GENEVA (8 February 2019).- We are extremely troubled that on Thursday, agents from the Nicaragua Ministry of Interior conducted a raid, allegedly without a warrant as required by law, on the offices of the Red Nicaragüense para la Democracia y Desarrollo (commonly known as ‘Red Local’), which is a coalition comprising 22 civil society organizations working across the country. Documents and assets were seized, and according to some reports, two of Red Local’s staff were detained for a few hours and subsequently released.
Red Local and the network of NGOs it supports perform crucial work on behalf of ordinary Nicaraguans, and they should be able to operate without fear of harassment by the authorities.
The assault comes just six days after a group of Nicaraguan civil society representatives, including some members of Red Local, met with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in Geneva and told her of their concerns about the increasing restrictions on civic space and expression of dissent in Nicaragua.
We call on the Nicaraguan authorities to enable civil society to work freely and to continue their cooperation with UN institutions and mechanisms without facing reprisals. Harassment of civil society organisations is a violation of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, she stressed.
Thursday’s raid is the latest in a series of actions targeting civil society organizations that have been critical of the Government. Between November and December last year, a total of nine NGOs had their legal registration cancelled.
Raids on media outlets have also been reported and a number of journalists have been arrested, including some accused of terrorism-related crimes. As of last week, at least 66 journalists had reportedly fled the country.