GENEVA (22 November 2018) – UN human rights experts* are urging the Government of Nicaragua to immediately put an end to the repression and reprisals against those who speak out against the Government and cooperate with the UN, including human rights defenders, journalists and peaceful protesters.
Since April 2018, repression and violence have caused the deaths of more than 300 people in Nicaragua, while another 2,000 have been injured. The crisis started with a police crackdown on social protests, and by mid-June a period of outright “cleansing” had begun, with pro-government armed groups acting with impunity against those who voiced their dissent, the experts said.
“Protesters, human rights defenders, and others who have been critical of the Government have been persecuted, threatened and criminalised,” the experts said. The experts said that they had received testimonies from protesters and human rights defenders who have been victims of reprisals for cooperating with the United Nations and the Organization of American States in the context of the current crisis.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the alleged arbitrary detention of dozens of people, and the fact that some of them appear to be facing trumped-up terrorism charges. We are extremely concerned that many of them are reporting to have been subjected to torture and degrading treatment while in detention,” the experts said. They also urged the Nicaraguan authorities to ensure that the detainees are afforded fair trials in line with international standards.
The experts also expressed serious concern at the human rights violations reportedly committed against women human rights defenders. “Women defenders face particular risks, including acts of sexual violence. We have received a complaint from one woman human rights defender who was beaten and raped by a policeman while being held in ‘El Chipote’ prison, but we fear this could be only one of many such cases,” they said.
The experts expressed additional concern at reports of intimidation and smear campaigns against human rights defenders. “We are gravely concerned that some human rights defenders are under continuous police and paramilitary surveillance and that several have received anonymous death threats against them and their families.”
Some of the human rights defenders’ names and addresses have been posted online, where they have been accused of being enemies of the homeland, the Government, or responsible for funding a coup d’état. “This is a blatant attempt to discourage people from defending human rights, to frighten those who speak out against the Government into silent submission,” the experts said.
The UN experts concluded by calling on the Government of Nicaragua to urgently engage in inclusive talks with all stakeholders and to fully respect its international human rights obligations. They are pursuing the issue with the Nicaraguan authorities.
*The UN experts: Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (Chair), Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Prof. Joe Cannataci, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy; Dr. Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ms. Elizabeth Broderick, Ms. Alda Facio, Ms. Ivana RadačIć (Chair), Ms. Meskerem Geset Techane (Vice Chair), Ms. Melissa Upreti, Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.
The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, country page – Nicaragua
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