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Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing note on Nicaragua

07 February 2020

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Marta Hurtado

Location: Geneva 

Date: 7 February 2020

Subject:   Nicaragua    

We are very concerned about repeated attacks against indigenous peoples in Nicaragua, the lack of protection of their rights and the impunity for crimes committed against them. 

Most of the violence has been carried out by settlers as they seek to force indigenous people from their ancestral homes and use their lands for illegal logging and cattle farming. 

According to data collected by the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN), since 2015, some 40 indigenous people have been killed 47 injured, 44 kidnapped and four disappeared, in cases related to land invasions.

The most recent incident occurred on 29 January 2020, dozens of armed men attacked the Mayangna community deep inside the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve, a remote protected area in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, 300 km north of Managua. Four members of the Alal community in the Sauni As territory, were killed, two others injured and 16 houses burned down, forcing hundreds of people from the village and surroundings to flee. Police officers only arrived on the scene the following day.

The Mayangna publicly reported last November that they had received death threats from settlers, but they have said they did not received adequate protection.

In addition, on 4 January 2020, Mark Rivas, a Miskitu indigenous leader, was found shot dead in Bilwi, in the same Autonomous Region. He had reportedly received anonymous death threats after accusing the ruling party of creating divisions among indigenous communities.

Under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, indigenous peoples have a right to their lands, territories and resources and may not be forcibly evicted. The State has an obligation to ensure the protection of indigenous peoples and their lands, including from third parties.

Currently, 31 percent of the national territory is home to indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples. Although the Nicaraguan State has granted land rights to them through the adoption of Law 445 in 2003, they continue to face challenges and pressures due to recurrent invasions by settlers.

According to a joint assessment by a Danish NGO and the Mayangna Territorial Government, from 1999 to 2015, an average of 600 hectares of the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve were deforested per year, with the deforestation rate doubling from 2010 to 2015. In the area where the latest killings happened, the number of non-indigenous households doubled from 2009 to 2015, to almost 200.

We urge Nicaraguan authorities to conduct prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into these incidents, and to hold those responsible accountable. We also call on the authorities to provide justice, truth and reparations to victims and their families, and assist those who have been forcibly displaced, including those who have now returned to their communities.

It is crucial that authorities take the necessary steps to prevent further violence and protect the land, territories and resources of indigenous communities.


For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / [email protected] or Jeremy Laurence - + 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected] orLiz Throssell - + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected] or Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]

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