StatementsOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
21 June 2023
Geneva, Palais des Nations, Room XX
53rd session of the Human Rights Council
Oral update on promotion and protection of human rights in Nicaragua
Statement by Nada Al-Nashif
United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
Distinguished Vice President,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my honor to present this oral update on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua as mandated by Human Rights Council resolution 52/2.
Since the last update by the High Commissioner to the Council on 3 March of this year, our Office has documented cases of serious human rights violations committed by State officials against the backdrop of a steady deterioration of the overall human rights situation. Restrictions on civic space combined with the increasing erosion of the rule of law, continue to prevent the full exercise and enjoyment of human rights, in particular of those with dissenting views from those of the Government.
Silencing of critical voices persists in a context of widespread fear and harassment by the authorities, leaving almost no space for any open and inclusive public debate. New waves of arbitrary deprivations of liberty, including of human rights defenders, political opponents, journalists, members of the peasant movement, and persons linked to the Catholic church were carried out in April and May. On 3 May, 63 people were reported to have been arbitrarily detained throughout the country. That same night, 55 of them were charged with “conspiracy to undermine national integrity” and “spreading false news”. These crimes are routinely used by the authorities to criminalize political opponents and the legitimate work of human rights defenders, using the justice system to this end.
In the last months, our Office has also documented the prohibition of re-entry of at least six Nicaraguan nationals, as well as obstacles to obtaining national passports by relatives of anyone opposing or indeed perceived to be opposing the Government. These measures have resulted in family separations, with a significant impact on affected children. Other measures, such as confiscation of assets, including private property, pensions, bank accounts, have negatively affected over 300 individuals deprived of their nationality as well as their relatives.
Since March, a total of 119 civil society organizations and eight Universities have had their legal personality cancelled. Moreover, the persecution of members of the Catholic church has intensified. The institution reported that six of its members were expelled from the country and another four arrested, this year alone. The case of Bishop Rolando Álvarez is emblematic of this trend. Currently serving a 26-year sentence, issued without a trial, in “La Modelo” prison in Tipitapa (near Managua), he continues to be subjected to detention conditions that violate international human rights norms and standards, such as a visitor ban and inadequate hygiene and sanitation. The bank accounts of at least three dioceses were frozen after the National Police accused the institution of money laundering.
Furthermore, during the Holy Week celebrations, police officers reportedly intimidated and harassed priests and procession participants of at least four churches across the country. This harassment had the same effect as a de facto ban, as it led the Catholic church to cancel most processions and gatherings out of fear of reprisals.
Religious freedom is a fundamental element of democratic societies. Selecting and promoting certain denominations that the Government perceives as politically favorable, while persecuting others, constitutes a violation of a range of rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief.
Indigenous peoples continue to be victims of attacks and harassment reportedly by settlers. On 11 March, five people were killed in the Mayangna Wilú indigenous community. An indigenous leader from the Alal community, in the Bosawas reserve, was also killed on 24 April. Around 60 families belonging to this community left their homes as a result of the killing, with at least half of them having since returned. As in previous attacks against indigenous peoples, the Government has failed to publicly condemn the attacks, and to release information on investigations.
Our Office calls on the concerned authorities to take all necessary measures to investigate all attacks and killings in indigenous communities in the Caribbean Coast in accordance with human rights norms and standards. The authorities should also prevent human rights abuses against indigenous peoples, by taking appropriate protection measures.
The international human rights system was built to protect all people when their lives and enjoyment of their rights are in danger; and this is the case of Nicaragua today. Five years into the crisis, Nicaragua has yet to address the challenges outlined in this and previous updates and reports to the Council.
I reiterate my call on the Nicaraguan authorities to re-establish a meaningful dialogue with our Office and with the United Nations human rights mechanisms; and to live up to their international human rights obligations and voluntary commitments to ensure that all Nicaraguans are able to enjoy their human rights.
To this end, I urge the authorities to:
Put an end and reverse all measures in place, those measures that are eroding the rule of law, civic space and human rights.
Immediately and unconditionally release all persons arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, restoring the rights of persons deprived of their nationality.
Cease the persecution against the Catholic church and civil society actors, and restore the legal personality of all associations, media outlets and universities arbitrarily canceled since 2018.
Ensure accountability for present and past violations, including to preserve the path towards a national, inclusive and participatory dialogue.
Anchor any political process in human rights, in line with the principles of participation, transparency and accountability.
Use the national review before the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which is scheduled in October, to re-engage constructively with the United Nations human rights system.
As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the spirit of constructive engagement, I invite Nicaragua to present, within the framework of these celebrations, pledges that would signify a change of course towards overcoming the human rights crisis in the country and achieving progress in the realization of such rights for all Nicaraguans and all persons living in the country. More specifically, I call on the authorities to ratify the human rights instruments to which Nicaragua is not yet a party in line with its commitments under the last Universal Periodic Review which it undertook in in 2019.
Our Office remains ready to support Nicaragua through a meaningful and constructive dialogue and through the provision of technical cooperation extended to both national and local institutions to ensure an effective protection of the human rights of all Nicaraguans.