GENEVA (9 August 2018) – UN human rights experts* urge the Government of Nicaragua to stop the repression following 100 days of unrest in which at least 317 people have been killed and 1,830 injured.
“Reports indicate that there has been an increase in targeted repression, criminalisation and alleged arbitrary detention, which is creating an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty among different communities and among civil society representatives in the country,” the UN experts said. “We are appalled that many human rights defenders, journalists and other opposition voices are being criminalised and accused of unfounded and overly punitive charges such as ’terrorism’.”
In April, security forces and groups affiliated with the governing party violently suppressed protests against social security reforms. The protests have recently decreased in number and intensity, following the removal of roadblocks by the Government.
However, UN experts said voices critical of the Government, including rural community leaders and health professionals, students, independent journalists, representatives of the Catholic Church and members of the Civic Alliance, are still subjected to intimidation, threats and deprivation of liberty, including collective detention and ill-treatment. Health professionals assisting injured individuals have faced retribution and have been dismissed from their jobs without a clear explanation triggering a domino effect on healthcare access. There have also been allegations that funding to some academic institutions has been frozen as a punitive response to the protests.
“We deplore what appears to be a smear campaign aimed at discrediting or vilifying human rights defenders as “terrorists” and “coup-mongers”, and apparent attempts to undermine the opposition.”
“We are also deeply concerned that new legislation adopted earlier in July by the Nicaraguan Congress to target money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, could provide the authorities with increased leeway for arrests and criminal proceedings against protesters and be misused,” the UN experts stressed.
“We are worried that these patterns of repression of dissent are expanding and are indicative of a policy implemented by the authorities to eradicate the structural conditions which support opposition voices and critics,” they said, while they recalled that “no one should be detained for the exercise of their human rights”.
Concerns are heightened by the level of impunity surrounding human rights violations, including acts of violence against women human rights defenders, reportedly perpetrated by the State’s law enforcement officials and paramilitaries. In addition, numerous irregularities in ensuring due process in investigations against those who have opposed the Government have been reported.
Experts stressed the importance of the Government keeping a clear and up-to-date record of the names and locations of people who have been deprived of their liberty. In addition, those who face legal proceedings must be guaranteed their right to a fair trial, with all the guarantees of due process.
“Impunity, violence and repression have never been a breeding ground for peace and stability and will certainly, on the contrary, plunge the country into deeper social and political unrest,” the said the experts.
“We exhort the Government of Nicaragua to immediately demobilise paramilitary groups and to investigate the extrajudicial executions, killings and reports of enforced disappearances with due diligence, without delay and through the use of effective, impartial and independent procedures.
We also urge the Government to refrain from engaging in practices of criminalisation against human rights defenders and other activists, including through the inappropriate use of national security and counter-terrorism legislation.”
The UN experts called on the Government to engage in meaningful and inclusive talks with all concerned, in the context of the National Dialogue, and to fully respect and guarantee compliance with its international human rights obligations.
“We finally invite the Nicaraguan authorities to fully collaborate with OHCHR, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, granting full access to information, detention centres and other locations, in order to allow them to continue assessing the human rights situation in the country in accordance with their respective mandate”, concluded the experts.
* The UN experts: Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voulé, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ms Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; Mr. Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Ms. Ivana Radačić, Chair of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism ;Mr. Bernard Duhaime, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.