45th session of the Human Rights Council
Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, 14 September 2020
Since my last oral update on Nicaragua last July, there has been no progress in the human rights situation and no sign that the Government is constructively addressing the tensions and structural problems that triggered the socio-political crisis in April 2018.
During this period, my Office has recorded 30 cases of threats and intimidation against human rights defenders, journalists, students, peasant leaders and members of the Catholic clergy, among others.
My Office also continues to record cases of possible violations of the right to life, such as the killing of a man by a pro-government armed element on 19 July in La Trinidad, Estelí. It reminds us of the importance of the recommendation in my 2019 report to dismantle and disarm pro-government armed elements.
As I have warned on several occasions, the Amnesty Law adopted in June 2019 has favoured impunity for those responsible for serious human rights violations.
Civil society organisations report that 94 persons perceived as opponents of the government, including 4 women, are still arbitrarily detained, mostly on charges of common crimes. Two of these persons were recently hospitalised in a delicate state of health. I call on the Government to release all those arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in the context of the protests or for expressing opinions critical of the Government. This would be a significant step towards restoring rights and reducing existing polarisation.
In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect a multitude of rights, including economic, social and cultural rights. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, ECLAC, has projected an 8.3% contraction in the country's economy this year, with an increase in poverty rates of around 5%, and an increase in unemployment. The State's response has included violations of freedom of expression and the dismissal of medical personnel, and continues to highlight the need for greater transparency and better dissemination of information. Official data are reported only once a week and lack detailed epidemiological information. In this regard, the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO, warned that it has been necessary to resort to data produced by non-official sources to analyse the situation in the country. Of particular concern is the lack of disaggregated information on the impacts of the pandemic on indigenous peoples and people of African descent, as well as on specific measures taken in their favour.
In July, around 1,300 Nicaraguan migrants were blocked at various borders in precarious conditions, for periods ranging from 10 to 30 days, waiting for authorisation to return to their country of origin. My Office also received reports of migrants who had to cross the border at irregular crossing points because of delays or inability to afford a recent mandatory COVID-19 test.
Women's organizations reported an increase in femicides, with 50 reported up to 31 August 2020, compared to 44 in the same period last year. In addition, 68 attempts at femicide have been documented, compared to 52 in the same period in 2019. In this regard, there is also concern about the difference with the official data that mentions only 11 femicides between 1 February and 7 August 2020, indicating possible under-recording, which would also make it difficult to take effective measures to counter these crimes.
There are also concerns about cases with possible impact on press freedom. Trials for slander and defamation have been opened against two journalists, a man and a woman. I also note intimidation and harassment by the National Police against managers and staff of two radio stations critical of the government in Bluefields and León. Also of concern are the recent tax measures imposed on three media outlets, which could affect their continuity as news media.
Most of the recommendations I made in my September 2019 report, including those on electoral and institutional reforms, have not yet been implemented, resulting in continued impunity, and further violations.
I again urge the Government to implement these recommendations, in particular in view of the elections scheduled for November 2021. I also urge the Government to resume effective co-operation with my Office, including by authorising a mission to the country in view of the preparation of the next report to this Council.