IACHR

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IACHR Requests the Inter-American Court to Extend Provisional Measures in favor of the Members of the Miskitu Indigenous People's Communities in Nicaragua

August 10, 2018

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requested the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) to extend the provisional measures in favor of the inhabitants of certain communities of the Miskitu indigenous people of the North Caribbean Coast Region of Nicaragua, in order to include among the beneficiaries the human rights defenders Lottie Cunningham and José Coleman, who work in favor of the rights of the Miskitu people.

Since October 14, 2015, the Inter-American Commission has granted precautionary measures related to the situation of the communities of the North Caribbean Coast Region of Nicaragua.  The basis of the decision to grant was based on the constant cycles of violence, killings, threats and harassment allegedly perpetrated by "settlers" within the territories of the communities, in the context of a territorial conflict and sanitation processes carried out by the State in those territories.  These measures were extended on January 16 and August 8, 2016, to residents of various communities belonging to the Miskitu indigenous people, as well as to several members of the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN). Currently, five communities are protected by precautionary measures granted by the IACHR. In addition, seven other communities are protected by provisional measures ordered by the IA Court.

On June 9, 2017, the IACHR decided to extend the precautionary measures to protect Lottie Cunningham, President of CEJUDHCAN, because the organization's efforts to defend the rights of the Miskitu people had generated serious tensions with the settlers, unleashing threats to their lives and harassment through anonymous calls, intimidation, defamation campaigns and disqualification. In communications dated 29 May, 6 June and 9 July 2018, the representatives of the beneficiaries told the Commission that threats and intimidation against the defenders Lottie Cunningham and José Coleman had intensified. Accordingly, they requested the Commission to request the Court to extend the interim measures to include them under this protection mechanism.

The Commission notes that the serious acts of violence that have taken place in the North Caribbean Coast region have included alleged kidnappings, murders, sexual assaults, threats, house fires, thefts, ambushes and attacks on villagers whose investigation by the State has not yet yielded results to calm the source of social conflict. 

Taking into account the specific context of violence in the North Caribbean Coast region in relation to the territorial claims of the Miskitu people, the current general social context in Nicaragua monitored and reported by the IACHR, the type of threats against the life and integrity of the applicants directly related to their work in defense of the territorial rights of the indigenous people they defend, as well as the linkage of these threats to State agents, the Commission considers that this situation represents an extreme risk of irreparable damage to the life and integrity of Cunningham and Coleman. Although the State of Nicaragua informed the IACHR that it instructed the National Police to initiate ex officio investigations in accordance with specific standards for the protection of human rights defenders, it did not provide specific information on protection measures in favor of the two proposed beneficiaries. Based on all the elements at its disposal, the IACHR considers that state actions continue to be insufficient to address the risk factors and guarantee the life and personal integrity of the proposed beneficiaries.

The provisional measures ordered by the IA Court on 1 September 2016 in favor of members of the Miskitu indigenous people living in the communities of Klisnak, Wisconsin, Wiwimak, San Jerónimo and Francia Sirpi, and of persons who have allegedly had to leave those communities and wish to return, remain in force.  On November 23, 2016, the Inter-American Court decided to extend the provisional measures to protect the members of the Miskitu Indigenous Community of Esperanza Rio Coco. Likewise, on August 22, 2017, the IACHRCourt extended them again in favor of "the members of the Miskitu indigenous people who live in the Community of Esperanza Rio Wawa, as well as the persons who have allegedly had to leave that community and wish to return", considering that the firearm attacks and the alleged invasion of the community by 200 settlers were extremely serious and urgent. 

The Inter-American Commission considers that the serious facts reported regarding Lottie Cunningham and José Coleman have a factual connection with the provisional measures previously ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, since they share a common source of risk. Accordingly, the Commission requests the Court to extend the provisional measures granted to members of certain Miskitu indigenous communities of the North Caribbean Coast region and to order the State of Nicaragua to "protect and guarantee life, personal and territorial integrity and cultural identity" in favour of human rights defenders Lottie Cunningham and José Coleman.

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. 179/18