CENIDH held press conferences on an almost daily basis and its team’s capacity to respond by verifying information was very agile. The members of the four CENIDH affiliates traveled to the places where attacks against the population had been reported, accompanying the relatives of the disappeared and detained to attend to the procedures to gain their release from the penitentiary systems of the Dirección de Auxilio Judicial [Directorate of Judicial Aid] (DAJ). They also documented denunciations of human rights violations committed primarily by people related to the government, paramilitary groups, or members of the Nicaraguan Police.
By six months after the onset of the human rights crisis in Nicaragua, CENIDH had received more than 1,800 denunciations regarding the repression and violence, with most of them coming in between May and August. Those denunciations primarily concerned threats, though they also received denunciations regarding people who had
been detained, assassinated, and tortured, according to the report Grave Human Rights Violations Perpetrated by the State of Nicaragua published by CENIDH at the end of 2018 that describes the rights that had been violated during six months of civil resistance to governmental repression.
Said report details how between April and September CENIDH documented the assassination of 316 people [and] arrest of 349 women and men; of the latter, 248 have to date been accused of diverse crimes, among them terrorism, organized crime, hindering public services, robbery, and the use of restricted weapons.
During this time, CENIDH also worked very closely with international missions that traveled to the country to monitor the crisis, such as the IACHR on its first field visit in May, as well as its Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) and its Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI); the mission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR); and other independent organizations, such as Amnesty International.
This intense work of accompanying the victims and denouncing in the national and international arenas the human rights violations that were occurring – and continue to occur – is for many activists, defenders, and CENIDH members themselves the reason they were persecuted by the authorities.
“This persecution is nefarious,” denounced Vilma Núñez to national journalists last year. The obstacles faced by CENIDH defenders in doing their work increased every so often: they were not allowed into the oral and public trials; they were not allowed to advocate in public instances; and they confronted obstacles to filing legal appeals in governmental agencies.
“I believe the government began to see CENIDH not only as an irritating actor but rather, a wrench shoved into some of the measures which they wish to continue implementing and into their political governing plan,” commented Viviana Krsticevic, Executive Director of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), an organization that has worked with CENIDH since its founding.
CENIDH was founded in May 1990 when Violeta Barrios de Chamorro became President of Nicaragua, ending a decade of Sandinista government. Its founders, a group of 11 activists and academics, thought that some of the achievements driven by the revolution in the area of economic and social rights – such as free healthcare and education – would be limited by the new government. “That was the initial idea that drove us,” recalls Vilma Núñez, who led the new organization. It gained legal status in September of that same year.