IACHR Rejects the Revocation of the Legal Status of 25 Additional Organizations, Deepening the Shutdown of Democratic Platforms in Nicaragua

April 26, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) rejects the revocation of the legal status of a further 25 civil society organizations in Nicaragua. In total, more than 160 organizations have had their legal status revoked in the swift, constant shutdown of civic and democratic spaces in the country.

The IACHR stresses that freedom of association, held in the American Convention on Human Rights and the American Declaration, is a fundamental right crucial to all democratic systems. This right involves ensuring that anyone can create and participate in institutions and organizations aimed at collectively attaining various goals. All restrictions of the exercise of this right in democratic societies must therefore be in keeping with the law, pursue legitimate aims, and be necessary and proportionate.

According to publicly available reports, on April 20, Nicaragua's Legislative Assembly revoked the legal status of 25 civil society organizations for allegedly failing to comply with Act 147, on non-profit legal entities, and Act 977, against money laundering, terrorist funding, and funding for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The IACHR notes with concern the revocation of the legal status of the Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH, by its Spanish acronym), one of the last remaining organizations that formally recorded complaints and took on the legal representation of scores of victims of human rights violations in the context of the Nicaraguan crisis. Members of the CPDH have been since 2019 beneficiaries of provisional measures granted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, because they have suffered threats and other risks to their lives and personal integrity due to their work in defense of human rights.

The affected organizations include the Luisa Mercado Foundation (led by former Nicaraguan vice president Sergio Ramírez), the Foundation for the Comprehensive Development of Indigenous Women in Sutiaba, and the Nicaraguan Coordinating Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations Working with Children and Adolescents (CODENI, by its Spanish acronym), which had for over 30 years brought together more than 10 other organizations engaged in the promotion and protection of the rights of children and adolescents in Nicaragua. With these 25, more than 160 civil society organizations have had their legal status revoked by the legislative branch of government, in a strategy led by the executive and aimed at shutting down participatory democratic spaces.

The IACHR is concerned that the measures taken by the Legislative Assembly grant legislators significant discretion to apply these laws against organized civil society. In particular, the Commission warns that the mass shutdowns conducted this year not only fully prevent these institutions' legitimate efforts to defend human rights in the country, but also have a serious impact on the Nicaraguan people, leaving their rights more vulnerable. The IACHR notes that these events have happened in a context where all branches of government are aligned with the executive, so there are no boundaries to restrict the exercise of power or to prevent arbitrariness.

The IACHR urges Nicaragua to restore all democratic safeguards and liberties 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.

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. 088/22

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