IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Special Rapporteurships reject the convictions handed to Cristiana Chamorro Barrios and other individuals with ties to the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCh). The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurships further reject the speedy closure of public spaces in Nicaragua, including the recent decision to cancel the legal status of 25 civil society organizations.
On March 21, 2022, the Ninth District Criminal Court in Managua confirmed sentences of 7–13 years in prison for Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios, Walter Antonio Gómez Silva, Marcos Antonio Fletes Casco, and Pedro Salvador Vásquez—all of them beneficiaries of temporary precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission—for their ties to the FVBCh. The Court further fined them a total of approximately 1.6 million dollars.
For the IACHR and its Special Rapporteurships, this court decision joins a series of measures adopted by the executive to shut down civic spaces in Nicaragua, with the collaboration of various State institutions. These measures entail a serious attack on organizations who are active in the defense of human rights and of freedom of association and expression, the Commission noted.
On March 17, the National Assembly approved the arbitrary cancellation of the legal status of 25 organizations and foundations for allegedly failing to comply with the requirements laid out in the General Act on Non-Profit Legal Entities and in the Act Against Money Laundering, as well as in regulations adopted to implement both laws. According to the IACHR's Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua, at least 135 organizations have been forcibly shut down in Nicaragua since December 2018.
The Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression is particularly concerned about the cancellation of the legal status of Nicaragua's Association of Journalists and of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, as well as about the prior cancellation of the status of PEN Nicaragua. These three organizations were active in defense of freedom of expression and worked to promote quality journalism in the country. Both the FVBCh and PEN Nicaragua were forced to cease their operations in February 2021, citing the Foreign Agents Act, although this piece of legislation has been rejected by the IACHR Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression and by UN Rapporteurs for failing to comply with the applicable international standards.
Similarly, the Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights has expressed its concern about the cancellation of the legal status of the Alexander von Humboldt Center, the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES), and the Asociación Operación Sonrisa, all of them working to defend the environment and land from climate change, to eradicate poverty, and to promote and protect economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights. The Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights notes that the Humboldt Center is also in charge of regionally coordinating the Climate Action Network Latin America (CANLA), which brings together a broad network of civil society organizations to promote and encourage climate action with a rights-based focus.
The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurships further reject the cancellation of the legal status of the Center for Justice and Human Rights in Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast (CEJUDHCAN), an organization which has historically stood up for the defense of the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples and communities in the country's Caribbean coast. Several members of various communities have denounced the serious impact that shutting down this organization will have on the protection of their rights and traditional territories, in a context of systematic attacks by alleged settlers.
On March 15, the IACHR was informed of the murder of Salomón López Smith, an indigenous leader of the Mayangna Sauni Arungka territory, who was found with alleged signs of torture after being missing for seven days. The IACHR condemns these events and urges the State to investigate the case with due diligence and to punish anyone found responsible for it, as well as to take all necessary measures to protect the lives, security, integrity, and territories of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples and communities.
Given the concentration of power in the hands of the executive and given ongoing violations of the rule of law in Nicaragua, the IACHR and its Special Rapporteurships warn with concern that forcibly conducting mass shutdowns of civil society organizations, foundations, universities, agencies for cooperation and development, feminist groups, and medical associations, among others, negatively affects the Nicaraguan people, leaving them defenseless and vulnerable to exercise their rights and discouraging all forms of association and all expressions of dissent. These measures deepen the economic, social, political, and human rights crisis that is ongoing in Nicaragua.
The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurships emphatically call on Nicaraguan authorities to release anyone who has been arbitrarily detained and to end all forms of judicial, administrative, and any other form of persecution against individuals and organizations active in legitimate activities to defend democracy, which should enjoy heightened protection in compliance with international law. The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurships also stress the obligation to ensure due process in ongoing legislative and judicial proceedings.
The Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights and the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression are autonomous offices of the IACHR. They were especially created to brace the Commission's compliance with their specific mandates: to promote and protect economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights in the Americas, and to protect the right to freedom of thought and expression in the Americas.
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.