Chief Legal and Policy Officer at Human Rights Foundation, Javier El-Hage presents the 2023 Courage Award at the 15th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below his prepared remarks.
It’s my distinct honour to present, on behalf of the Geneva Summit’s 26 partner organizations, the 2023 Courage Award to Félix Madariaga, a fellow Latin American.
But Félix is no ordinary Latin American. In a continent that has endured and continues to endure military dictatorships, communist dictatorships, and armed conflicts that have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, Félix represents the best of the Latin American spirit.
Félix chose to be a human rights defender in Nicaragua, and so, for the last 16 years, he has chosen to denounce the brutality of the tyrannical regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
During the Geneva Summit in 2019, on this stage, Félix called on the international community to get involved, and impose sanctions on Nicaragua’s oppressors.
From this podium, Félix denounced the extrajudicial executions of around 350 of his fellow Nicaraguans. He denounced that 82,000 were forced into exile, thousands detained, and more than 650 arbitrarily arrested.
“It is possible to defeat tyranny through civil resistance and nonviolence,” he said at the time choosing to close with a message of hope.
Two years later, however, in June 2021, the political police of Daniel Ortega threw Félix into the dungeons of one of Latin America’s most horrendous prisons, simply for daring to announce his candidacy for the presidency of Nicaragua.
At El Chipote, Félix endured almost two years of inhuman and degrading treatment, with long periods incommunicado.
Félix’s nightmare ended unexpectedly and abruptly just a couple of months ago when he, alongside 222 Nicaraguan political prisoners, were forcibly exiled and stripped of their nationality.
Félix did not only survive the brutality of Ortega’s jail, but only days after reencountering his equally courageous wife Berta Valle and daughter Alejandra, Félix again chose to appear via video before the UN Human Rights Council to speak on behalf of the remaining Nicaraguan political prisoners.
Querido Félix: Courage is a choice. You have chosen courage at a huge personal cost, and this is why you deserve the Geneva Summit’s Courage Award. Congratulations.