Washington, D.C., April 18, 2023. – With the presence of victims of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo and members of international human rights protection bodies, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) held in Washington, D.C., United States, the discussion, “Nicaragua: 5 years of crimes against humanity”, on the situation of exile, attacks on the press, and on the challenges and prospects of the International Human Rights Protection System in the face of the deepening crisis in Nicaragua.
The event was held in the context of the fifth anniversary of the socio-political and human rights crisis in Nicaragua.
Christina Fetterhoff, Director of Programs for Race and Equality gave the opening remarks at the event and recalled that since 2018, 355 people have been killed, more than 2,000 injured, and more than 1,614 people arbitrarily deprived of their liberty.
Fetterhoff stressed that the criminalization of dissident voices, the manipulation of criminal law, and impunity for human rights violations five years after the crisis, far from being resolved, continue to deepen and claim victims.
A press that does not remain silent
The first panel on the “Persistence of attacks on freedom of the press from the perspective of the victims and the Office of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression” included the participation of journalists Wilfredo Miranda, Lucía Pineda Ubau, Eduardo Enríquez and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of the Press of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Pedro Vaca Villarreal. The panel was moderated by David Álvarez Veloso, Coordinator of the Human Rights Consortium – Race and Equality.
In his participation, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Pedro Vaca Villarreal, applauded the courage of Nicaraguan journalism and said that the State of Nicaragua has deliberately renounced to fulfill the commitment it voluntarily assumed with the international community and with its population, especially in terms of freedom of expression. He warned that Nicaraguan society is being bombarded with official propaganda, which is only countered by the efforts of courageous journalism and called for increased support and backing for the Nicaraguan press.
The Rapporteur expressed that between 2018 and 2022 the IACHR granted 22 resolutions of precautionary measures to 69 people linked to Nicaraguan journalism and in some cases the protection measures have been extended to family members.
For her part Lucía Pineda Ubau, imprisoned in 2018 for six months for exercising her right to expression and recently stripped of her nationality and declared a fugitive from justice indicated that 100% Noticias despite being razed in 2018, its facilities confiscated and staff forced into exile, has not stopped reporting.
“I again call on organizations such as Race and Equality and international human rights protection bodies such as the Commission, the Court, the Human Rights Council, the Group of Experts for Nicaragua, and countries friendly to the people of Nicaragua, to continue to press for an end in Nicaragua to the dictatorship of terror imposed by the Ortega-Murillo family and all their accomplices,” said Pineda.
Journalist Wilfredo Miranda, co-founder of Divergentes, who was also stripped of his nationality on February 15, said that the dictatorship’s attacks have not silenced them. “While this may seem minor, it really is not. It is too much when you do journalism under a totalitarian regime, accused of committing crimes against humanity since 2018.”
Miranda recalled that it has been the reporters in the streets who began to document the crimes against humanity that today the UN Group of Experts foists on the presidential couple. In his case, he was able to document in a report the extrajudicial executions committed by police and paramilitaries. “Five years after the beginning of the April protests, we can say that among the democratic trenches that the Ortega-Murillo have wanted to destroy, journalism has resisted. We limp, but we do not give up,” said Miranda.
For Eduardo Enriquez, Editor in Chief of Diario La Prensa, the dictatorship has proposed to put an end to journalism, “the regime is determined to erase it, and proof of this are the journalists arrested and the 185 in exile.”
Enriquez added that in the 97 years of Diario La Prensa this is the worst stage that the media has gone through and told how they went from the embargo of paper and ink to the “robbery” of the media’s facilities and the imprisonment of Juan Lorenzo Holmann, Manager of the media and other workers.
Enríquez added that if Ortega and Murillo have not been able to silence journalism, it is because of the tenacity of the journalists, the rebelliousness of the citizens who continue denouncing from any corner and the support of non-governmental organizations.
They call on the international community to take forceful action.
The second panel was a conversation on “Banishment and loss of nationality: the regime’s new attempt to put an end to Nicaraguan dissidence”, moderated by Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality, in which Juan Sebastián Chamorro, political activist; Violeta Granera, Human Rights defender; Karla Escobar of the Peasant Movement; and Cinthia Samantha Padilla Jirón, student leader, participated, all of whom were banished by the Ortega-Murillo regime last February 9.
Carlos Quesada emphasized that the release of the 222 people deprived of their freedom was the result of the work of many people from the State Department, many of them volunteers. He recalls that when he saw the released and exiled people get off the plane, he had the feeling that he was seeing Nicaraguan society as a whole. “Which affected me because it means that the regime has gone all out, against the whole of society.”
Quesada recalled that to the 36 people deprived of their liberty for political reasons who remained in prisons as of March must be added 18 who remain arbitrarily imprisoned after being detained during Holy Week.
The panelists recalled that the repeated and valuable attempts of the international community and human rights protection bodies to find a peaceful solution to the crisis have not been met with collaboration from the regime. Therefore, they called on the international community to redouble efforts and continue insisting that the recommendations of the report of the Group of Experts, those of the Inter-American Commission, and the resolutions of the Inter-American Court be complied with and that more forceful actions be taken, as it has been proven that pressure pays off.
In the conversation Karla Escobar, who has twice been arbitrarily imprisoned, asked the international community to continue supporting the people of Nicaragua, with sanctions against the regime and other officials. She also regretted that the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) continues to give oxygen to the regime with financing to continue the repression inside the country.
Violeta Granera still finds it difficult to talk about the conditions in which she was arbitrarily imprisoned. “The torture was designed to affect our mind and our heart. It was very hard. Especially the isolation from our families,” she said.
Juan Sebastian Chamorro, also thanked Race and Equality, for all the support received. “Race and Equality is doing a tremendous job of documentation, monitoring, and advocacy in defense of human rights in Nicaragua,” said Chamorro.
Chamorro added that the regime has attacked the dignity and rights of all Nicaraguan people, including its own supporters. “It is practically impossible to find a human right that the regime has not violated,” he emphasized.
Samantha Padilla Jiron emphasized that the regime’s new tactics of repression such as banishment, confiscation, and denationalization are in violation of the Political Constitution of Nicaragua, which has been reformed so many times and tailored to the interests of the tyrant.
The third panel, “Challenges and Perspectives of the International System for the Protection of Human Rights in the Face of the Deepening Crisis in Nicaragua,” was moderated by Christina Fetterhoff, Director of Programs for Race and Equality. Fiorella Melzi, Coordinator of the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) participated in the panel and stated that the IACHR continues its non-stop monitoring and documentation activities on the situation in Nicaragua.
Melzi added that the situation of the families in Nicaragua who are living in fear, due to the discretion of the country’s authorities to decide who can travel and who cannot, is of great concern. Also of concern is the intensification of violence in the indigenous communities of the Caribbean Coast.
Melzi explained that from the work of MESENI, the Commission has reported the situation of the country in 202 press releases, nine reports submitted to the Permanent Council of the OAS; have trained more than 900 people and members of civil society; have provided follow-up to the compliance of 139 precautionary measures granted; and since 2018 have made a country report each year.
Viviana de la Peña, Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Group of Experts on Human Rights on Nicaragua (GHREN), said that the renewal of the mandate for two years reflects the seriousness of the crisis.
Peña called on the victims to continue documenting, since the work of the Group of Experts cannot be done without the victims and organizations such as Race and Equality that have facilitated access to victims and people who can provide information.
Carlos Quesada, director of Race and Equality explained what the work of the Institute has been ongoing since 2018 and indicated that in the case of the Inter-American Human Rights System, they have requested precautionary measures in favor of representatives of the private sector, journalists, and directors of independent media such as Confidencial, 100% Noticias, Radio Darío, La Costeñisima, as well as Human Rights defenders and people deprived of liberty for political reasons, whose lives were at serious risk before the controversial Amnesty Law, as well as people deprived of liberty in the following years.
He added that as part of the work carried out in the Universal System for the Protection of Human Rights, they have motivated the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions to pronounce on 38 arbitrary detentions in six requests presented and have motivated the Special Procedures of the United Nations to pronounce on the cancellation of legal status of civil society organizations, the prohibition of many people to return to the country, and the attacks on the independent press.
Finally Quesada said that Race and Equality will continue to fight for the promotion and protection of human rights in Nicaragua, and will continue to work not only in the Inter-American System, but also in the Universal System.