High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet calls on the government of Nicaragua to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms and to guarantee free, fair, and transparent elections

Washington, D.C.; February 25th, 2021.- The socio-political crisis that has gripped Nicaragua since April 2018 has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the effects of Hurricanes Eta and Iota, reported UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet delivered these remarks during the 46th period of sessions of the UN Human Rights Council, where she presented her report on the situation in Nicaragua. Her report was met with approval by many diplomatic missions and international human rights organizations that participated in a public discussion after the presentation.

“As the elections scheduled for November 2021 draw closer, the rule of law continues to deteriorate in Nicaragua. The adoption of several laws contrary to the freedoms of association, expression, political participation, and the right to due process demonstrate the continual closing of civic and democratic space,” stated Bachelet, whose report covered the period from August 2019 through December 2020.

According to the report, the Office of the High Commissioner documented 117 cases of harassment, intimidation, and threats by police or pro-government groups against students, rural communities, political activists, human rights defenders, women’s groups, and organizations of the victims of rights violations. The report also documented “34 cases of intimidation, threats, criminalization, and smear campaigns against journalists and media outlets perceived as loyal to the political opposition.”

High Commissioner Bachelet emphasized that arbitrary detentions, most of them short-term, persist and called attention to the situation of political prisoners. According to the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political Prisoners in Nicaragua, 111 people remain imprisoned for their political beliefs as of February 2021. Bachelet also highlighted that indigenous communities on the Atlantic coast continue to suffer land invasions and violent attacks in addition to the devastation of the two hurricanes. Furthermore, the report found that femicides and underage pregnancy rates have risen.

Human rights violations and impunity

“Impunity has persisted for human rights violations committed during the 2018 protests,” the report states, emphasizing that recommendations previously issued to Nicaragua in the High Commissioner’s reports and in the Bulletin of the Regional Office of the High Commissioner have not been implemented.

“Incorporating a focus on human rights and on participation by the most vulnerable people will contribute significantly to a resolution of the current crisis and to the post-disaster reconstruction efforts. Again, I call on the government to allow my Office access to the country to monitor human rights during the electoral process and provide technical assistance to ensure the exercise of human rights. Electoral reforms must be adopted to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections,” concluded Bachelet.

Nicaragua’s response

On behalf of the State of Nicaragua, the Attorney General, Wendy Carolina Morales expressed, the “absolute rejection and non-recognition” of the report, which she called “unilateral” and “biased.” “The government strongly rejects these interventionist and interfering reports that seek to disqualify and denigrate our national authorities and institutions, such as our legal system,” she said.

International support

The High Commissioner’s report was endorsed by the diplomatic delegations of Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Georgia, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, Uruguay and the European Union, as well as by international human rights organizations that participated in a discussion following the presentation of the report, which included the intervention of representatives of Nicaraguan civil society.

The representatives expressed their concern regarding the ongoing repression against civil society, journalists, media outlets, opposition figures, human rights defenders and the recent approval of the Foreign Agents Law, as well as the government’s refusal to take responsibility for the human rights violations committed during the protests of 2018.

The president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), Vilma Núñez was among those who spoke on behalf of Nicaraguan civil society, Race and Equality, the International Service for Human Rights, and the International Federation of Human Rights. She denounced the destruction of several buildings that once housed civil society organizations and independent media outlets, which were expropriated and occupied illegally by the authorities. These buildings are in the process of being converted into Ministry of Health facilities.

Remarks by the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast (CEJUDHCAN), the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and CENIDH emphasized that “throughout 2020, land invasions and violent attacks have increased, with at least 13 indigenous people killed, 8 wounded, 2 kidnapped, the forced displacement of an indigenous community, and 2 attacks on indigenous girls.”

To view the High Commissioner’s presentation, click here.

Read the High Commissioner’s report here.

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