Last July, the migratory authorities of Nicaragua denied entry into her own country of the Miskita attorney and defender of the rights of indigenous peoples, Anexa Alfred Cunningham, of Nicaraguan nationality. This grave offense occurred when she was returning home from Geneva, Switzerland, after participating in a session of the UN Expert Group on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of which she has been part since last year. In a flagrantly illegal and arbitrary move, the defender was prevented from boarding her return flight to Nicaragua, where she resides and where her family members, including underage children in her care, were waiting for her. She was thus left in a situation of unlawful exile from her own land.
The defender’s denial of entry to the country constitutes a flagrant violation of Article 31 of the Nicaraguan Constitution, which says: “Nicaraguans have the right to the freedom of movement and establishment of residence in any part of the national territory whatsoever and the right to enter and leave the country as they wish.” Her banishment is also a violation of the American Convention on Human Rights, which states in Article 22 (5): “No one can be expelled from the territory of the state of which he (or she) is a national or be deprived of the right to enter it.” The denial of her entry has no other aim than reprisal against Anexa Alfred Cunningham for her work in support of the rights of the Miskito people.
Anexa Alfred Cunningham has done wide-ranging work in support of the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, both in Nicaragua and at regional and international levels. Locally, she coordinates the process of demarcation and land titling of the indigenous and Afro-descendant territories of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua and has participated in developing a number of different legislative proposals on the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples in the country. These include the Reform of the Political Constitution of Nicaragua in 2014, the Traditional and Ancestral Medicine Practitioners Act, the Family Code, the Statute of Autonomy, and other initiatives. She has also worked with community organizations and local groups of indigenous peoples in the investigation and denunciation of violations of the rights of indigenous peoples before the Inter-American System of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights System.
According to our Registry of Attacks against Women Human Rights Defenders, at least 16 women defenders have been banished from Nicaragua since 2018. This form of aggression has intensified in recent months and involves the drastic violation of the most basic human rights of these defenders, as well as profound, highly serious effects on their lives and those of their families. Furthermore, such attacks set an example for feeding the reign of terror experienced by Nicaraguan women defenders, many of whom have expressed fear of being banished every time they leave Nicaragua. They have also spoken of a constant sense of uncertainty and fear that at any time they could be expelled from their country, all of which leads to demobilization, inhibition, and silencing of information.
We of IM-Defensoras stand in solidarity with Anexa Alfred Cunningham and her family, and we repudiate this arbitrary act of the racist, misogynous, neoliberal and extractivist regime of Daniel Ortega. We urge the international community to express solidarity with the defender and to stay abreast of the situation in Nicaragua. Since 1918, the government has been consolidating a totalitarian regime, supported by its monopoly on violence, despotism, and terror in order to annihilate grassroots organization, dissidence, and the defense of human rights. Wherever people raise their voices, they run the risk of political persecution, criminalization, loss of all civil rights, exile, or imprisonment.