Vilma Nuñez: A life dedicated to human rights in Nicaragua
Peace Award Winner 2019: Peace Ambassador in Public Life
The year 2018 was a bitter one for Nicaragua, and also for Vilma Nuñez. She has been working with other human rights activists for decades to bring both peace within the community and social justice to the country in Central America. But then came the demonstrations against the government and violent disputes which shook the country for months. Hundreds of people were killed. Thousands injured. Countless arrested. Currently, the situation within the country has once again settled down. However, it cannot be ruled out that the protests and violence may flare up again.
For Vilma Nuñez and many of her fellow campaigners, the developments in their home country are bitter. Much of what they built up through decades of work has been destroyed. But the idea of giving up is not an option for the women born in 1938 as the illegitimate daughter of poor parents, first growing up in a rural area and later in the town of León. After all, as a child she had to learn to fight against adversity: the fact that her parents were not married was a scandal. As was the fact that her father was a member of the conservative party and was therefore repeatedly imprisoned for political reasons.
Vilma Nuñez decided to campaign against this situation. After completing her law studies, she first worked as a lawyer in León and in the 1970s represented political prisoners in court, without payment. In 1975 she became a member of the Sandinista Party. Three years later she founded the regional group of the Nicaraguan Permanent Commission of Human Rights, took part in gatherings and protest marches of the Sandinista, was imprisoned and tortured. After the victory of the Nicaraguan revolution, she worked as deputy chairperson of the High Court and subsequently headed the National Commission for Human Rights.
After the election defeat of the Sandinista in 1990, she then founded the non-government and non-partisan Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH), which she chaired until she retired. The work carried out by CENIDH is founded on the principle of the indivisibility of human rights: political and civic rights are equally as important as economic, social and cultural rights. To date, the 80-year-old campaigns publicly for human rights.
Vilma Nuñez has been distinguished for her work on many occasions including by the Stieg Larsson Foundation and the French Legion of Honour (2011) as well as with the human rights award "Leonidas Proaños" presented by the Latin American Society for Human Rights.
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