REDESCA condemns the cancellation of the status of 26 universities and associations for academic and social purposes by the National Assembly of Nicaragua

February 10, 2022

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Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights

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Washington D.C.- The Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (REDESCA) condemns the cancellation of the status of 16 universities and civil society organizations by the National Assembly of Nicaragua on February 2, 2022. To this would be added 3 other foundations related to academic activities, canceled by said Assembly on January 17, 2022. Similarly, REDESCA also received information on the cancellation of other 7 institutions by the Ministry of the Interior, which was published in the Official Gazette of Nicaragua on February 3rd. According to public information, the cancellation would be due to the alleged non-compliance with requirements established in the General Law on Non-Profit Legal Entities (No. 147); in the Law against Money Laundering, The Financing of Terrorism, and the Financing of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (No. 977); and Executive Decree Number 15-2018 regulating Law 977.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur also draws attention to the cancellation of the status of the Association of Nicaraguan Singer-Songwriters and the Association of Orthodontists of Nicaragua, with the consequent prejudice to the important work that both institutions carry out in favor of cultural rights, such as the right to health in the country.

In this regard, REDESCA received information from civil society organizations indicating that in reality the authorities would have refused to receive the documentation that the canceled entities would have tried to deliver to the Ministry of the Interior. This fact became public in the case of the Paulo Freire University through publications in the media. Likewise, the Office of the Special Rapporteur warns that the Legislative Branch has approved laws that create new universities, replacing the defunct ones and transferring all their assets to these new institutions. Similarly, it was indicated that the authorities of the replacement universities will be appointed by the National Council of Universities, an institution ascribed to the regime. Additionally, REDESCA is concerned that this situation is part of acts of harassment and intimidation against private associations and universities that would not be sharing the postulates of the regime, which is contrary to Principle IV of the Inter-American Principles on Academic Freedom and University Autonomy.

In particular, the REDESCA is aware that the Paulo Freire University executed the Program for the Continuation of Higher Studies (PROCES in Spanish), for students who have been unjustly expelled from public universities, in order to continue their studies at that institution. Similarly, REDESCA recalls that students from the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (Upoli), which was also canceled, had a leading role in the protests of 2018 and oppose the Government. Likewise, REDESCA recalls that at the moment 6 student activists have been detained since last year, as is the case of Lesther Alemán, Max Jerez, Sergio Beteta, Kevin Solís, Muammar Vado and Samantha Jirón. In the same way, REDESCA expresses its concern about the forced departure from the country of the rector of Paulo Freire University and the student who headed the PROCES program of the same entity.

REDESCA strongly condemns the measure of cancellation of the personhood of the 26 institutions, considering that it is part of the pattern of affectation to freedoms and rights amply documented by the IACHR. In this way, it expresses its special concern about the serious impact that the implementation of this provision would have on the right to education, academic freedom and university autonomy, the labor rights of the people who work in the affected entities and the social rights that they contribute to protect from their respective missions.

Faced with this situation, the REDESCA recalls that Nicaragua has the obligation to progressively develop ESCER, in the light of the American Convention, the Protocol of San Salvador and other international instruments to which it is a party, this being a regressive measure that contravenes this obligation. With regard to academic freedom and university autonomy, the Office of the Special Rapporteur recalls that the inter-American principles on the subject indicate that state regulations on education must be aimed at guaranteeing the process of learning, teaching, research, and dissemination in an accessible, plural, participatory, and democratic manner, as well as guaranteeing the self-government of the academic institutions that it includes, among others, the free functioning of teaching campuses or student bodies. Similarly, the closure or non-renewal of accreditations of institutions, libraries, laboratories or other spaces in which academic activity takes place in retaliation for dissenting from the ideological vision of the government has a negative impact on academic freedom.

Considering the foregoing, the REDESCA urges the State to refrain from hindering compliance with the requirements of current legislation and to annul the cancellation of the personhood of the 26 entities, arbitrating the necessary means so that they can comply with such requirements with all administrative guarantees and due process. At the same time, it urges the State to respect and guarantee the principles and rights related to academic freedom and university autonomy, in accordance with inter-American standards, refraining from affecting the right to higher education and the right of association because of the political or ideological opinion of individuals or institutions.

REDESCA is an autonomous Office of the IACHR, specially created to strengthen the promotion and protection of economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights in the Americas, leading the Commission's efforts in this area.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate arises from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance of human rights in the region and to act as a consultative body of the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. RD026/22

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