Five years after the protests began, the human rights crisis continues to deepen, say victims of repression and international human rights protection bodies.

Five years after the protests began, the human rights crisis continues to deepen, say victims of repression and international human rights protection bodies.

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.

Closing of Civic Spaces: Race and Equality, Criola, Geledés and Iepé in favor of the democratic participation of black and indigenous civil society

Brazil, February 23, 2022 – the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) through the Latin American Human Rights Consortium, joined Brazilian civil society organizations: Criola, Geledés – Instituto da Mulher Negra and the Institute for Research and Indigenous Training (Iepé), to make visible Brazil’s situation regarding the participation of organized civil society in civic spaces. Focusing on black and indigenous populations, the research aims to produce a report to denounce, before international human rights mechanisms, the current regulatory frameworks that restrict freedom of association, limit freedom of expression and extinguish channels for civic participation in the country.

In view of the current global climate of democratic tensions, Latin American countries have been facing an uptick of restrictions and attacks that threaten the participation of organized civil society in decision-making spaces. In other words, with the closing and/or tightening of civic spaces, restrictive measures aggravate the harsh conditions that civil society organizations have faced every day for decades, including arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and murders of human rights defenders.

Added to this difficult scenario, the COVID-19 pandemic has particularly affected the region. Although some countries are among the highest numbers of infections and deaths in the world, the unequal distribution of vaccines, poor access to health services, the sharp drop in employment, and the lack of social protection systems, reveal that institutional weaknesses and structural problems that affect, especially the most vulnerable populations, have intensified. Under the pretext of maintaining security, the pandemic has also been used by governments in the region to impose greater restrictions on movement and freedom of expression, further limiting spaces for civil society to participate.

For David Alvarez Veloso, the Regional Race and Equality Coordinator for the Human Rights Consortium, this project is of paramount importance for the development and strengthening of democracy in the countries where civil society organizations play an active role in political and social life. It is also important to document and make visible the increasing restrictions and obstacles that have reduced spaces of participation. “With the support of the Consortium of Human Rights, and thanks to the work of organizations such as Criola, Geledés and Iepé in Brazil, among others, we have comparative and updated information on the effects these measures have on the different populations of the country. In this way, it is possible to empower leaders to strengthen the protection of human rights and articulate advocacy strategies at national and international levels, in order to end restrictions on citizen participation,” explains Alvarez.

Brazil and the history of threats to civil society participation

Towards the end of the dictatorial period in Brazil, civil society began to achieve voice and citizen participation to build new perspectives for a full democratic rule of law. In 1988, with the validity of a new Federal Constitution, a political conjecture came into force that valued more transparency of data, information, public budget and, also, as a new window of opportunities and rights for historically excluded groups, such as black, indigenous and LGBTI+ populations. However, since 2014, with the approval of constitutional amendments in the Dilma Roussef government – such as the anti-terrorism PEC and the sanctions related to state security until the coup d’état in 2016, which led to her impeachment – civil society’s relations with the State have intensified deeply.

These restrictive measures represented a blow to civil society because public demonstrations came to be understood as manifestations contrary to the interests of the State. However, what has been denounced by organized civil society is that during the current government of Jair Bolsonaro, the spaces for dialogue and guarantee of rights are practically null and for human rights defenders involve a dynamic of persecution, violence, surveillance and even death. The organizations denounce that even without a military decree or legal order to close civic spaces, the current relationship between the Executive and civil society prevents the debate of agendas and the presentation of social demands. In short, there is no dialogue.

Consequences for black and indigenous populations in Brazil

In November 2021, Race and Equality launched the webinar, “Closing spaces for participation: threats to civil society in Brazil, Honduras and Guatemala,” which was attended by representatives of civil society organizations, together with the vice president from Costa Rica, Epsy Campbell Barr, to denounce and outline proposals for the regional strengthening of civil society. The virtual event was attended by Lúcia Xavier, General Coordinator of Criola, who exposed the situation of persecution of human rights defenders and violations of democracy that make black and indigenous people even more vulnerable, with total erasure of their political agendas.

According to Lúcia Xavier, these attacks are reflected from the political violence that black women; cis and trans people, have been suffering with the contempt of the Executive. With lack of access to public information at the height of the pandemic, it was necessary to create a consortium between public and private sectors so that the population could follow the cases. Furthermore, Lúcia highlighted the death of human rights defenders both in cities and in the countryside, and that even protection programs are not adequately secure.

“The Brazilian Constitution guarantees the citizenship and participation of organized civil society in all policies. These sectors are not closed, these councils work, but the ability to admit and dialogue with other sectors of society no longer exists. Therefore, there is also no monitoring of policies and public budget in Brazil. Essentially, these laws immobilize the civil society participation format, and any demonstration can be considered as terrorism and a threat to national security,” emphasized Xavier during the event.” [1]

Faced with this situation of withdrawal of rights and silence, the questioning and search for justice is revealed as a path of dialogue for vulnerable populations. However, Rodnei Jericó da Silva, Coordinator of SOS Racismo do Geledés, sees with apprehension the 2022 electoral agenda, in which he believes that any incidence of civil society will overlap, but depending on the outcome of the elections there is a way for change and for civil society participation in decision-making spaces.

“The Brazilian population is mostly black, public policies or even social policies are debated in spaces where there was participation of society. The damage to the collective is enormous because the target audience is not being heard, which indicates that the possibility of error and ineffectiveness is much greater. Participation spaces improve the democratic system, strengthen society, which feels integral to the process, and together seek solutions to problems,” says Jericó.

The struggle of the indigenous population to not be completely decimated by the current government has been extremely challenging with the emptying of public institutions that ensure security and indigenous rights, such as the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), in addition to attacks on communities and their territories throughout the country. In 2021, the vote of Marco Temporal, [2] until now suspended by the Supreme Court (STF), aims to remove the possession of indigenous lands guaranteed by the Constitution. According to Luis Donisete, Iepé’s Executive Coordinator, the closure of public spaces of indigenous and environmental policies in Brazil has major implications for the exercise of citizen participation and indigenous social control.

“The anti-democratic and anti-indigenous bias of the current government has been transformed into an orientation towards the policies of the Brazilian state, contrary to activism and the actions of organized civil society. The results are the abandonment of government programs and policies that implemented rights enshrined in our legislation in different areas: health, education, culture, territorial management, protection of indigenous lands. Today there are no more channels of dialogue between indigenous representatives and different governmental bodies. It is a huge setback that will take years and a lot of dedication to rebuild,” denounces Donisete.

In this context of uncertainties, denunciations and silencing of civil society in Brazil, Race and Equality makes a call to international human rights mechanisms for a framework that can be further aggravated with the elections taking place in the country in November 2022. Considering the setbacks and limitations to citizen participation mentioned above, and to strengthen the role of civil society in democratic life, it is important that the Brazilian state advances, among others, in:

 1 – As provided for in the Constitution and in the laws, guarantee the political participation of organized civil society in public institutions and decision-making spaces of power, with effective monitoring of policies and public budget;

2 – Ensuring transparency in access to public information and carrying out data collection for the construction of intersectional public policies, as provided by the Access to Information Law;

3 – Strengthen the Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Communicators and Environmentalists (PPDDH), which has been falling apart, especially due to low budget execution, as well as the weakening of popular participation in the PPDDH Deliberative Council. [3]

4 – Create civil society participation councils taking into account the different realities of the Brazilian population. The councils must be a space for listening and decision-making for the most vulnerable populations, including black, indigenous, quilombolas, and gypsy peoples.



[1] These councils operate theoretically, but in practice they are unable to incorporate the perspective of civil society.





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