GENEVA (16 April 2019) – With the anniversary of the start of the crisis in Nicaragua due to be marked by major protests later this week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday urged the Government to ensure its security forces allow space for people to assemble peacefully and express their views in accordance with their rights under international law, and warned the authorities to take great care to avoid further use of excessive force.
During the year since the first violent crackdown on mass protests in Nicaragua on 18 April 2018, more than 300 people have been reported killed, 2,000 injured, 62,000 displaced across borders, and several hundred people have been deprived of their liberty.
Recent protests on 16 and 30 March reportedly resulted in another 10 people being injured, including three as a result of gunfire, and the arrest of some 170 protestors who were, however, subsequently all released.
"I am concerned that the protests planned for later in the week may trigger another violent reaction," Bachelet said. "Violations over the past year include the criminalization and harassment of -- and attacks on -- student leaders, human rights defenders, journalists and others critical of the Government. The authorities have also resorted to media censorship, bans on demonstrations, and persistent use of excessive force and large-scale arbitrary arrests by the police. Inevitably these actions, coupled with the lack of accountability for unlawful excesses by members of the security forces, have stoked rather than reduced the tensions in the country."
The High Commissioner said she was also disturbed by reports of severe conditions in jails and detention centres that could amount to torture and ill-treatment. For example, recent protests at La Modelo, a men’s prison in Tipitapa, to the north-east of the capital Managua, where people detained during the protests are held alongside common criminals, were reportedly violently repressed, through beatings, use of dogs and tear gas.
Bachelet stressed the need to place the victims of human rights violations and abuses since April 2018 at the centre of the negotiations. Despite two agreements reached in March by the Government and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy – one on the release of people detained in the context of the demonstrations, and another more overarching one on the strengthening of rights and safeguards – further negotiations have stalled, and the agreements do not appear to have been implemented.
"The fact that the negotiations have come to a standstill and the Government is not honoring the agreements reached so far, is undermining the possibility of establishing a genuine inclusive dialogue to solve the serious social, political and human rights crisis facing the country," Bachelet said.
"A solution to the crisis must address the institutional flaws and strengthen the rule of law," she added. "It is of paramount importance that a thorough and transparent accountability process is established to ensure justice, truth and reparations, as well as a clear guarantee of non-repetition, in line with international norms and standards."
A recently adopted resolution on Nicaragua by the Human Rights Council in Geneva called on the Government to resume cooperation with Bachelet’s office as well as with other international and regional human rights bodies. It also requested the High Commissioner to present a full report on the human rights situation in the country in September, with an earlier update to the Council in June and another in March next year.
Bachelet stressed her willingness to cooperate with the Government of Nicaragua, and said her staff stand ready to return to the country to assist the authorities to fulfill the State’s international human rights obligations, providing conditions are in place allowing them to operate in an effective and credible manner.
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