The death of Alvaro Conrado Avendano, father of Alvaro Conrado Davila —killed in the civic protests of 2018— has emotionally affected Vilma Nunez, president of CENIDH, who considers that the father died under “permanent torture,” due to the lack of justice in the case of the execution of his 15-year-old son.
Nuñez, founder of the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), said the memory of Alvarito’s father will be “one more component of the struggle” in the demand for justice, truth, reparation, and non-repetition, which is promoted by the Mothers of April Association (AMA), organization which was presided by Conrado.
In an interview on the program Esta Semana, Nunez stressed that the repression and harassment of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo will not be able to stop the demand for justice. “The mothers, I am sure, will not be silenced, the relatives will not be silenced…a mother will never be at peace, knowing that her son’s murder remains in impunity. That cry of Alvarito (Conrado) will never be silenced.”
The human rights defender also spoke about the silence of the Catholic Church hierarchy regarding the imprisonment of eleven priests, including, Monsignor Rolando Alvarez, bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa.
The death of Alvaro Conrado on January 27th, comes four years and nine months after the murder of his son Alvarito in April 2018, how do you see this tragedy as a human rights defender?
It has been a very strong emotional blow because a series of elements and situations combine. It is a person who dies, practically under permanent torture, for the lack of justice and other harassments, of which the relatives (of those killed in April) have been victims.
It is one more component of the struggle. He (Alvaro Conrado) headed the most emblematic of the organizations, which we still continue to promote, and we won’t get tired and must continue to fight. All those feelings get mixed, and it is truly serious.
In addition to Alvaro, two other fathers and mothers of those murdered in 2018 have passed away without seen justice. Angel Gahona in 2021 and Josefa Narvaez, mother of Wendel Narvaez, in 2022. How long can justice take under a dictatorship like the one in Nicaragua?
It is not to diminish the magnitude of the tragedy and cruelty that is lived here, but these struggles throughout history and everywhere in the world have been very long. The struggle waged, for example, by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) in Argentina continues and it began in 1976. You see the case of (Jose Efrain) Rios Montt in Guatemala. It took thirty years of struggle by human rights organizations that finally brought justice. Likewise, many times they do not see justice in their own country.
The death of Angel and Narvaez must make us realize that we must prepare ourselves emotionally to fight for a long time. It the struggle for human rights, solutions don’t come in a day, regrettably.
Some of the victims’ relatives have been forced to take refuge, some in Costa Rica, in the United States, in Europe. Even Lizeth Davila, Alvarito Conrado’s mother, is a refugee in Switzerland. Who protects the victims’ relatives in Nicaragua?
Fortunately, there is asylum, refuge, and democratic countries that receive and, in some way, can keep people there and look for ways to provide them with the means of subsistence, the means to continue struggling.
One of the demands is, precisely truth, justice, reparation, and non-repetition. Repressive states and these cruel dictatorships are the ones that have the obligation to compensate financially. However, the damage caused to a relative by the assassination of a loved one is irreparable.
The silence of the Catholic Church hierarchy
CENIDH has complained to the Catholic Church and the Vatican for their silence concerning the persecution against Monsignor Rolando Alvarez and other priests who are being convicted in fabricated political trials. Can the regime silence the claim for truth and justice of the victims, of the relatives of the victims of repression?
No. I believe that this is the most genuine, most authentic, and most persistent struggle. They can definitely stop momentarily the demonstrations. They could do anything so extreme as the example you are mentioning to me which is completely beyond comprehension.
I take this opportunity to reiterate to the hierarchy of the Church that they should state their position. They must contribute, precisely, so that this repression against the Church, against Monsignor Alvarez, against all the priests who are imprisoned and persecuted does not continue. They shouldn’t allow their silence to lead them to become accomplices in some way. That is a hard word, but yes, silence definitely leads to that.
I am sure the mothers will not be silenced, the relatives won’t be silenced. I believe that this is the challenge for human rights organizations, human rights defenders, and society in general, to continue to accompany these mothers’ struggles. Not to turn a deaf ear to them, not to see them go by and say: “she has already forgotten” or “she is calm now.” No. I believe that a mother will never be at peace, as long as she knows that her son’s murder remains unpunished. The cry of Alvarito (Conrado) will never be silenced.
The Asociacion Madres de Abril, which Alvaro Conrado presided, has said that they will continue to demand truth and justice, but what about the rest of society that is afraid. Is this a cause that rests solely on the relatives of the victims of the repression, or does it concern society as a whole?
This is everyone’s struggle, in the broadest sense of the word. It cannot be that an act as cruel and perverse as the murder of an innocent person, should be the sole subject of grievance of a close relative, of a mother in the first instance. This is a responsibility and a duty of all Nicaraguans who want to have a free Nicaragua, who want our young people to stop dying, who want the harassment to stop and of making life more painful for the elderly, for people who are definitely living their last days. Everyone has the right to live in peace. This is a fight that we should all promote.
We should not leave the mothers alone with their pain. I want, not naively, to give a message of hope. It is true that no one wants to risk a beating in the street, harassment at home, to have their assets destroyed or stolen, but let’s not lower our resolve. Let’s not lower our conviction and let’s look for ways to continue promoting and driving this feeling of struggle, which I believe we are keeping alive.
UN Commission on Human Rights
What are your expectations regarding the impact that the UN Commission on Human Rights, which will present its report next March, will have in international bodies?
Many organizations, especially at the national level, have been in permanent contact with the experts or technical staff who are compiling all the information that the report will contain. We hope that it will be conclusive. This report will be presented with the objective, not only of another instance, but to have the Human Rights Council extend the mandate (of the Commission), hopefully for two more years.
By having information collected and verified they can submit a report that moves the UN Human Rights Council towards possibly bringing about a solution to the Nicaraguan problem, to more concrete actions.
We are always thinking that at the international level they are putting us aside. That we are off the agenda. But the truth is that United Nations bodies—the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner, all the agencies of the Inter-American System (the Commission and the Inter-American Court) have placed all the instruments available to the system against the brutality, against the Nicaraguan dictatorship.
This commission has the mandate to identify individual responsibilities in the chain of command of the repression. Can they have the capacity to get to that level of identification when it has not had the opportunity to enter Nicaragua?
The one that entered was GIEI and also at the beginning the Office of the High Commissioner, but this group of experts, as an organized body, did not have the opportunity to enter. Since it was going to be created, the (Ortega and Murillo) government rejected it, it did not recognize it. They said that it will never enter the country, that it would never recognize its work. That is why many of us have committed to fill that gap, due to the lack of presence, the lack of response, the lack of attention of the government to the requirements of the group. They will be able to have more elements to make all their recommendations.