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Press briefing notes on Nicaragua and Ukraine

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Location: Geneva
Date: 1 June 2018

(1) Nicaragua

We are appalled at the ongoing violence in Nicaragua, where this week at least 16 people are reported to have been killed and more than 100 injured amid anti-Government protests, which are now in their seventh week. Reports that many of those killed were shot by police and armed pro-Government groups are deeply worrying.

The majority of the deaths are reported to have happened on Wednesday, which was Mother’s Day in Nicaragua, when thousands of people took part in marches in the capital, Managua, and numerous towns across the country in support of mothers whose children had been killed during the demonstrations and to protest peacefully against the Government. Since the protests began on 18 April, at least 100 people have been killed and some 1,000 injured.

We are extremely concerned at the reported arrest and detention by the army of six human rights defenders, including two adolescents, near the border with Costa Rica, in the early hours of 30 May, who were then taken to a detention centre in Managua. We call on the authorities to ensure their prompt release, and to guarantee all legal safeguards, including access to lawyers, and to respect the absolute prohibition on torture and ill-treatment.

We urge the Government to publicly express its support and respect for the important work of human rights defenders and to give clear instructions to the relevant authorities to prevent further aggression and intimidation. We are also extremely concerned at continuing reports of death threats, acts of violence and intimidation against journalists, students, and members of the Catholic Church, among others.

We welcome the Government’s announcement that it will accept an investigation into the deaths during the protests by a group of independent experts to be created by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) and the Organization of American States. However, the Government’s failure to comply with its international obligations in protecting peaceful protestors from violence and ensuring accountability for the unlawful use of force, is deeply regrettable.

We urge the Nicaraguan authorities to carry out effective, prompt, independent, impartial and transparent investigations into all allegations of serious human rights violations that have occurred in the last few weeks. These include reports of killings, torture, disappearances and arbitrary detention after the IACHR visited the country in May. It is essential that those responsible for such serious human rights violations are held to account, and that victims and their relatives are accorded effective remedy, including equal and effective access to justice.

We reiterate our request made on 7 May to the Nicaraguan authorities to grant us immediate access to the country so that we can, in line with the UN Human Rights Office’s mandate, gather first-hand information about what happened during the protests and promote concrete actions to prevent further human rights violations. 

(2) Ukraine

We call on the Ukrainian authorities to act urgently to protect minority groups, including Roma communities and LGBTI activists, in the wake of a number of serious acts of violence and harassment against them in recent weeks.

We are aware of at least four attacks against Roma communities since 21 April.

On the night of 21 April, members of an extreme right-wing group reportedly used rocks and tear gas to force Roma people living in Kyiv’s Lysa Hora neighbourhood to flee, before setting fire to their homes. On 10 May, more than 30 masked men assaulted several Roma families living in temporary shelters in the Lviv region of western Ukraine. Again, they forced the inhabitants – five adults and 10 children, including a two-month-old infant – to leave before setting their homes on fire.

On 22 May, about 15 assailants set a Roma camp on fire in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine. And last week, on 24 May, in the Kharkiv region, a lawyer representing the families of a person killed and others injured during a 2017 attack on a Roma settlement in Vilshany village was reportedly violently attacked and threatened by a local prosecutor and three men wearing military camouflage. They reportedly beat the lawyer, searched his office and stole money. They also warned him that he would be killed if he did not drop the case.

To date, no one has been held accountable for any of this violence.

There have also been attacks against other people advocating for the rights of women and LGBTI individuals, including on 8 March in Lviv and Uzhhorod, on 10 May in Kyiv, and on 19 May in Chernivtsi.

We urge the Government to pay closer attention to the actions of extreme right-wing groups throughout the country. In a number of cases, they have claimed responsibility for the recent attacks and intimidation against Roma, as well as the LGBTI community, and individuals promoting gender equality. The attacks, coupled with widespread social media posts that may amount to incitement to hatred and hate speech against Roma, the LGBTI community and other minority groups, are indicators of growing intolerance. This should be immediately addressed to prevent further violence against minorities in Ukraine.

The lack of accountability for attacks against minorities and evictions of Roma in previous years has fuelled an atmosphere of impunity. We urge the Government to demonstrate zero tolerance by publicly condemning such acts, by investigating all attacks against minorities, by bringing perpetrators to account and by guaranteeing the right to non-discrimination and equality.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 97 67 / rcolville@ohchr.org), or Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 94 66 / ethrossell@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org ).

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70thanniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.

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