Geneva, April 3, 2019. In anticipation of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Nicaragua by the Human Rights Council in May, a group of human rights defenders and members of the Nicaraguan civil society described the current situation of their country to the international community in Geneva. The country has had a deep human rights crisis for almost a year.
This UPR Pre-Session was attended by representatives of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh, for its initials in Spanish), Ipas Central America, the Women’s Autonomous Movement (MAM, for its initials in Spanish), the Del Rio Foundation, the Nicaraguan Platform of NGO Networks, the Center for Justice and Human Rights of Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast (CEJUDHCAN, for its initials in Spanish), and the Marist International Solidarity Foundation (FMSI, for its initials in Spanish). All of the human right defenders exposed the violations of human rights committed in Nicaragua with the objective of educating the States that will evaluate Nicaragua in the near future.
Every five years, the UPR offers each State the opportunity to declare what steps they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their countries and to comply with its obligations in this area. However, no representatives of the State of Nicaragua attended the pre-session held today.
The event was attended by 43 diplomatic missions in Geneva, including the missions from Chile, Colombia, Belgium, Canada and Argentina. These missions asked questions focused on the situation of the more than 700 political prisoners, as well as questions regarding judicial independence and the progress of the negotiations that are currently being held between the government and civil society.
“There has been a profound deterioration in the state of human rights in Nicaragua characterized by the repression begun in April 2018 and its effects: deaths, persons injured and disappeared, and hundreds of persons now facing trial without the guarantees of due process,” said Vilma Núñez, president of the Cenidh, during her presentation.
Núñez added that “the current government – authoritarian, repressive, and a human rights violator – has plunged the country into a profound crisis marked by social discontent and a decline in the economy that has generated unemployment, the migration of thousands of Nicaraguans, and the impoverishment of broad sectors of the population”.
Since April 2018, Nicaragua has been submerged in a serious human rights crisis that has continued to intensify. During the last two months, the government has been silencing dissenting voices. Violence is more selectively manifested towards human rights defenders, women, journalists, independent media, LGBTI persons, and civil society organizations.
Juanita Jiménez, of the MAM, emphasized that Nicaragua “has weakened the fundamental guarantees for exercising freedom of expression and protest, characterized during the 2014-2019 period by assaults, repression and intimidation, arbitrary detentions, police oversight, the tapping of independent journalists’ phones, and in the case of women, they have been victims of repeated acts of institutional violence, with attacks recorded against female journalists laced with violence and misogyny.”
Regarding the indigenous peoples and ethnic communities of the Autonomous Regions of Nicaragua, Lottie Cuningham of CEJUDHCAN pointed out that “they continue living under unacceptable conditions of inequality in a reality marked by violence, invasion of their territories, disrespect for the elections of their traditional authorities, installation of megaprojects without their prior consent, corruption, and impunity.”
Each of the human rights defenders who attended the pre-session of the UPR presented their recommendations to the State of Nicaragua, which could be taken up by the States that will evaluate the country in May. The recommendations included the following:
– Guarantee the rapid, exhaustive, independent, and transparent investigation of all denunciations of rape, torture, and other abuses allegedly committed by the authorities and by those acting as agents of the authorities, demand rightful responsibility, and provide reparations and compensation to the victims.
– Respect the right to social protest and refrain from continuing to criminalize protest. Persons incarcerated for having questioned the regime through their ideas and actions must be immediately released.
– Draft, together with human rights defenders, a Protocol for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Nicaragua in order to overcome the current conditions of insecurity, harassment, stigmatization, and criminalization.
– Promote, together with an international support team, an in-depth investigation of all denunciations made against hospitals and other entities that did not provide appropriate medical attention during the protests in April 2018 and subsequent months.
– Demand that the State permit international bodies to enter and remain in the country and have unlimited access to relevant information so that they may analyze, verify, and indicate the responsibilities and define the corrective measures and sanctions for those responsible for violating the population’s right to health.
– Guarantee a system for recording information so as to provide an understanding of the real state of the violence, sexual violence, and maternal mortality in the country in order to develop appropriate strategies and actions for timely prevention and attention.
– Develop a State policy for attending to other victims of femicide, including sons, daughters, and other relatives, and create a Special Fund for compensating the families of femicide victims.
– Restore the territorial rights of indigenous communities, protecting them from the invasions of “settlers/colonists” or non-indigenous persons and third parties by establishing a dialogue with the traditional authorities to reach agreement on the procedure for freeing 23 titled indigenous lands of encumbrances.
– Consult indigenous peoples prior to initiating planned legislative or administrative measures that can directly affect them, such as megaprojects, extractive activities, or infrastructure works.
State did not comply with recommendations
The recommendations that were made to the State of Nicaragua in the previous UPR, in 2014, “were not implemented,” said Mayte Ochoa, of Ipas Central America, who maintained that the government “in some cases took on commitments it did not fulfill and in others, refused to undertake the required reforms and adapt legislation to international standards.”