Anexa Alfred Cunningham is a brave Miskitu Indigenous leader, woman human rights defender, lawyer and expert on Indigenous peoples rights from Nicaragua. She defends the ancestral land and natural resources of Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. She has also worked with Indigenous and Afro-descendants communities in order to investigate the many abuses they suffer and denounce them to the United Nations. These Peoples face attacks by armed groups who seek to take away their ancestral territory with the State’s approval. Their situation has deteriorated since the still unfolding 2018 human rights crisis. In 2022, 90 attacks and at least 32 killings were documented in the Northern Caribbean Coast according to local rights groups. This year, on 11 March, the Wilu community was attacked by an armed group. Houses were burned and five Mayagna indigenous people were killed causing the forced displacement of the rest of the community. Anexa has spoken out against these systemic violence as she considers it amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity.
Anexa’s work makes the Nicaraguan government angry. Authorities have tried to silence her. In July 2022, after participating for the first time in a session of a group of United Nations experts on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, where she sits as one of the experts, the authorities of Nicaragua denied her entry into her own country. Anexa resides in Nicaragua with her family but she was prevented from boarding her return flight and reuniting with her underaged children. She has remained stranded in Geneva since then. The President of the UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly requested clarification from the Nicaraguan government and asked for Anexa to be able to safely return to her home and family but the government has not responded. She remains in a situation of unlawful, forced exile from her own land.
Anexa is not the only one in this situation. In February 2023, the government of Nicaragua released and deported 222 political prisoners who were being unjustly held in State detention centres and then deprived them off their nationality. The Nicaraguan authorities then arbitrarily stripped 94 other people who criticised the government (including farmers, journalists, human rights defenders, writers, and political and social leaders) of their nationality and citizenship rights, many of whom were already in exile. The UN Secretary-General has reported at least seven cases of reprisals against Nicaraguan activists for cooperation with the UN since May 2020.
Everyone has the right to defend human rights. We want Anexa and Nicaraguan human rights defenders to be able to effectively and safely engage with the United Nations. And we want the government of Nicaragua to refrain from intimidating or carrying out reprisals against defenders.
Call on the UN and its member States to effectively respond to Anexa’s case, support her and push for accountability and redress – so she can finally fly home to her community and continue her leadership as an indigenous woman and human rights defender.