IACHR Condemns the State Actions Aimed at Ending Opposition Participation in Nicaragua's Upcoming Election

August 11, 2021

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Washington D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the systematic set of actions taken by the State in recent months to prevent opposition participation in the general election scheduled for November in Nicaragua, as well as the persistent human rights violations in this context. The IACHR demands an end to repression against government critics and calls for measures to ensure adequate conditions to hold free, fair, and transparent elections in the country.

Among recent State actions aimed at preventing opposition involvement in these elections, the IACHR—through its Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI)—has noted the following: arrests and criminalization of leaders including presidential candidates, by passing and enforcing ambiguous laws and/or legislation that arbitrarily restricts the political rights of the Nicaraguan people; and, more generally, a deeper-based police State that has suspended public rights and liberties.

The IACHR condemned the arbitrary arrests over the past two months of 31 individuals, including Cristiana Chamorro, Arturo Cruz, Félix Maradiaga, Juan Sebastián Chamorro, Miguel Mora, Medardo Mairena, and Noel Vidaurre. These individuals were all arrested and remain deprived of liberty after publicly announcing their intention to run for president, which prevented them from formally confirming and pursuing their participation in this electoral process.

In the context of such obstacles for opposition involvement in the election, Nicaragua's current president and his vice president formalized on August 2, 2021—the deadline for Nicaragua's presidential and vice-presidential candidates—their own candidacies for a fourth mandate in succession at the head of the Executive.

On August 3, the IACHR condemned the fact that Berenice Quezada, opposition vice presidential candidate for the Citizens for Liberty Alliance (Alianza Ciudadanos Por la Libertad), was placed under house arrest a day after she announced her candidacy. On August 5, the Public Prosecutor's Office said that the charges against Quezada—who was also subjected to migration restrictions and banned from standing for public office—were based on allegations of "provocation, proposition, and conspiracy to commit acts of terror." The Public Prosecutor's Office further said that proceedings would be conducted while she was free.

The IACHR has also expressed its concern about the arbitrary cancellation of the legal status of two opposition parties, including the Party for Democratic Restoration (Partido Restauración Democrática, PRD), which had been involved in a National Coalition to choose an opposition candidate.

On August 6, the Supreme Electoral Council cancelled the legal status of the party Citizens for Freedom (Ciudadanos por la Libertad), which would invalidate the candidacy of the only opposition candidate who had formally managed to register for the upcoming presidential election. The Supreme Electoral Council further requested the cancellation of party president Kitty Monterrey's Nicaraguan ID document. On August 8, the country's Interior Ministry confirmed the cancellation of Monterrey's Nicaraguan citizenship, her ID document, her birth certificate, and her passport. Monterrey, who holds another citizenship, has since remained in hiding, for fear of being arrested and/or deported.

The IACHR emphatically condemns these Supreme Electoral Council decisions, adopted in violation of Nicaragua's constitution and based on the Act to Regulate Foreign Agents and on Act 1055, on the defense of "the people's rights to independence, sovereignty, and self-determination for peace." As previously noted by the IACHR, these two acts arbitrarily restrict electoral competition, the exercise of political rights, and other rights including freedom of expression and association.

The IACHR has stressed that criminal prosecution against opposition supporters and presidential candidates violates on several counts the right to personal liberty, the legality principle, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, and other safeguards of due process. Both the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have therefore ordered the Nicaraguan State to adopt precautionary and temporary measures to protect the lives and integrity of some of the detainees. The State has so far failed to release these detainees and to comply with the measures it has been instructed to take.

These events confirm the breakup of the rule of law in Nicaragua, with a concentration of power in the Executive and with a gradual weakening of democratic institutions in the country. In recent years, the Commission has repeatedly highlighted and persistently condemned these developments, as well as the structural impunity that shrouds the serious human rights violations committed in the country since April 18, 2018.

The Commission stresses its call for the State to release all the individuals who have been arbitrarily detained in the protest context. The IACHR further urges the State to comply with the temporary measures granted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and to revoke all legislation that arbitrarily restricts the exercise of political rights and public liberties, as well as to enable the registration of the affected candidates and to restore conditions that foster freedom and respect for political rights. Nicaragua must hold free, fair, and transparent elections in keeping with the recommendations made by the international community, including the 2017 Election Monitoring Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS), and the resolutions of the Permanent Council and the General Assembly of the OAS. Finally, the IACHR urges Nicaragua to end impunity and take all measures necessary to overcome the current crisis and restore democratic institutions, by launching proceedings that foster truth, justice, and redress for victims of the serious crisis the country is currently immersed in.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 209/21

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