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Will you write a message to encourage and embolden Bishop Rolando Álvarez?

Imprisoned for the Faith

"I believe that we belonged to a generation of young people who had to conquer our freedom at the cost of persecution and pain.

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Nicaragua was sentenced to 26 years in prison for “undermining national integrity” and “propagation of false news” for preaching on themes of God-given human dignity and justice, in which he denounced the human rights violations perpetrated by the Nicaraguan government against the Catholic Church, and the Nicaraguan people. He was expelled from the country and sent to the Vatican in January 2024. He is currently unable to return to Nicaragua and freely exercise his religion. 

ADF International is privileged to support his pursuit of justice, and will continue forward in bringing his case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, hoping to achieve justice for Bishop Rolando Álvarez and set a positive precedent for others facing similar trials in Nicaragua. Please join us in passing on your encouragement and unwavering support to the bishop.

What happened to Bishop Rolando Álvarez?

The systematic persecution of Bishop Rolando Álvarez by Nicaraguan authorities started on August 4, 2022, when police agents prevented him from leaving his residence, the Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa, to celebrate Mass at a nearby cathedral. The bishop, along with seminarians, priests, and a cameraman, was forcibly detained by police in the diocesan offices for 15 days.

Later, on August 19, 2022, police forcibly entered the residence, and arbitrarily arrested Bishop Álvarez and seven other members of the Catholic Church without a warrant. Bishop Álvarez then was placed under house arrest by authorities.

Following the arrest, Nicaraguan authorities opened a criminal investigation into the bishop for the crimes of “undermining national integrity” and “propagation of false news through information and communication technologies”.

Bishop Álvarez later was found guilty of these crimes, along with “aggravated obstruction of functions” and “disobedience of contempt for authority”.

The bishop’s charges were on the basis of sermons that he had delivered from the pulpit as a result of what he considered a religious duty to preach about governmental human rights violations. He was convicted after a trial that he did not know was taking place, and at which he, therefore, could not testify nor cross-examine witnesses.

Bishop Álvarez was deprived of his nationality and citizenship rights according to a problematic national law and sentenced to 26 years and 4 months in prison, in addition to being ordered to pay 800-days’ worth of fines, amounting to almost $5000 USD.

Prior to his release, Bishop Álvarez was detained for more than 500 days, deprived of contact with legal representation. Reliable sources attested to the gruesome conditions Álvarez suffered in prison, including being kept in total isolation in a maximum-security cell called “El Infiernillo” for several weeks.

Our Role in Bishop Álvarez's case

We filed a petition before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights on behalf of Bishop Álvarez in hopes of securing justice for him and setting a positive precedent for others facing similar trials in Nicaragua. ADF International also helped coordinate the international community’s efforts to pressure the Nicaraguan government to release the bishop.

An appeal to the Managua Court of Appeals against the conviction resulting from the sham trial was refused on procedural grounds for failing to challenge specific parts of the judgment, which the court had not provided. 

There is no further effective legal recourse available to the bishop in Nicaragua, which is why ADF International filed a petition on his behalf before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regarding violations of his rights to religious freedom, freedom of expression, and right to due process, amongst others.

“The international community celebrates the release of Bishop Álvarez, but will continue to denounce the detention of others who remain imprisoned in Nicaragua because of their faith.”
Kristina Hjelkrem
ADF International Lead Advocate

In November 2023, Members of the US House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations hosted a hearing titled “An Urgent Appeal to Let Bishop Álvarez go”. Witness and expert testimony were provided on the ongoing human rights crisis in Nicaragua. ADF International also submitted a statement regarding legal abuses during his sham prosecution and broader human rights violations of his case.

Bishop Alvarez’s ordeal led numerous bodies, including OAS member states, UN Special Rapporteurs, a UN panel of experts, the European Union and the U.S. State Department, to call on Nicaragua to comply with its human rights obligations and release Álvarez and other members of the Catholic clergy. ADF International provided support to different actors in the international community to aid their advocacy efforts and call for the bishop’s release.

We are collecting your messages of encouragement to let the Bishop know that he is not alone. Will you share a message with him?

What’s at Stake?

No one should be punished, imprisoned or suffer at the hands of the state for peacefully voicing their convictions and living out their faith.

Everyone should be able to speak their minds without fear of retaliation by the government, especially as international law guarantees the right to freely express one’s faith both privately and publicly.

Bishop Álvarez has been unjustly convicted of “undermining national integrity,” in addition to “propagation of false news,” and sentenced to 26 years in prison for simply fulfilling his duties as a bishop and preaching the teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church.

Religious freedom is protected under both international law and the Nicaraguan constitution, and the wrongful imprisonment of Bishop Álvarez is in direct violation of his right to religious freedom.

Despite his liberation, his case continues before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in hopes of achieving justice for the bishop and setting a positive precedent for others facing similar trials in Nicaragua.

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