The Perfect Enemy | The Human Rights Situation in Nicaragua Continues to Erode … - OHCHR
February 23, 2024

The Human Rights Situation in Nicaragua Continues to Erode … – OHCHR

The Human Rights Situation in Nicaragua Continues to Erode …  OHCHR

MORNING 3 March 2023

Council Concludes its General Segment

The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its general segment and then held an interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s oral update on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua.

Ilze Brands Kehris, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, introducing the oral update on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua, said that on 9 February, 222 persons who had been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in the context of the socio-political crisis in Nicaragua had been released from their detention centre and house arrest, and taken aboard a flight to Washington DC. On the same day, the judiciary announced that these persons had been “deported”, and that they had breached law 1055 and were therefore considered “traitors to the homeland”. The judicial decision stripped all 222 individuals of their civil and political rights. The same morning, the National Assembly of Nicaragua swiftly approved a constitutional reform and a law establishing that those who were sentenced as “traitors to the homeland” lost their Nicaraguan nationality.

On 15 February, the State of Nicaragua had arbitrarily declared 94 other individuals “traitors to the homeland” without any trial, thereby stripping them of their nationality and assets, and declared them “fugitives”. Those affected included human rights defenders, journalists, activists, and social and political leaders in exile and in Nicaragua. These arbitrary and disproportionate actions and measures, including those imposed retroactively, violated Nicaragua’s international human rights commitments. They had a chilling effect on many Nicaraguans both within the country and in exile.

Ms. Brands Kehris said Nicaragua should unconditionally release the 37 persons still arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, and restore the nationality and other civil, political, social and economic rights of the more than 300 persons affected by the recent decisions. It should also repeal all legislation that impeded the exercise of political participation, freedoms of expression, assembly and association, the right to nationality, and the right to property with legal security. These latest events had been preceded by other serious human rights violations since the beginning of this year. This update demonstrated that the human rights situation in Nicaragua continued to erode. This was also manifested in the increase in the number of people leaving the country.

Speaking as a country concerned, Nicaragua reaffirmed its rejection of the malicious and persistent use of the oral update mechanism, whose only purpose was to harm Nicaragua’s sovereignty and independence. Nicaragua would continue to denounce the harmful action of the reports prepared by this mechanism on human rights in the country with biased information, which was subjective and served to undermine the Government’s purpose of achieving the wellbeing of the nation. This update was unfounded with inputs taken from particular groups seeking to manipulate the reality in the country. The Government of Nicaragua did not accept mechanisms of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that continued to act with clear political bias and a lack of objectivity, violating the principles of equality among States, democracy and transparency. Nicaragua called on the Council to return to the principles for which it had been created, namely the promotion of equal rights for all without any distinction, when it came to respect for Nicaragua’s identity, dignity and sovereignty. It was vital that this forum took up its responsibilities, and recognised and respected the rights of the peoples of the world to take their own decisions.

In the discussion, some speakers said they appreciated the High Commissioner’s presentation on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua and shared the concerns about the crisis which had been worsening since 2018. The Council was requested by several speakers to renew and extend the mandate for Nicaragua. A number of speakers welcomed the release of 222 prisoners last month but were appalled that the former prisoners had then been deprived of their Nicaraguan citizenship and had their property seized, calling this a blatant violation international law. They condemned the severe restrictions on civic space and the radical repression against political opponents, clergy, independent media, academia, civil society and human rights defenders. Authorities in the country were called upon to grant access to international human rights mechanisms, to address and investigate allegations of human rights violations and torture, and to renew cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Some speakers said they regretted the new oral update against Nicaragua, which was due to a highly politicised situation that was rejected by the country concerned. They emphasised that country specific initiatives which did not have the consent of the country concerned were confrontational, counterproductive and undermined the spirit of cooperation required for the promotion and protection of human rights. Western countries were using human rights slogans to implement their own political agenda, and launching a campaign to discredit Nicaragua. Human rights issues should be addressed in a way that promoted international cooperation and constructive dialogue, taking into account the political, historical, social and cultural particularities of each country. Some speakers said that the universal coercive measures imposed by countries undermined the rights of the Nicaraguan people. They denounced the imposition of these bloody and illegal unilateral coercive measures, calling on the Council to urge countries to stop the imposition of these measures which violated international law.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were: European Union, Canada on behalf of a group of 53 countries, France, United States, Ecuador, Argentina, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Peru, Venezuela, Uruguay, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Georgia, Chile, Belarus, Yemen, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Iran, Russian Federation, Cuba, Eritrea and Malawi.

Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Freedom House, Hazteoir.org, Centre for Justice and International Law, Aula Abierta, Peace Brigades International, Ingenieurs du Monde, Amnesty International, International Service for Human Rights, World Organization against Torture.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general segment.

Speakers said, among other things, that 2023 was a milestone that marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the thirtieth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. Developing countries, particularly least developed countries, were bearing the brunt of the adverse socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple crises linked to the current global tension, climate change and environmental degradation. These continued to have profound repercussions for the enjoyment of all human rights, including the right to development. Speakers also raised a variety of issues, including the need for equal access to digital education, the situation of refugees, and the war on drugs.

Speaking in the general segment were: Holy Sea, Israel, Mauritania, Libya and Somalia.

Also speaking were the following representatives from civil society: Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, Anna Fordham, Patrice Wellesley-Cole, Rory Truell and Razia Arefi.

Speaking in right of reply were Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Armenia, India, China, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Japan, Republic of Korea, Pakistan and Türkiye.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fifty-second regular session can be found here.

The next meeting of the Human Rights Council will be at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will hold an interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s oral update on Sudan, with the assistance of the designated Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan.

General Segment

Holy See said at this moment, all were called upon to become instruments of peace and work for a renewed sense of common responsibility and solidarity. This task had grown over the last year with the conflict in Ukraine, whose death toll was not limited to those who suffered and tragically lost their lives in battle or as the consequences of attacks on civilian infrastructures. This war affected entire regions, including outside Europe, hard hit by the repercussions of the conflict, particularly in the sectors of energy and food production. It was regrettable that, over the years, the lofty instruments of diplomacy and dialogue had been gradually put aside and replaced by the use of force. Even international fora had seen increased attempts by certain States and coalitions to impose their perspective, marginalising those who expressed a different view. Such unfortunate polarisation of the international debate was the reflection of what Pope Francis had defined as ideological colonisation.

Israel said it stood with the people of Türkiye and Syria following the devastating earthquake and would continue to provide aid. Israel also expressed solidarity with the people of Ukraine, Iran and Greece, following the tragic events in their countries. This year marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, the turning point for the Jewish people. It was the fulfilment of a millennia-old dream, the return of an ancestral homeland, and the rebirth of a sovereign State, with the support of and the recognition by the international community. Yet for 75 years, Israel had been singled out and treated differently. For 75 years, Israel had faced countless wars, terrorist attacks, and a de-legitimisation campaign. Some of the main perpetrators of the campaign sat here in Geneva, in mechanisms that the Council created. Israel was fighting a wave of terrorism because the Palestinian Authority continued to fuel it. Israel had given the Council the opportunity to prove itself time and time again, but it had failed. It was time for the United Nations to live up to its ideals and treat Israel fairly and equally.

Mauritania said it supported the mandate of the Human Rights Council as a platform for dialogue on human rights issues, in strict compliance with the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity and non-politicisation. Developing countries, particularly least developed countries, were bearing the brunt of the adverse socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple crises linked to the current global tension, climate change and environmental degradation. These continued to have profound repercussions for the enjoyment of all human rights, including the right to development. They exacerbated pre-existing inequalities. States should ensure that human rights were fully integrated into efforts to recover from the pandemic. Over the past year, Mauritania had spared no effort to contain the above-mentioned negative effects on its populations, especially the most vulnerable, through a series of reforms aimed for equity and social justice, and consolidating economic growth, among others.

Lebanon said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action were examples of the efforts of the international community. The signatories at the time had overcome their differences and given a gift to the world: a shared instrument for human rights. This had been a turning point. Today, the world was facing war, displacement, digital divide, climate change, and the need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Multilateralism was being undermined. Should the international community give in to the law of the jungle, or follow their predecessors, who overcame their differences through dialogue? Lebanon was facing crises but was proud of its approach, which was based on its strength, tolerance and liberties. All States should avoid politicisation in human rights – this was not why they had been created, on the contrary.

Somalia said that 2023 was a milestone that marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the thirtieth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. Somalia would collaborate to address these vital milestones with shared values and objectives. Since 2019, Somalia had been a member of the Human Rights Council. During their term, Somalia had supported the Council’s special sessions and had ratified six core human rights treaties. Despite the progress made, the violation happening in Lasanod, Sool region in the northern part of Somalia was worth mentioning. The Somali Government strongly condemned the violence and called for an end to the ongoing hostilities and an immediate ceasefire by establishing a national dialogue to resolve the conflict in Lasanod. Somalia called on international partners to provide immediate humanitarian support to Lascanod.

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions said 2023 marked 30 years since the General Assembly had given strong endorsement for the establishment and strengthening of national human rights institutions in accordance with the Paris Principles, and the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The Alliance remained particularly concerned at the dangerous rollbacks on human rights and the growing pressure faced by those who defended them. It was time to re-commit to the full realisation of human rights for all individuals. To date, among 193 Member States, 89 had established a Paris Principles compliant national human rights institution. Accelerated progress was required to guarantee that all States met the national human rights institution indicator under Sustainable Goal 16 by 2030.

International Drug Policy Consortium said for over 50 years, the so-called ‘war on drugs’ had brought about a global, pervasive and systematic human rights catastrophe that required the continued attention of the Council. Its most salient manifestations included the death penalty for drug offences, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention in certain ‘drug rehabilitation centres’, mass incarceration, criminalisation, and the militarised eradication of crops. A new resolution on the human rights impacts of drug policy was to be tabled at this session of the Council, which should include a standing mandate for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to periodically report back to the Council on the human rights impacts of drug policy, would guarantee that the United Nations human rights system had a strong voice in the review of the global drug control regime that would take place at the United Nations level throughout 2023 and 2024 – and beyond.

Education Civil Society said from the Internet to touchscreen today, wireless laptops, smart phones, and other digital tools were essential to learning, having replaced books in many cases. But there was a proviso: schools needed a high bandwidth wireless connection to cope with digital needs. As a consequence of the pandemic, digital education had increased in importance and range because it helped during the emergency. But students complained that it could not be compared to the quality of interactive, face-to-face education. Education Civil Society called on the Council to roll out universal digital education and asked for more hotspots and mobile devices to aid access to education. The achievements of digital learning had to be balanced against the challenges of privacy, cost, maintaining standards, and adequate regulation. The Council needed to work with civil society and grassroots organizations to improve digital access with infrastructure and integral structural maintenance.

International Federation of Social Workers said social workers, in all communities, facilitated sustainable social development. The Federation highlighted the need to jointly develop new global practices relating to international sanctions. These sanctions, implemented to express international disapproval of a government’s actions, had unintended consequences for the people of that country, driving them into further poverty and isolation. New practices to ensure that everyone’s right to life, health and wellbeing during political disputes or conflicts between States were needed. The Federation’s recent work in countries where sanctions were in force had shown that engagement between international communities, governments and civil society was complex but possible. It could be effective when focused on the common interest of peoples’ health and wellbeing. The Federation called on this fifty-second session of the Human Rights Council to help Member States and civil society develop these practice changes.

Mothers for Peace said the impacts of the refugee crisis in Afghanistan were part of the vicious circle of the unfinished suffering of Afghan women, especially those women who were left behind, and under the anti-women rule of Taliban were being reduced to an object. Despite the decrease in the media spotlight on Afghanistan, the issue, which caused thousands of Afghans to flee Afghanistan, was still deepening and overwhelming there. All international organizations should remember that they were witnessing the slow death of women and girls in Afghanistan, and they should not leave the fate of nearly 20 million Afghan women at the mercy of a criminal group that caused these black days.

Remarks by the President of the Council

VÁCLAV BÁLEK, President of the Human Rights Council, said the Council still had more than four weeks ahead, with nine panels and thematic discussions; 22 interactive dialogues with Special Procedure mandate holders and expert mechanisms; nine interactive dialogues with the High Commissioner; five dialogues with international investigative mechanisms; and four high-level and enhanced interactive dialogues. The Council would also adopt 14 outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review. He proposed for the consideration and approval by the Council, the draft programme of work, with the understanding that it was an evolving document and that further adjustments could be required.

The draft programme of work was adopted.

The President also noted that in accordance with paragraphs 113 and 117 of resolution 5/1, delegations were invited to conduct open-ended informal consultations to secure the broadest possible support for their initiatives, encouraging the main sponsors of draft proposals to also share draft texts with civil society organizations and other observers that followed informal consultations.

Mr. Bálek said the active participation of representatives of civil society and national human rights institutions in the work of the Human Rights Council was essential to the fulfilment of its mandate, and he informed the Council that he would follow up on all allegations brought to his attention of acts of reprisal and intimidation committed against persons in connection to their contribution to the work of the Human Rights Council, its mechanisms and procedures, calling upon all to take all necessary measures to prevent such acts in the first place and to ensure that they were promptly and seriously addressed in case they were to happen.

Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s Oral Update on the Situation of Human Rights in Nicaragua

Presentation of Oral Update

ILZE BRANDS KEHRIS, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said the report covered the period since the High Commissioner’s oral update on 15 December 2022 and was based on monitoring work conducted by the team dedicated to Nicaragua in the Regional Office for Central America in Panama.

Ms. Brands Kehris said that on 9 February, 222 persons who had been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in the context of the socio-political crisis in Nicaragua had been released from their detention centre and house arrest, and taken aboard a flight to Washington DC chartered by the Government of the United States. On the same day, the judiciary announced that these persons had been “deported”, and that they breached law 1055 and were therefore considered “traitors to the homeland”. The judicial decision stripped all 222 individuals of their civil and political rights. The same morning, the National Assembly of Nicaragua swiftly approved a constitutional reform and a law establishing that those who were sentenced as “traitors to the homeland” lost their Nicaraguan nationality. The Office had also received reports that their birth certificates were being removed from Nicaragua’s civil registry.

The Bishop of Matagalpa, Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, who refused to be deported from the country, had been sent to prison along with the 36 other people still deprived of their liberty in the context of the socio-political crisis. On 10 February, Monsignor Rolando Álvarez had been sentenced to 26 years and 4 months in prison on charges of treason to the homeland, stripped of his Nicaraguan nationality, and deprived of political rights for life. His lawyer had not been informed in advance, and apparently the sentence was passed without a trial.

On 15 February, the State of Nicaragua arbitrarily declared 94 other individuals “traitors to the homeland” without any trial, thereby stripping them of their nationality and assets, and declared them “fugitives”. Those affected included human rights defenders, journalists, activists, and social and political leaders in exile and in Nicaragua. These arbitrary and disproportionate actions and measures, including those imposed retroactively, violated Nicaragua’s international human rights commitments. They had a chilling effect on many Nicaraguans both within the country and in exile. For example, members of the peasant movement feared losing their lands, and retirees feared being deprived of their pensions, as was reportedly occurring with those considered opponents of the Government.

The State of Nicaragua should unconditionally release the 37 persons still arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, and restore the nationality and other civil, political, social and economic rights of the more than 300 persons affected by the recent decisions. It should also repeal all legislation that impeded the exercise of political participation, freedoms of expression, assembly and association, the right to nationality, and the right to property with legal security. These latest events had been preceded by other serious human rights violations since the beginning of this year: the Office had documented a pattern of violations of due process standards in the January and February trials of dissidents arbitrarily detained since August 2022.

Since December, at least 10 people had been arbitrarily detained, and another Nicaraguan priest had been banned from returning to his country. As of today, 40 civil society organizations had reportedly had their legal status cancelled, and two other organizations had had their premises confiscated. The Office had received testimonies about restrictions on economic, social, and cultural rights suffered in Nicaragua by those who did not possess the ruling party’s membership card. It also continued to receive reports of violations of indigenous peoples’ rights. The State of Nicaragua should conduct thorough investigations, ensure that those responsible were brought to justice, and provide full reparations to the affected communities.

Ms. Brands Kehris said that as this update demonstrated, the human rights situation in Nicaragua continued to erode. This was also manifested in the increase in the number of people leaving the country. The international community, including the States that in solidarity had received many Nicaraguans since 2018, should effectively protect the right to seek asylum and the right to an individual assessment of protection needs. In light of the continued socio-political and human rights crisis in Nicaragua, soon entering its sixth year, the Council should closely follow the situation in the country and, especially, promote all measures conducive to reversing the current crisis, as well as continuing to support the work of the Office in the country.

Statement by the Country Concerned

Nicaragua, speaking as the country concerned, reaffirmed its total rejection of the malicious and persistent use of this oral update mechanism, whose only purpose was to harm Nicaragua’s sovereignty and independence. Nicaragua would continue to denounce the harmful action of the reports prepared by this mechanism on human rights in the country with biased information, which was subjective and served to undermine the Government’s purpose of achieving the wellbeing of the nation. This update was unfounded with inputs taken from particular groups seeking to manipulate the reality in the country.

The Government of Nicaragua did not accept mechanisms of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that continued to act with clear political bias and a lack of objectivity, violating the principles of equality among States, democracy and transparency. Nicaragua called on the Council to return to the principles for which it had been created, namely the promotion of equal rights for all without any distinction, when it came to respect for Nicaragua’s identity, dignity and sovereignty. It was vital that this forum took up its responsibilities, and recognised and respected the rights of the peoples of the world to take their own decisions.

Discussion

Speakers in the discussion said they appreciated the High Commissioner’s presentation on the situation of human rights in Nicaragua and shared the concerns about the crisis which had been worsening since 2018. The efforts of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Council to make the situation of human rights in the country more visible were also recognised. The Council was requested by several speakers to renew and extend the mandate for Nicaragua.

Some speakers welcomed the release of 222 prisoners last month, but were appalled that the former prisoners had then been deprived of their Nicaraguan citizenship and had their property seized, calling this a blatant violation international law. Speakers called on the authorities to reverse these arbitrary steps and reinstate the nationality, property, and full civil and political rights of those who had been detained.

Speakers called for the release of political prisoners still detained in Nicaragua and condemned the Government of Nicaragua’s decision to strip these individuals and 94 other Nicaraguans of their Nicaraguan citizenship and political rights. The Nicaraguan authorities were urged to cease arbitrary detention and release all remaining political prisoners, including leaders of the Catholic Church. The Government’s sentencing of Bishop Rolando Alvarez to 26 years in prison and its order to strip him of his citizenship was also condemned.

A number of those speaking highlighted that 355 people had been killed in Nicaragua since 2018, and grave violations of human rights and torture against prisoners were a frequent occurrence. They denounced the acts of physical and sexual torture against indigenous defenders who had been unjustly condemned for the mine murders.

Some speakers said the municipal elections held in Nicaragua on 6 November 2022 were not free, fair, or credible, noting an absence of an independent electoral system and the continued violation of the rights of those identified as ‘opposition’ politicians. They condemned the severe restrictions on civic space and the radical repression against political opponents, clergy, independent media, academia, civil society and human rights defenders.

The cancellation of the legal personality of more than 3,000 civil society organizations and the closure of media outlets were a clear reflection of the multidimensional crisis affecting the country. Some drew attention to the deterioration of human rights and the rule of law for women and girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender persons. Alarm was also expressed at the deteriorating human rights situation of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants in Nicaragua, who faced increasing repression, persecution and discrimination.

In the discussion, many speakers reiterated concern over Nicaragua’s refusal to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms. Authorities in the country were called upon to grant them access to address and investigate allegations of human rights violations and torture, and to renew cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The trend to bar and expel foreign representatives from the country only isolated Nicaragua; the State should open a dialogue in good faith with the international community. Speakers reaffirmed steadfast commitment to the Nicaraguan people, including the most vulnerable, and to defending democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Some speakers said they regretted the new oral update against Nicaragua, which was due to a highly politicised situation that was rejected by the country concerned. They emphasised that country specific initiatives which did not have the consent of the country concerned were confrontational, counterproductive and undermined the spirit of cooperation required for the promotion and protection of human rights. Western countries were using human rights slogans to implement their own political agenda, and launching a campaign to discredit Nicaragua. Human rights issues should be addressed in a way that promoted international cooperation and constructive dialogue, taking into account the political, historical, social and cultural particularities of each country.

Some speakers said they respected the sovereignty and territorial independence of Nicaragua and the right to the people to determine their own future. The universal coercive measures imposed by countries undermined the rights of the Nicaraguan people. The speakers denounced the imposition of these bloody and illegal unilateral coercive measures, calling on the Council to urge countries to stop the imposition of these measures which violated international law.

A number of speakers welcomed the attitude of the people and authorities of Nicaragua to firmly defend their confidence and well-being, despite growing international pressure, including through the implementation of legislative and electoral systems. The efforts of the Nicaraguan Government to combat illiteracy, reduce child mortality, and combat poverty were also applauded.

Some speakers addressed questions to the High Commissioner, asking if she could elaborate on the consequences of Nicaragua’s new law regulating the loss of nationality on the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights? What could the international community do to support Nicaraguans inside the country and in exile who strove for democratic change in Nicaragua? How could democratic opposition and human rights defenders be protected from further persecution?

Concluding Remarks

ILSE BRANDS KEHRIS, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, welcomed the wide and broad support for the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nicaragua. The socio-political and the human rights crises in Nicaragua were entering their sixth year, and the suffering and serious violations against Nicaraguans during this period had lasted too long already. The international community should continue supporting efforts to protect all those subjected to deportation, statelessness and arbitrary confiscation of assets simply because they were viewed as dissidents. Accountability for these serious violations was essential. Isolation from international cooperation was not a solution – the Government should reinstate cooperation and dialogue with both regional and international human rights mechanisms. The Office urged the Government to allow them access to the territory, which would allow for further engagement with all sources, including the Government itself.

The recommendations made by the Council could be used by the Government to embark upon a path, restoring the rule of law, ceasing to restrict civil space, engage on legislative reforms, and design and implement an action plan for accountability that was inclusive and centred on victims. The international community could provide support to Nicaraguans inside and outside the country that were striving for change and democratic change, and ensure that Nicaragua was prioritised in its attention, with sustained coordinated efforts. All actors should continue to urge Nicaragua to take urgent measures to show its commitment to human rights, the rule of law and democracy.


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