Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua before the 49th session of the Human Rights Council

Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua, HRC49

Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Geneva, 7 March 2022

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Distinguished President,

Excellencies,

            My report A/HRC/49/23 has been submitted to you, in accordance with resolution 46/2, covering the period from 1 January to 31 December 2021. The concerns expressed in our oral update of 14 December 2021 remain valid and are reflected in this report. I regret that the recommendations we have made to the Government since 2018 have not been implemented.

            I acknowledge the Government’s efforts to achieve some of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially in favour of gender equality and with regard to spending on health and education.

            However, achieving the 2030 Agenda also requires building peaceful, just, tolerant, open and inclusive societies that provide equal access to justice and are based on respect for human rights. Progress in this respect is lacking.

            I am concerned by the continued failure to ensure accountability for human rights violations committed since April 2018. Accountability is the core of rule of law.

            Our information indicates that at least 43 people continue to be detained in the context of the 2021 elections, which were characterised by restrictions of civil and political rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and political participation. I deplore the death in detention last month of Hugo Torres, a prominent opposition leader who was arrested prior to the elections. The health of several other detainees has deteriorated in recent months.

At least 29 of these detainees continue to be held at the Evaristo Vásquez Police Complex, in violation of due process guarantees, and in reportedly inhumane conditions. Their contact with lawyers has been unduly restricted, impeding their defence. They have also been deprived of any contact or communication with their underage children.

            I also note with deep concern the recent resumption of trials against some of these men and women over the past month and the harsh prison sentences imposed to at least 34 persons disregarding due process. Guarantees to ensure fair trials, in line with international human rights standards should be put in place.

At the same time, we have continued also to document arbitrary detention and harassment by State agents of human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers. During 2021, my Office documented the harassment of 20 women and 6 men, and at least four women human rights defenders were arbitrarily detained. Forty cases of intimidation, threats, criminalization and smear campaigns by State officials against media workers have been also documented.

Urgent measures should be taken to ensure their swift release and to guarantee the physical and mental integrity of those arbitrarily detained, including granting access to OHCHR to visit them. Authorities must cease, publicly condemn and sanction any attack or harassment against political activists, journalists and human rights defenders.

            I am also concerned by the ongoing cancellations of the legal status of several institutions and civil society organizations. In the first two months of 2022, the legal personality of 12 Universities and 26 non-governmental organisations have been cancelled by the National Assembly, without any possibility for their representatives to speak in their defence. In 2021, 54 non-profit organizations had already been also cancelled in the same way.

            I strongly urge Nicaragua to repeal legislation passed since 2018 that unduly restricts the civic and democratic space, in particular the Special Law on Cybercrimes (Law 1042); Law 1040 on the Regulation of Foreign Agents; and Law 1055 on the defence of the rights of the people to independence, sovereignty and self-determination for peace. I also recommend harmonizing criminal and electoral legislation in line international human rights norms and standards.

            Nicaragua’s indigenous peoples have continued to suffer violent attacks in the context of land disputes, most of them in complete impunity. In 2021, OHCHR received reports of at least six attacks and violent incidents, resulting in at least 11 indigenous men killed, one woman and one girl raped and seven persons injured, including two children. Ensuring accountability in these cases is urgently needed to avoid repetition.

            Greater efforts to uphold the rights, including sexual and reproductive rights, of Nicaraguan women are also necessary. Civil society sources report 38 femicides in the first half of 2021 – an 81 percent increase from the same period in 2020.  Nicaragua also continues to have the region’s highest number of teenage pregnancies.

Excellencies,

            Fear of repressive action by the authorities in response to the exercise of fundamental freedoms is profoundly damaging to the human rights of the Nicaraguan people.

            Nicaraguans continue to seek lives of dignity and safety outside their country. The number seeking asylum in third countries was reportedly higher than in any year since 2018. At least 144,000 Nicaraguans left the country.

Mr President,

            With municipal elections scheduled in November 2022, it is urgent that the Government take steps to re-establish a credible, fair and transparent electoral process, as recommended in our reports. All Nicaraguans should be able to freely and fully exercise their civil and political rights, irrespective of their political affiliation.

            I also urge the Government to initiate a national dialogue, as offered by the President in January 2021. The dialogue should be inclusive of all views, and should aim to ensure a peaceful and democratic solution to the political, social and human rights crisis that continues to profoundly affect the country. I encourage the authorities to draw up a roadmap of clear commitments grounded on good faith and in international human rights norms and standards, and to ensure that the process of dialogue can be observed by impartial international guarantors. My Office is ready and available to accompany this process.

            Our Office also stands ready to assist Nicaragua’s Government and people to advance civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Granting access to the country for our staff, and Special Procedures mandate-holders, would constitute an important step towards further cooperation with the United Nations system.  

            In the current context, I must urge the Council to continue to monitor the human rights situation in Nicaragua and to consider all measures to promote human rights and accountability.

            Thank you, Mr President.

***



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