Press briefing notesOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Nicaragua - Silencing of critical voices
02 June 2023
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Marta Hurtado
We have growing concerns that the authorities in Nicaragua are actively silencing any critical or dissenting voices in the country and are using the justice system to this end.
In May alone, 63 people were reported to have been arbitrarily detained throughout the country. In a single night, 55 people were charged with “conspiracy to undermine national integrity” and “spreading false news”, charges that the Government is apparently using to silence its critics. The UN Human Rights Committee already raised such concerns in 2022 during its review of Nicaragua.
During their custody hearings, none of the 55 accused had a lawyer of their own choosing and were represented instead by a public defender imposed on them. Among the detainees were human rights defenders, political opponents, journalists, rural workers, and people linked to the Catholic Church.
This week, three foreign nuns were expelled from Nicaragua and three other nuns were prevented from leaving their convent. Between 21 and 23 May, four priests and four church employees were arrested and detained. Three of them are under house arrest and one is in jail.
Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who is serving a 26 year sentence for "undermining national integrity” and “spreading false news” is currently in “La Modelo”, a prison in Tipitapa near Managua, and has not been permitted any visits since 25 March. The Office has received information that his prison cell has inadequate hygiene and sanitation and no natural light, and that he is not allowed outside – conditions that violate international human rights norms and standards.
At least three of the nine dioceses of the Nicaraguan Catholic Church have had their bank accounts frozen for alleged money laundering. The Government has accused the Church of being a criminal organization supporting what it terms "terrorism" and the destabilization of the country.
On 9 and 11 May, the Supreme Court ruled that 26 lawyers and notaries critical of the Government, including some of the country’s most prominent human rights defenders, could no longer practise law in the country. Twenty-five were stripped of their nationality in February, together with 292 other people. The authorities have confiscated some of their assets and properties.
More than 3,200 organizations have had their legal status cancelled since the end of June 2022. Media outlets have also been forced to close.
We call on the authorities to stop the crackdown on dissent; immediately release all those arbitrarily detained; and restore the legal status of all organizations and media outlets that have been arbitrarily shut down since 2018.
We also urge the Government to address the current crisis through dialogue, accountability for human rights violations and institutional and legislative reforms to restore the rule of law.
The UN Human Rights Office is ready and available to assist Nicaragua to advance human rights in the country. Granting access to our staff would be an important step towards improved cooperation with the UN system.
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