 2006, it has not allowed any official visits by the special procedures since 2009.

“Regarding the prospects of our work in relation to the Universal System, in November Nicaragua’s withdrawal from the Inter-American Human Rights System will be effective, and in view of the vacuum that this could create, the office has been working on training human rights defenders in the complaint procedure before the Human Rights Committee, which has not been used by Nicaraguans for 30 years.”

Virgina De Abajo, in addition to presenting the findings of the GHREN report presented in March, said that the report would not have been able to move forward without the collaboration of organizations that contributed information since the beginning of the first mandate and asked the donor community to continue providing the necessary resources to these organizations so that they can continue to carry out the work of gathering evidence. She also hopes that the team will be expanded to cover more areas of research in the mandate that has been renewed for two years.

For her part, Alejandra Manavella insisted on the importance of continuing with the process of denouncing and documenting serious human rights violations before the international protection systems, in this case both the Inter-American System and the Universal System.

“In the case of the Inter-American System, not only to sustain the protection measures, but to advance as a priority in the system of cases and petitions of the Commission, because although the road is long, in the future it will allow us to have resolutions of the System that determine the responsibility of the State,” he advised.

The panelists agreed that the great challenge for the International System for the Protection of Human Rights in the face of the deepening crisis in Nicaragua is to have access to the country, for which they invited the various organizations to continue documenting. 

To close the event, Gómez said that “it has been this tireless work of coordinated accompaniment, documentation, advocacy, strategic litigation, which has allowed us to create rays of hope, which are opening the way against a regime that has completely closed itself to the international community.”

“From Race and Equality we reaffirm our commitment with the families, with civil society organizations and with the international community to continue with this coordinated work until we achieve justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition,” concluded Gómez.

Five years after the protests began, the human rights crisis continues to deepen, say victims of repression and international human rights protection bodies.

Washington, D.C., April 18, 2023. – With the presence of victims of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo and members of international human rights protection bodies, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) held in Washington, D.C., United States, the discussion, “Nicaragua: 5 years of crimes against humanity”, on the situation of exile, attacks on the press, and on the challenges and prospects of the International Human Rights Protection System in the face of the deepening crisis in Nicaragua.

The event was held in the context of the fifth anniversary of the socio-political and human rights crisis in Nicaragua. 

Christina Fetterhoff, Director of Programs for Race and Equality gave the opening remarks at the event and recalled that since 2018, 355 people have been killed, more than 2,000 injured, and more than 1,614 people arbitrarily deprived of their liberty.

Fetterhoff stressed that the criminalization of dissident voices, the manipulation of criminal law, and impunity for human rights violations five years after the crisis, far from being resolved, continue to deepen and claim victims.

A press that does not remain silent

The first panel on the “Persistence of attacks on freedom of the press from the perspective of the victims and the Office of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression” included the participation of journalists Wilfredo Miranda, Lucía Pineda Ubau, Eduardo Enríquez and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of the Press of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Pedro Vaca Villarreal. The panel was moderated by David Álvarez Veloso, Coordinator of the Human Rights Consortium – Race and Equality.

In his participation, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Pedro Vaca Villarreal, applauded the courage of Nicaraguan journalism and said that the State of Nicaragua has deliberately renounced to fulfill the commitment it voluntarily assumed with the international community and with its population, especially in terms of freedom of expression. He warned that Nicaraguan society is being bombarded with official propaganda, which is only countered by the efforts of courageous journalism and called for increased support and backing for the Nicaraguan press.

The Rapporteur expressed that between 2018 and 2022 the IACHR granted 22 resolutions of precautionary measures to 69 people linked to Nicaraguan journalism and in some cases the protection measures have been extended to family members.

For her part Lucía Pineda Ubau, imprisoned in 2018 for six months for exercising her right to expression and recently stripped of her nationality and declared a fugitive from justice indicated that 100% Noticias despite being razed in 2018, its facilities confiscated and staff forced into exile, has not stopped reporting.

“I again call on organizations such as Race and Equality and international human rights protection bodies such as the Commission, the Court, the Human Rights Council, the Group of Experts for Nicaragua, and countries friendly to the people of Nicaragua, to continue to press for an end in Nicaragua to the dictatorship of terror imposed by the Ortega-Murillo family and all their accomplices,” said Pineda.

Journalist Wilfredo Miranda, co-founder of Divergentes, who was also stripped of his nationality on February 15, said that the dictatorship’s attacks have not silenced them. “While this may seem minor, it really is not. It is too much when you do journalism under a totalitarian regime, accused of committing crimes against humanity since 2018.”

Miranda recalled that it has been the reporters in the streets who began to document the crimes against humanity that today the UN Group of Experts foists on the presidential couple. In his case, he was able to document in a report the extrajudicial executions committed by police and paramilitaries. “Five years after the beginning of the April protests, we can say that among the democratic trenches that the Ortega-Murillo have wanted to destroy, journalism has resisted. We limp, but we do not give up,” said Miranda.

For Eduardo Enriquez, Editor in Chief of Diario La Prensa, the dictatorship has proposed to put an end to journalism, “the regime is determined to erase it, and proof of this are the journalists arrested and the 185 in exile.”

Enriquez added that in the 97 years of Diario La Prensa this is the worst stage that the media has gone through and told how they went from the embargo of paper and ink to the “robbery” of the media’s facilities and the imprisonment of Juan Lorenzo Holmann, Manager of the media and other workers.

Enríquez added that if Ortega and Murillo have not been able to silence journalism, it is because of the tenacity of the journalists, the rebelliousness of the citizens who continue denouncing from any corner and the support of non-governmental organizations.

They call on the international community to take forceful action.

The second panel was a conversation on “Banishment and loss of nationality: the regime’s new attempt to put an end to Nicaraguan dissidence”, moderated by Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality, in which Juan Sebastián Chamorro, political activist; Violeta Granera, Human Rights defender; Karla Escobar of the Peasant Movement; and Cinthia Samantha Padilla Jirón, student leader, participated, all of whom were banished by the Ortega-Murillo regime last February 9.

Carlos Quesada emphasized that the release of the 222 people deprived of their freedom was the result of the work of many people from the State Department, many of them volunteers. He recalls that when he saw the released and exiled people get off the plane, he had the feeling that he was seeing Nicaraguan society as a whole. “Which affected me because it means that the regime has gone all out, against the whole of society.” 

Quesada recalled that to the 36 people deprived of their liberty for political reasons who remained in prisons as of March must be added 18 who remain arbitrarily imprisoned after being detained during Holy Week.

The panelists recalled that the repeated and valuable attempts of the international community and human rights protection bodies to find a peaceful solution to the crisis have not been met with collaboration from the regime. Therefore, they called on the international community to redouble efforts and continue insisting that the recommendations of the report of the Group of Experts, those of the Inter-American Commission, and the resolutions of the Inter-American Court be complied with and that more forceful actions be taken, as it has been proven that pressure pays off.

In the conversation Karla Escobar, who has twice been arbitrarily imprisoned, asked the international community to continue supporting the people of Nicaragua, with sanctions against the regime and other officials. She also regretted that the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) continues to give oxygen to the regime with financing to continue the repression inside the country.

Violeta Granera still finds it difficult to talk about the conditions in which she was arbitrarily imprisoned. “The torture was designed to affect our mind and our heart. It was very hard. Especially the isolation from our families,” she said.

Juan Sebastian Chamorro, also thanked Race and Equality, for all the support received. “Race and Equality is doing a tremendous job of documentation, monitoring, and advocacy in defense of human rights in Nicaragua,” said Chamorro.

Chamorro added that the regime has attacked the dignity and rights of all Nicaraguan people, including its own supporters. “It is practically impossible to find a human right that the regime has not violated,” he emphasized.

Samantha Padilla Jiron emphasized that the regime’s new tactics of repression such as banishment, confiscation, and denationalization are in violation of the Political Constitution of Nicaragua, which has been reformed so many times and tailored to the interests of the tyrant. 

The third panel, “Challenges and Perspectives of the International System for the Protection of Human Rights in the Face of the Deepening Crisis in Nicaragua,” was moderated by Christina Fetterhoff, Director of Programs for Race and Equality. Fiorella Melzi, Coordinator of the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) participated in the panel and stated that the IACHR continues its non-stop monitoring and documentation activities on the situation in Nicaragua.

​​Melzi added that the situation of the families in Nicaragua who are living in fear, due to the discretion of the country’s authorities to decide who can travel and who cannot, is of great concern. Also of concern is the intensification of violence in the indigenous communities of the Caribbean Coast.

Melzi explained that from the work of MESENI, the Commission has reported the situation of the country in 202 press releases, nine reports submitted to the Permanent Council of the OAS; have trained more than 900 people and members of civil society; have provided follow-up to the compliance of 139 precautionary measures granted; and since 2018 have made a country report each year.

Viviana de la Peña, Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Group of Experts on Human Rights on Nicaragua (GHREN), said that the renewal of the mandate for two years reflects the seriousness of the crisis.

Peña called on the victims to continue documenting, since the work of the Group of Experts cannot be done without the victims and organizations such as Race and Equality that have facilitated access to victims and people who can provide information.

Carlos Quesada, director of Race and Equality explained what the work of the Institute has been ongoing since 2018 and indicated that in the case of the Inter-American Human Rights System, they have requested precautionary measures in favor of representatives of the private sector, journalists, and directors of independent media such as Confidencial, 100% Noticias, Radio Darío, La Costeñisima, as well as Human Rights defenders and people deprived of liberty for political reasons, whose lives were at serious risk before the controversial Amnesty Law, as well as people deprived of liberty in the following years.

He added that as part of the work carried out in the Universal System for the Protection of Human Rights, they have motivated the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions to pronounce on 38 arbitrary detentions in six requests presented and have motivated the Special Procedures of the United Nations to pronounce on the cancellation of legal status of civil society organizations, the prohibition of many people to return to the country, and the attacks on the independent press. 

Finally Quesada said that Race and Equality will continue to fight for the promotion and protection of human rights in Nicaragua, and will continue to work not only in the Inter-American System, but also in the Universal System.

Race and Equality, victims, and international human rights protection bodies to discuss in two events: 5 years of crimes against humanity in Nicaragua

San José, Costa Rica – Washington D.C., April 14, 2023.- On the fifth anniversary of Nicaragua’s socio-political and human rights crisis, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) will hold two hybrid conversation-style events – one in San José, Costa Rica and the other in Washington, D.C., United States – to commemorate the April 2018 citizens’ struggle for freedom and provide updates on the consequences of the Ortega-Murillo regime’s repression, as well as the steps to be taken to achieve justice and reparations for the victims.

The first event will be held in Washington, D.C. on April 17 starting at 9:00 a.m., which will include three panels. The first is entitled “Banishment and Loss of Nationality, a New Attempt by the Regime to End Nicaraguan Dissent”.

A second panel will address “The persistence of attacks on Freedom of the Press from the perspective of the victims and the Office of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression” and finally, the third panel will discuss the “Challenges and perspectives of the International System for the Protection of Human Rights in the face of the deepening crisis in Nicaragua” with the participation of Mr. Pedro Vaca, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression; Fiorella Melzi, Coordinator of the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) and Viviana de la Peña, Coordinator of the Secretariat. Group of Experts on Human Rights in Nicaragua (GHREN).

In San José, Costa Rica, the event will take place from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. The first panel will include the participation of victims of grave human rights violations who will speak on “Crimes against humanity and impunity”. The second panel will address “Violence against indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants as a crime against humanity that must be investigated”. Finally, the panel on “Challenges and Perspectives of the International System for the Protection of Human Rights in the face of the deepening crisis in Nicaragua” will include representatives of human rights protection bodies who will refer to the main findings of the protection bodies of the Inter-American and Universal Human Rights System. 


In March, the United Nations (UN) Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua (GHREN) presented a report concluding that the Ortega Murillo regime is committing widespread and systematic human rights violations, which constitute crimes against humanity against a specific sector of the civilian population, motivated by political reasons and called on the international community to impose sanctions on the institutions or individuals involved. 

The figures recorded from 2018 to date are stark: at least 355 people have been killed, more than 2,000 protesters injured, at least 1,614 people recognized as persons deprived of liberty for political reasons, 36 of whom still remain in state custody in conditions that fail to comply with the United Nations Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) and domestic human rights law, more than 250,000 people exiled, 316 people arbitrarily stripped of their nationality and citizenship rights, 222 people banished from their country, 185 journalists exiled, at least 3,321 civil society organizations whose legal personality was arbitrarily canceled. Moreover, since the beginning of the crisis, attacks against indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples of the country have intensified, particularly in the Caribbean Coast.

The Ortega-Murillo regime continues to fail to comply with the recommendations of international human rights mechanisms. On March 29, for the first time in history, the president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), Judge Ricardo Pérez Manrique, informed the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) that Nicaragua has remained in permanent contempt of court for failing to comply with ten resolutions issued by the court to protect the lives of 88 persons deprived of liberty for political reasons, six of whom are still imprisoned.


Race and Equality invites you to follow the live broadcast of both events through Zoom. 

Event in Washington D.C.: Register here

Event in San Jose, Costa Rica: Register here

We also invite you to follow the activities through Race and Equality’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and website and share the content using the hashtag #5AñosdeCrímenes, so that the cry for an end to repression and demand for truth, justice, reparations and non-repetition is heard in Nicaragua and around the world.

31M Trans Visibility: What Happens to Trans People in the Context of Political Crises and Authoritarian Regimes?

Washington D.C., March 31, 2023 – Marking International Day of Transgender Visibility, The International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) highlights and recognizes that within the region political and social crises, including authoritarian regimes generate differential impacts on vulnerable groups of people. For trans people and people of diverse genders, the impact is even greater when considering factors like socioeconomic status, race, migratory status, and age.

LGBTI+ people, and specifically trans people, systematically suffer human rights violations in different aspects of their lives. Moreover, in authoritarian regimes or in complex political and social contexts, their situation is aggravated by legislative setbacks and legal gaps, and it is therefore more difficult to guarantee respect for and compliance with international human rights obligations. In addition, the level of impunity for hate crimes are increasing and violence and discrimination are often perpetrated by public officials.

In Brazil, during Jair Bolsonaro’s administration, there was an increase in hate speech against the LGBTI+ population, which specifically affected the trans population. The rise of the extreme right, linked to conservative religious groups, strengthened the anti-trans agenda which became institutionalized and gained space in official government speeches. The anti-rights fundamentalist groups that persecute and lie about gender diversity, calling it “gender ideology,” have constructed a violent discourse which targets trans people as enemies and prevents the construction of public policies aimed at improving the human rights of this population. “In addition, they attack rights that have been conquered, such as respect for social names and a self-declared gender in public and private establishments, as well as the use of the bathroom according to your gender,” explains Gab Van, Representative of the João W. Nery Transmasculina League.

In 2022, Brazil maintained its 14th consecutive year as the top of the ranking for murders of trans people. According to the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals (ANTRA), 131 trans people were murdered in Brazil in 2022 (130 trans women and 1 trans masculine person). At least 76 percent of the victims were black.[1]

In Peru, the country is currently experiencing a serious institutional, political, and social crisis. After the attempted coup d’état against Congress by President Pedro Castillo in December 2022 and Dina Boluarte assuming presidency, various sectors of society are unaware of the government of Dina Boluarte and the Congress of the Republic. This has generated a series of nationwide protests causing 67 deaths, with 1,335 people injured,[2] along with arbitrary arrests, arbitrary searches, and a series of human rights violations by the government, the police, and military forces. Within this context, the situation of the trans population worsened and was relegated, not to mention the increase of impunity for hate crimes. In the first month and a half alone of this year, eight murders of trans women were reported,[3] which were classified as violent deaths. “As long as there is no gender identity law, this system will continue to oppress us because it does not recognize us as women and we cannot exercise full and responsible citizenship,” said Alejandra Fang, member of Trans Feminist Organization for the Human Rights of Trans People.

To date, there is no official record of violence and hate crimes against trans and gender-diverse people. The little information known so far is obtained through the media and trans civil society organizations who make great efforts for such documentation. Similarly, political studies, analyses, and reports on human rights violations make no reference to the situation, and the differentiated impact on the current institutional crisis, and the lives of trans and gender diverse people.

In the case of Nicaragua, the context of socio-political and human rights crises, where censorship and impunity prevail for the serious violations and abuses of human rights are perpetrated by the State and parastatal agents, there is no access to official figures on cases of violence against trans people; however,  according to testimonies gathered by the Expert Group on Human Rights on Nicaragua (GHREN), feminist leaders, women-led organizations, and groups (in all its diversity) have collectively been targets of attack.[4]

The authoritarian regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, held at least 4 trans women incarcerated in penitentiaries for men, denying them access to hormonal therapy and exposing them to differentiated risks based on their gender. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in Opinion 12/2021, ruled on the case of a trans activist who was arbitrarily arrested on the second anniversary of the socio-political crisis, forced to be held in a men’s penitentiary and sentenced for 13 years and 2 months for “aggravated kidnapping” and “aggravated obstruction of duty.” “His status as a trans person was ignored as a form of humiliation against him,” concluded the Working Group. Finally, the activist was released in 2021, but the State never reported on the lifting of the charges against her, nor on the guarantees of reparation for the damages committed.

Similarly in Cuba, the arrest of Brenda Díaz, a 28-year-old trans woman who remains incarcerated in a male prison, reveals the serious situation faced by people with diverse gender identities on the Island. She was arrested for participating in the peaceful marches in July 2021 because, according to Cuban authorities, she “dressed as a woman to infiltrate” public demonstrations.[5] Victims face all kinds of discrimination and violence within this prison, Brenda is serving a 14-year prison sentence.

In Cuba, people with diverse gender identities can change the gender marker on official identity documents only if the applicant has undergone gender affirmation surgery, according to the database of the organization Ilga Mundo.[6] ILGA World also compiles other measures adopted by the Cuban government to protect this population, but according to trans people, they are not applied and remain a commitment on paper only. In the same way, women’s organizations affirm that a gender law against gender violence is needed to prevent gender-based violence.

In the case of Colombia, within the framework of the 2019-2020 National Strike, Colombia Diversa has documented that the majority of the victims of police violence, threats and homicides were trans women.[7] According to Caribe Afirmativo, as of 2019 most of the victims in 2020 were registered in Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, and Bogotá. In Valle del Cauca, for example, threats and repression by the police and impediments to demonstrations in public spaces were reported.[8] In addition, the Minister of Defense at the time, Diego Molano, criminalized the social leaders of LGBTI+ people in Cauca, establishing them as members of criminal organizations and offering a million-dollar reward to anyone who provided information about them.

Bicky Bohorquez, member of Somos Identidad, spoke about the importance of the personal security of trans people in demonstrations. “To promote the participation and visibility of trans people in spaces of social vindication, such as social protest, we must take into account that these must be safe spaces for us as trans people. Strategies such as listening and learning from our experiences, awareness, and education cannot be left out.”

Trans people in the region are exposed to more dangerous and vulnerable situations when their countries are in critical political and social contexts. Not only because their living conditions become more acute, but because their participation as political actors can place their physical and mental integrity at risk, especially in protest and emergency situations.

In view of these matters, Race and Equality wishes to submit recommendations to the States, many of which were presented by the IACHR in the Report on Trans and Gender Diverse Persons and their economic, social, cultural and environmental rights (2020):

  • Adopt gender identity laws that recognize the rights of trans and gender diverse people to rectify their name and sex and or gender component on their birth certificates, identity documents, and other legal documents. This is based on Advisory Opinion 24/2017 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).
  • Eliminate any form of criminalization in laws and public policies, direct or indirect, of the conduct of people in the exercise of their gender identity or expression.
  • Include protections against discrimination based on gender identity in public and private spheres.
  • Develop and implement policies and programs to promote respect for the rights of trans and gender diverse people and their acceptance and social inclusion. These must be comprehensive, transversal, and based on the human rights approach, including the gender perspective.
  • Develop and implement information campaigns to raise awareness in public and private media about bodily and sexual diversity and the gender approach.
  • Promote information campaigns for trans and gender diverse people about their human rights and existing protection mechanisms.

[1] ANTRA (2022). Expediente Asesinatos y violencia contra travestis y transexuales brasileños. Disponible en

[2] Defensoría del Pueblo (2023) Crisis Política y Protesta Social. Reporte Diario. Disponible en

[3] Presentes (2023). Perú: Por primera vez miles de personas marcharon en Lima contra los transfemicidios. Disponible en

[4] Consejo de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas (2023). Conclusiones detalladas del Grupo de Expertos en Derechos Humanos sobre Nicaragua. Disponible en

[5] Race and Equality (2022). Cuatro historias de personas detenidas por reclamar cambios en Cuba. Disponible en http://oldrace.wp/es/cuba-es/cuatro-historias-de-personas-detenidas-por-reclamar-cambios-en-cuba/

[6] Ilga Mundo database:

[7] Colombia Diversa (2020). 2020, el año con la cifra más alta de violencia policial, asesinatos y amenazas contra personas LGBT. Disponible em

[8]Caribe Afirmativo (2021). Violencias contra personas LGBT a 20 días de Paro Nacional. Disponible en

Before the IACHR: Victims of the State of Nicaragua and their NGO representatives denounce arbitrary deprivation of nationality and other human rights violations

Washington D.C., March 13, 2023.- A delegation made up of three Nicaraguan victims of arbitrary deprivation of nationality and their representative organizations, International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) and Unidad de Defensa Jurídica (UDJ), denounced before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that the forced displacement of 222 persons released from prison and the arbitrary stripping of the nationality of more than 317 Nicaraguans “constitute systematic practices that are part of a generalized policy of political persecution” of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo against persons considered to be opponents.

Law student and political prisoner, Kevin Solís; journalist and Director of 100% Noticias, Lucía Pineda Ubau; and journalist and Director of Radío Darío, Aníbal Toruño; told the Commission “first hand” about the violations of their human rights. Representatives of the IACHR expressed their solidarity with the victims and their families, and affirmed that the deprivation of nationality is a serious crime.

Kevin Solís: “Many times I wondered if I was going to endure more”

“Many times I wondered if I was going to endure more or if I was actually going to die there, a fear that to this day I have not overcome” recounted student Kevin Solis, who was imprisoned by the Ortega-Murillo regime on two occasions and finally, on February 9, was released from prison, stripped of his Nicaraguan nationality and citizen rights, and banished by the regime along with 221 other people who were deprived of liberty for political reasons in state centers in Nicaragua, who are now being hosted by the United States.

Solis was first kidnapped in 2018 and was imprisoned for 9 months. On February 6, 2020, he was kidnapped for the second time and transferred to the Dirección de Auxilio Judicial, where – among other aggressions – they stripped him naked and threw water on him with high-pressure hoses while insulting him. Six days later they sent him to the maximum security cells of “El infiernillo“, 2×3 in size, without windows, without light, and with a totally sealed door. 

“There was not a night where I could sleep peacefully, I was afraid, very afraid that they would come in to take me out of the cell and harm me even more,” the student confessed.

Lucía Pineda: Persecution crossed borders

“The regime accuses, prosecutes, sentences, and convicts in absentia, all in a single act to take away my Nicaraguan nationality and my house, the product of the honest work of a lifetime…. The persecution crossed borders,” denounced Lucía Pineda, who was imprisoned for her journalistic work for six months between 2018 and 2019, went into exile in Costa Rica as a result of political persecution and was stripped of her Nicaraguan nationality along with 93 other people, last February 15.

Pineda highlighted that, in the resolution read by the president of the Court of Appeals of Managua, Ernesto Rodríguez Mejía, 11 journalists and media directors were declared “fugitives from justice” and deprived of their Nicaraguan nationality. For this reason, she has asked the Commission to “advance in the knowledge of the cases of journalists and media outlets, to achieve prompt justice and reparation for the serious violations committed”.

Aníbal Toruño: “We are stigmatized as traitors, persecuted, and denationalized”

“In Nicaragua there is no space for the exercise of freedom of expression and press…. We are stigmatized as traitors, persecuted, denationalized, expropriated, and banished from the country”, denounced the Director of Radio Darío, Aníbal Toruño, who is in his second exile as a result of the destruction of his journalistic content and attacks against him in April 2018 and September 2019. Toruño is on the list of 94 people arbitrarily deprived of their nationality since February 15. 

The workers of Radio Darío are beneficiaries of precautionary measures; however, the State of Nicaragua has been in complete disregard of the Commission’s requests and, to date, the implementation of the measures has been null and void. “No measures have ever been adopted to protect me…. On the contrary, in the last few months the instrumentalization of the Judicial and Legislative Power has deepened repression and thus has silenced the independent media with the interest of producing a general information blackout”, added Toruño.

IACHR Representatives: “The loss of nationality is equivalent to civil death and this is a serious crime”

Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, IACHR Rapporteur for Nicaragua stated that the stripping of nationality “and removing their names from public records has an impact on the identity and lives of people and their children.”

“Everything you have been through has to be remembered. This is not just a problem of Nicaragua, it is a problem of humanity, of democracy. Everything we have heard is the dehumanization of the other,” said Commissioner Julissa Mantilla.

For his part, Commissioner Joel Hernández affirmed that “the loss of nationality is equivalent to civil death and this is a serious crime” and emphasized the importance of the creation and monitoring of the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) to document these and other serious human rights violations in Nicaragua. 

The Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, Commissioner Edgar Stuardo Ralón, thanked Race and Equality for its work on behalf of persons deprived of liberty for political reasons and reaffirmed its commitment to continue working for the release of the 37 people still imprisoned. 

At the end of the hearing, the Chair of the IACHR, Margarette May Macaulay, pledged that the IACHR will continue to “work diligently to seek to correct these grave and disproportionate violations against the Nicaraguan people”.


Race and Equality, the Unidad de Defensa Judicial and the persons represented urge the Commission to, among other things, maintain the protection measures and require the immediate release of the 37 persons who are still deprived of liberty for political reasons in Nicaragua; we also request that the State of Nicaragua be required to: 

  • Close the judicial processes and eliminate the criminal records of the persons released from prison and banished, and cease the persecution of their families.
  • Guarantee family reunification, facilitating the issuance and validity of basic official information to exercise citizenship rights for those affected by the violations that gave rise to the hearing.
  • Restore the nationality of the people who have suffered their dispossession and guarantee their citizenship rights, including the right to their old age pension.
  • Cease the requirements of the Attorney General’s Office to dispossess the 94 persons deprived of their nationality on February 15, among others.
  • Repeal the Law to Reform Article 21 of the Political Constitution of Nicaragua, the Law to Regulate the Loss of Nationality, as well as Laws 1055 and 1042, which have been used to criminalize the defense of human rights and all forms of dissidence.

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