Press Release

IACHR Concludes Working Visits to Costa Rica and Honduras to Monitor the Predicament of Nicaraguans Who Have Been Forced to Flee Their Country

June 12, 2019

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Washington, DC—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) conducted working visits to Costa Rica and Honduras between May 19 and 24, 2019, to monitor and follow-up on the situation of Nicaraguans who have been forced to flee to these countries due to the crisis that began in Nicaragua on April 18, 2018. The IACHR wishes to respond to the testimonies received by the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) by expressing its solidarity with the thousands of people who are waiting for conditions in their country to be safe enough to allow them to return. The delegation was led by Commissioner Joel Hernández, first vice-president of the IACHR and rapporteur for Costa Rica and Honduras, who was accompanied by technical staff from the IACHR Executive Secretariat.

MESENI took part in activities in Costa Rica between May 19 and 21, which were part of the state of Costa Rica’s invitation for the IACHR to supervise the implementation of precautionary measure no. 321-12, which was adopted on April 30, 2015. The IACHR wishes to thank the government of Costa Rica for its openness and for the support it provided during the visit. The IACHR also acknowledges how committed the Costa Rican state is to protecting the human rights of the Nicaraguan people and the leadership it has shown in this regard.

During the visit, the IACHR held meetings with the president of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, and with high-ranking authorities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On this occasion, the IACHR gave a presentation to Costa Rican authorities on the progress documented in the report on the working visit it conducted in October 2018 to monitor the situation of Nicaraguans who have been forced to flee to Costa Rica

MESENI also held meetings with over 15 Nicaraguan civil society groups and organizations operating in Costa Rica. As part of its mission to strengthen the capacities of Nicaraguan civil society, MESENI led two training sessions on precautionary measures and international standards on truth, justice, and reparation for the board of trustees of the Madres de Abril (AMA) Association, a group led by the mothers and relatives of people who have died during the current crisis in Nicaragua.

According to the testimonies received during the visit, Costa Rica continues to face the challenges documented by the IACHR in October 2018 around effectively guaranteeing access to healthcare, housing, education, and work for Nicaraguans in need of international protection. While the Nicaraguan individuals and organizations present expressed their gratitude to the Costa Rican state for its openness and assistance, they also informed the IACHR of the long waiting periods for protection procedures and access to documentation, which affects access to other rights. MESENI also received information regarding harassment and threats that Nicaraguans received through social media, text messages, and phone calls over their involvement in protests or because they were identified as dissidents. These threats include mentions of their current whereabouts in Costa Rica, including photographs of these locations, and intimidating messages.

The IACHR also conducted a working visit to Honduras between May 21 and 24, with the initial objective of following up on the recommendations made by the IACHR in its Preliminary Observations of 2018. This visit was the first time that the MESENI’s technical team was able to gather on-the-ground information about the current predicament of Nicaraguans who have fled to Honduras. The IACHR wishes to thank the state once again for its consent and cooperation around the visit.

In Honduras, MESENI met with authorities from the National Institute on Migration, civil society organizations, and the UNHCR’s Honduras Office. The IACHR appreciates they help they provided and the information they shared. It also salutes the efforts these groups have made to assist Nicaraguans in need of international protection and humanitarian assistance.

According to the information and testimonies received during the visit, there has been an increase in the number of Nicaraguans migrants arriving in Honduras as a direct consequence of the state repression that began in 2018. Dozens of students and people who took part in social protests and roadblocks have been forced to flee to Honduras in response to the criminalization initiatives and state persecution that are part of so-called Operation Clean-Up. Some of them have entered the country via irregular means after spending several days in hiding due to the persecution they were victims to. These people also said that they were being harassed and threatened through social media by Nicaraguan government sympathizers. In some cases, relatives of theirs who have remained in Nicaragua are also being targeted by local Citizen Power Councils (Consejos de Poder Ciudadano, CPCs) seeking to disclose their whereabouts or discourage people from returning to the country.

Those seeking international protection described the Honduran authorities as being open and willing to help. However, MESENI was also informed of obstacles to accessing employment and education when people lack identity documents or proof of their educational qualifications or achievements. This is making their living conditions worse and, in many cases, has prompted people to move on to another destination, given that they cannot safely return to Nicaragua.

The IACHR calls on the states of Costa Rica and Honduras to guarantee the human rights of Nicaraguans, including the right to seek and receive asylum, nonrefoulement, nondiscrimination, and justice, in addition to economic, social, and cultural rights such as the right to work, housing, education, and social security from the moment they submit their application for refugee status or other forms of international protection. To this end, the IACHR urges states to ensure that the difficulties many Nicaraguans are facing in obtaining identity document do not prevent them from enjoying their rights.

"The assistance and solidarity of the Costa Rican and Honduran authorities have played an essential part in welcoming the thousands of Nicaraguans who have been forced to flee their country. We salute the commitment and responsibility they have shown around providing protection for these people," said Commissioner Joel Hernández, rapporteur for Honduras and Costa Rica. “Despite the welcome and assistance they have been given in these countries, we have received widespread demands from exiled and displaced Nicaraguans for guarantees of security that would enable them to return to Nicaragua with their families and resume their employment, education, and the lives they lived before the current wave of repression began,” he added.

“The IACHR has continued to receive an abundance of information on the ongoing repression of Nicaraguans who have been identified as dissidents, human rights defenders, and social leaders, including patterns of repression that reach beyond the country’s borders,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, rapporteur for Nicaragua. “As MESENI has been prevented from returning to Nicaragua, the IACHR will continue to visit other countries to provide support for displaced Nicaraguans and hear what they have to say,” she added. “The IACHR calls on the countries of the Americas to implement a strategy based on shared responsibility and a human rights approach to the forced migration of Nicaraguans,” said Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, rapporteur on the rights of migrants.

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. 146/19