Washington D.C., December 20, 2018. Two missions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Nicaragua tasked with monitoring human rights violations and helping the authorities to clarify the violent events that transpired in April and May 2018 during the beginning of massive demonstrations left Nicaragua yesterday after the government suspended their visit and forced them to leave the country.
The expulsion of the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI, for its initials in Spanish), which arrived in the country on June 24, 2018, and the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, for its initials in Spanish), which began its work in Nicaragua on July 2, 2018 – both in response to recommendations presented by the IACHR in the report “Serious Violations of Human Rights in the Context of the Social Protests in Nicaragua” – occurred a day before GIEI presented a report on their six months of work, and eight months after the beginning of the human rights crisis caused by the brutal governmental repression of citizen protests that has left at least 325 people dead, more than 2,000 injured, and around 565 political prisoners.
The government’s resolution also prevents Special Rapporteurs and officials of the IACHR from conducting a series of visits that were already scheduled for the first quarter of 2019.
“The most affected [by the expulsion] are the victims and their relatives, because the main value of our work is to be able to bring the victims closer to the truth and justice. That is our deepest regret,” MESENI Coordinator Ana María Tello declared moments after learning of the authorities’ decision.
A MESENI report published Wednesday morning warned of “the intensification of a fourth stage of State repression” characterized, among other things, by the staggering of repressive measures and actions aimed at weakening the role played by human rights defenders and civil society organizations and the arbitrary expulsion or threat of expulsion of naturalized persons or permanent residents due to their participation in protests.
Months before, on August 31st, the government of Nicaragua expelled a mission of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) shortly after it presented a report on the serious human rights violations committed by State forces within the context of the protests.
Members of MESENI and the four GIEI experts – Sofia Macher, Claudia Paz y Paz, Amérigo Incalcaterra, and Pablo Parenti – attended a meeting on Wednesday with Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, during which he informed them of the unilateral governmental decision.
The letter Moncada read to the IACHR officials, later published by pro-government media, stated that the missions had not met their objectives and that “the IACHR, MESENI, GIEI, and OHCHR have become a platform for disseminating false information to promote international sanctions” against Nicaragua. In addition, it notes that the members of the GIEI did not respond to a counterproposal from the government on its Protocol of Action and that, therefore, they carried out “a series of actions in violation of the terms of the agreement” and national laws.
Incalcaterra later explained that the non-compliance with the Protocol of Action alleged by Moncada is “false” because all State communications were answered by the experts. “[The authorities] have not demanded that GIEI behave differently or that the our work be done in a specific way,” he alleged, instead denouncing that they never were given access to judicial files, official information that would allow them to fully comply with their mandate, or judicial hearings, even though the latter are public according to Nicaraguan law.
“The reasons they have given us do not satisfy us in any way. We think those are arguments that have been developed, in the specific case of GIEI, so as to prevent us from presenting the report on our six months of work that was scheduled for tomorrow,” the expert added, also declining to provide details of the report, in light of the fact that the authorities had “suggested” he not do so in Nicaragua.
MESENI’s Tello also explained to local journalists that her mission sent more than 70 diplomatic notes to the government to request information or meetings with authorities, and that none of them had been answered. “There was never pressure from the government because we did not have a dialogue with them,” she said.
They will continue monitoring
The work of the IACHR that began in April 2018 launched with a working visit May 17-21, after which the report “Serious Human Right Violations in the Context of Social Protests in Nicaragua” was published. Since then, MESENI has drafted dozens of weekly reports on its monitoring work; the IACHR has processed precautionary measures for more than 100 people; and various Special Rapporteurs of that regional human rights body have visited the country to evaluate the current situation.
In addition, the Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abraõ, has discussed the situation of Nicaragua in diverse spaces, such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and United Nations Human Rights Council. The IACHR also included four public hearings on Nicaragua in its 170th Period of Sessions, the last of which was held on December 6, 2018.
Ana María Tello stressed that neither the IACHR nor MESENI will stop monitoring the human rights situation in Nicaragua, although now they will have to do so from Washington, DC. Furthermore, experts of the GIEI announced that they would release their report from Washington, DC.
“The IACHR reiterates that the situation in Nicaragua will continue to be a priority, reaffirms its commitment to the victims of human rights violations, and will continue to monitor compliance by the Nicaraguan State with the international human rights obligations it has voluntarily assumed,” the Commission declared in a recent statement.
The International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race & Equality) condemns and rejects the decision of the State of Nicaragua to expel the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua and the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
This arbitrary decision of the State of Nicaragua not only violates the agreements established with IACHR representatives, but also deepens the defenselessness of Nicaraguans at a time in which violence, criminalization, and harassment are intensifying against activists, human rights defenders, the media, and the general populace who dissent from the dictatorial regime.
We observe with concern a clear desire of the government to impose a state of terror in the country that violates the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international and regional human rights instruments.
We urgently call on the entire international community to continue to monitor the crisis in Nicaragua and press for the protection and guarantee of the Nicaraguan people’s human rights.
As an organization that promotes and defends human rights in the Americas, we reiterate our willingness and commitment to denounce and fight against all acts that undermine the chance to build democracy, justice, and freedom in Nicaragua.