IACHR Rapporteur for Nicaragua: “We will continue to monitor the situation, accompanying and listening to the victims”


The work of monitoring, documentation, denunciation, and condemnation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has been essential since the beginning of the serious sociopolitical and human rights crisis in Nicaragua. Recognizing their work, on the fourth anniversary of the civic rebellion of April 2018, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race […]

IACHR Rapporteur for Nicaragua, Esmeralda Arosemena

The work of monitoring, documentation, denunciation, and condemnation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has been essential since the beginning of the serious sociopolitical and human rights crisis in Nicaragua. Recognizing their work, on the fourth anniversary of the civic rebellion of April 2018, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) interviewed the IACHR Rapporteur for Nicaragua, Esmeralda Arosemena, about the role that this agency has played in the situation that the country is going through since April 2018 and what could be the next steps to achieve truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition for the victims of violence and repression.

In a report published in October 2021, the IACHR warned that in Nicaragua there is a weakening of the rule of law and a profound deterioration in the area of Human Rights that has been brewing for two decades. What progress or setbacks have there been in Nicaragua in terms of Human Rights since the publication of this report (October 2021)? What new patterns have been identified and what is currently of greatest concern?

The report includes several elements that account for what its title indicates, concentration of power and weakening of the rule of law in Nicaragua. In November 2021, elections were held in a context of repression, corruption, electoral fraud, and structural impunity, which made it possible to ensure that the Executive remains in power and, in turn, consolidate an anti- democratic regime in the country.

The IACHR observes that the State continues with a strategy aimed at keeping civic and democratic space co-opted by imposing a perpetual police state, and new measures and laws that arbitrarily restrict the rights of the population. Recently, from the IACHR, we rejected the massive and forced closure of civil society organizations, foundations, universities, cooperation and development agencies, feminist groups, medical unions, among others.

On the other hand, we are very aware of the violation of criminal law, including (those) included in the constitutional norms of the country; and the criminalization of people identified as opponents of the government, an element that responds to the lack of judicial independence and separation of powers of a Public Ministry and a Judicial Power subject to the will of the government in a clear detriment to the rule of law and the democracy. This is in memory of the political prisoners who, between February and March, were tried and sentenced to very high sentences, without judicial guarantees.

Four years have passed since the beginning of the crisis in the country, and the Ortega and Murillo regime continues without responding to the recommendations and precautionary measures granted by the IACHR and fails to comply with sentences and resolutions of the Inter-American Court. How do you assess this position of Nicaragua? What is the position of the IACHR to contribute to the end of the repression and the way out of this crisis? What additional international mechanisms or instruments exist for accountability in Nicaragua?

Among the roles that the IACHR has is to raise awareness about human rights, make violations visible, and make use of its protection mechanisms such as precautionary measures. In this sense, we will continue to monitor the situation, accompany, and listen to the victims, and demand that Nicaragua restore its democracy and repair the serious and unacceptable violations that continue to occur under a regime that decided not to be democratic.

The Commission has assessed the lack of compliance with its recommendations for the inclusion of the State of Nicaragua in section B of Chapter IV of its Annual Report for three consecutive years. We have granted more than 30 precautionary measures to people, leaders, political opponents for being in a situation of risk and irreparable damage to their rights. For its part, the Inter-American Court in 2021 communicated to the OAS the contempt of the State of Nicaragua for the provisional measures issued in favor of the release of political prisoners in the country. This exemplifies that the organs of the Inter-American System are making use of all available conventional tools to contribute to compliance with the recommendations made to the State.

We must remember that the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) for Nicaragua was a body established through an agreement between the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (GS OAS), the IACHR and the Nicaraguan government to investigate the acts of violence that occurred in the period from April 18 to May 30, 2018. The GIEI presented its report that reported the serious violations that occurred and continued. Subsequently, the IACHR installed its Special Follow-up Mechanism also for Nicaragua (MESENI) to continue monitoring and raising awareness. Now the United Nations has resolved to establish a group of experts to investigate human rights violations in Nicaragua.

Recently, in a hearing of the IACHR, it stated that it had tried to establish a dialogue with the State but had not received any response . Do you think there are possibilities of obtaining a positive response from the State in the short term? What results can be expected from this dialogue?

The Inter-American Commission has permanently expressed its willingness to collaborate technically with the State for the restoration of human rights, the rule of law and compliance with the recommendations. From our role, we will continue to insist that the national dialogue with the organizations that fulfill the function of defending and promoting human rights is one of the ways that must be assumed in any democratic system for reparation, for the memory, truth, and justice.

You have previously stated that political prisoners are a priority for the Commission. From your Office of the Rapporteur: Do you see progress that could result in the prompt release of political prisoners? What other efforts are planned to demand the release of these people?

For the Commission, the 171 political prisoners are a priority, and it will continue to work for their release, as well as to guarantee due process and access to a defense. However, as I mentioned before, we regret the lack of will of the State to comply with the recommendations made and release them immediately. Due to the foregoing, the Commission will continue to make use of all its mechanisms so that prisoners are released and receive justice and reparation.

In my capacity as rapporteur for Nicaragua, I will continue to accompany the women and men who are political prisoners today, through their families, friends, and their lawyers.

As Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, what is your assessment of the recent cancellation of the human rights organization for indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants CEJUDHCAN? What challenges exist in relation to the state obligation to respect the self-determination of these peoples in Nicaragua?

Without a doubt, the closure of this organization (CEJUDHCAN) has serious consequences for the protection of the traditional rights and territories of the peoples of the North Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. In this regard, members of different communities have denounced the serious effects that the closure of this organization has for the protection of their rights, lands, and traditional territories in a context of systematic attacks by “settlers” (non-indigenous third-party invaders). It is worth remembering that the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights are closely linked to their own lands, territories, natural resources, social, cultural, and political institutions, and their self-determination.

In the report on the right to self-determination of indigenous and tribal peoples of the IACHR, reference is made to the fact that the different constitutive elements of self-determination such as political participation, consultation, and free, prior and informed consent, are part of commitments and States’ obligations under international instruments. This is one of the challenges that the States, including that of Nicaragua, have with respect to indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants.

On March 7, the United Nations High Commissioner affirmed that “the Indigenous Peoples of Nicaragua have continued to suffer violent attacks in the context of territorial disputes, most of them with total impunity.” Given this background: In what way do you think the IACHR could coordinate with the United Nations System to seek an improvement in the situation of lack of protection in which indigenous peoples live?

Since the beginning of the crisis, the IACHR has been working in coordination with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to address serious human rights violations. Last year, given the intensification of the repression in the context of the elections, the IACHR also announced that they were reinforcing this work, as well as the intention to establish articulated strategies to provide timely responses to the situation observed in the country […]

On March 23, the former Nicaraguan ambassador to the OAS, Arturo McFields, denounced crimes against humanity committed by the Ortega regime against Nicaraguan citizens: How important is this complaint to the IACHR? Could it be taken as further evidence of the deterioration of the human rights situation?

The IACHR considers that the statements by Ambassador Arturo McFields confirm the serious human rights violations that are being committed in the country, the institutional deterioration, and the sharpening of the Executive’s strategy to silence dissenting and opposition voices […] It also demonstrates the persistence of a police state that, in coordination with government groups, attacks, monitors, threatens, and harasses any person identified as an opponent, and this, in this case, is reflected in the dismissal of Arturo McFields as Nicaraguan ambassador to the OAS .

What is your message for Nicaraguan citizens, particularly for the victims of state violence? What call do you make to the Government of Nicaragua? What is your message to the international community and other States in the region in the face of the deepening of the crisis?

Four years after the beginning of the human rights crisis, the IACHR reminds the victims, their relatives, and civil society organizations that it maintains its permanent commitment to continue working to achieve justice and reparation, the reconstruction of democracy, and ensure that national reconciliation arrives with memory and historical truth. From our role, we will tirelessly ensure that the protection of life and physical integrity of each person is guaranteed, as well as the freedom of expression of the Nicaraguan people.

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