This article is part of LAB’s new Blog Series, Environmental Defenders, inspired by the Global Witness report highlighting the terrible toll of killings of those who seek to defend their rights to land, water and their own way of life. The series is curated and edited by Katie Jones.
At the end of August 2021, news began to filter through of a massacre that had taken place at Kiwakumbaih, a sacred hill located in the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in northern Nicaragua. Details were hazy at first, with initial media reports announcing the deaths of at least 13 people. The victims appeared to be members of the Mayangna and Miskitu Indigenous communities, their dismembered bodies showing signs of having been tortured before their deaths.
In Bosawás more than 13 indigenous people were tortured and killed. Video: Canal 10 Nicaragua, 26 August 2021.
Two weeks later, authorities reported that there were nine dead in ‘a dispute over mining between members of the two communities’. At a press conference, police revealed three of the accused had already been apprehended and a further 11 were being sought in connection with the crimes. It appeared to be a tragic case of inter-communal violence that the police were actively working to resolve.
However, in the days that followed, statements made by the victims’ relatives and organisations working with the affected communities cast doubt on the official narrative. Wilmor Waldan, whose son was reportedly shot and crucified in the attack, condemned the lack of investigation by police. He told Nicaragua Investiga that while some members of the Mayangna community had been arrested, the colonos, or settlers, allegedly responsible for the violence had yet to be brought to justice.