25 Human Rights NGOs Announce: Freed Nicaraguan Opposition Leader Félix Maradiaga to Receive 2023 Courage Award

GENEVA, May 4, 2023 —  A cross-regional coalition of 25 human rights organizations announced today that its prestigious human rights award will go this year to Félix Maradiaga, a leading Nicaraguan opposition politician who was released this year after being subjected to 611 days in prison and solitary confinement.

Maradiaga will receive the 2023 Courage Award on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at a ceremony to be attended by UN ambassadors, human rights activists and journalists from around world, at the 15th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

Maradiaga was chosen for his “fearless stand for democracy against the brutal dictatorship of Daniel Ortega, daring to run for president despite the risks to his life and liberty,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of United Nations Watch, a co-organizer of the conference together with Human Rights Foundation, Cultura Democratica, the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and more than 20 other human rights groups.

The Nicaraguan dissident previously addressed the Geneva Summit in 2019. After he was thrown in prison, his wife Berta Valle came to the 2022 Summit last year to appeal for his freedom.

Maradiaga Reacts to Winning Award

“The Geneva Summit has been instrumental in helping us speak out and denounce the human right abuses in Nicaragua and Latin America. During my imprisonment, the Geneva Summit provided a platform for my wife Berta, who was a relentless advocate for my freedom, and the freedom of the other political prisoners,” said Maradiaga.

“I cannot begin to tell you how proud I feel for receiving the award, which I will accept not only in the name of the civic resistance in Nicaragua, but also on behalf of human rights defenders around the world who are in arbitrary detention. This is something deeply personal to me,” he added.

“We are grateful that the Geneva Summit is playing a key role in highlighting the work of human right defenders on the ground.”

Previous laureates of the Courage Award include imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, and Mauritanian anti-slavery campaigner Biram Dah Abeid.

About the Geneva Summit

Maradiaga will join fellow champions of human rights from around the world at this year’s 15th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights, including dissidents, activists, victims, and relatives of political prisoners from North Korea, Afghanistan, Cuba, Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, China, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong and Nicaragua, who will testify on abuses in their countries.

The event draws a standing-room only audience of more than 800 participants, along with international coverage in major media including CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Le Monde and TIME magazine.

“It’s a focal point for dissidents worldwide,” said Neuer, “a one-stop opportunity to hear from frontline human rights advocates, many of whom have personally suffered brutal arrest, imprisonment and torture.”

The conference will be held ahead of the annual June session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Videos of past speaker testimonies are available at www.genevasummit.org.

Admission to this year’s May 17 Summit is free and open to the public, but registration is mandatory. The conference will also be available via live webcast.

For media inquiries and interviews with Geneva Summit speakers, please contact Pat at media[]genevasummit.org

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Geneva Summit 2023 Speakers:

Evgenia Kara Murza, Human rights activist, wife of jailed Russian prisoner of conscience and opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza

Yang Jianli, President of Initiatives for China, former political prisoner

Peter Yang, Son of Guo Feixiong, imprisoned Chinese “barefoot lawyer” and civil rights activist

Dr. Gyal Lo, Academic expert on China’s mass use of boarding schools to eradicate Tibetan identity and culture

Frances Hui, First Hong Kong activist granted political asylum in the US, Director of We the Hong Kongers organization

Qelbinur Sidik, Uyghur activist, witness to Chinese reeducation camp atrocities, survivor of forced sterilization

Fadzayi Mahere, Constitutional lawyer and opposition spokesperson arrested repeatedly in Zimbabwe

Nila Ibrahimi, 15-year-old Hazara activist who narrowly escaped the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

Darya Safai, Belgian MP fighting for rights of Iranian women

Hadrien Ghomi, French MP outspoken for victims of repression in Iran

Alireza Akhondi, Swedish MP campaigning to designate IRGC as terrorist entity

Ali Ehsassi, Chair of Foreign Affairs Committee, Canadian Parliament

Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress

Songmi Han, North Korean escapee and survivor of extreme poverty, oppression, and abandonment

Andrey Kurkov, Renowned Ukrainian novelist, author of “Diary of an Invasion” on Russia’s war

Anastasia Shevchenko, First dissident convicted under Russia’s “undesirable organizations” law, profiled in Oscar-shortlisted film “Anastasia”

Marie-Claire Kakpotia, Survivor and activist fighting to end Female Genital Mutilation

Nevşin Mengü, Turkish journalist dropped from CNN Turk after she criticized President Erdogan

Melissa Mahtani, Journalist, former CNN producer

Abraham Jiménez Enoa, Prominent Cuban journalist forced into exile, grandson of the bodyguard to Fidel Castro and Che Guevara

Hasler Iglesias, Venezuelan youth leader, went into hiding to escape arrest by the Maduro regime

Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of United Nations Watch, on behalf of the 25 NGO co-sponsors of the Geneva Summit

Javier El-Hage, Chief Legal and Policy Officer at Human Rights Foundation

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