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, former Saudi political prisoner 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



Félix Maradiaga, one of the more than 200 political prisoners released in February by the Nicaraguan dictatorship, with his wife, Berta Valle, and their daughter, Alejandra, outside a hotel after arriving in the United States at nearby Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia, February 9, 2023 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)


UN Watch