IACHR Rejects Ongoing Repression and Human Rights Violations in Nicaragua

June 16, 2023

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) rejects the ongoing repression and human rights violations in Nicaragua.

On June 9, the IACHR was informed of the publication of an injunction sent to the Nicaraguan Public Prosecutor's Office by the First Chamber of the Managua Court of Appeals, to formalize the confiscation of all real estate, equity, and companies belonging to 222 individuals who were released from prison and arbitrarily expelled from the country in February. These punishments affect property held in partnerships with other individuals, so they affect the rights of these third parties, as well as making the 222 individuals—and their relatives who remain in Nicaragua—more vulnerable. As noted by the IACHR, confiscating property and assets is an arbitrary, disproportionate punishment for crimes that violates Article 21 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

The Commission is also concerned about the arbitrary policy of Nicaraguan authorities concerning citizens' freedom to enter and leave the country. The IACHR, through its Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), continues to receive information about arbitrary passport retention and withdrawal, as well as about the refusal to issue passports, in all cases as a way to prevent Nicaraguans from leaving the country.

The MESENI has received reports about Nicaraguans who are not being allowed to return to their country, who are being subjected to forced displacement and are having to regularize their migrant status or access international protection mechanisms abroad. Some of the individuals that the State is arbitrarily preventing from returning told the MESENI that they are "effectively stateless," because they are unable to renew expired passports or to access other identity documents since they are outside the country and the Nicaraguan State refuses to issue the documentation they need. These policies have also led to forced separations for many Nicaraguan families.

The American Convention holds the right to nationality and expressly says that no one may be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality. Further, the Inter-American Principles on the Human Rights of All Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons, and Victims of Human Trafficking stress that all individuals have a non-derogable right to a nationality and not to be stateless and to retain their nationality, and that no one may arbitrarily be denied their nationality, lose it, or be deprived of it. These Principles also recognize the right of all persons to return to the country of which they are nationals.

The IACHR is concerned about reports of new arbitrary detentions of rights defenders, journalists, and members of the Roman Catholic church. Over the period April–May, more than 140 individuals were arrested in Easter celebrations, in events to mark the anniversary of the protests of 2018, and in police raids that were conducted simultaneously in several departments. These mass arrests featured a disproportionate use of force and involved violent raids.

While some of these were temporary detentions, there are reports that scores of individuals were taken before court in secret hearings and expedited proceedings that failed to enforce judicial guarantees. In other cases, the authorities discretionarily imposed the precautionary measure of house arrest and issued warrants requiring that the affected individuals report to police stations on a daily basis, which allegedly entails constant uncertainty, harassment, and persecution for these individuals. So far, there is a general lack of official information about the whereabouts and legal status of the detainees, which makes it harder for civil society to document new cases involving political prisoners.

In May, the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the lifelong disqualification of 26 lawyers, which allegedly seeks to perpetuate fear and self-censorship among individuals who provide legal counsel to opposition politicians or who remain active in Nicaragua.

The indigenous communities of the country's Caribbean Coast have also reported toughened repression, with arbitrary arrests, police hounding, harassment, and persistent assaults, threats, and kidnappings by armed settlers whose actions are tolerated by State authorities. Given how serious these reports are, the IACHR asked the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to extend the temporary protection measures granted in the case "Members of the Miskitu Indigenous People of the Northern Caribbean Coast Region in Nicaragua" to also include members of Musawas and Wilú indigenous communities in the Mayangna Sauni As Territory, in Nicaragua's North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region.

Finally, the IACHR notes that repression of sectors of the Nicaraguan Roman Catholic church who are critical of the country's government persists. The National Police moved to freeze the bank accounts of several diocese over investigations for "acts of treason." In May, Eugenio Rodríguez Benavides (parish priest of the Divina Providencia church in Jalapa, in the Nueva Segovia department) and Leonardo Guevara Gutiérrez (parish priest of Estelí) were both arrested. Bishop Rolando Álvarez Lagos, who is deprived of liberty and is a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR, is allegedly being held incommunicado since March 25, 2023, without the right to see visitors, in a punishment cell operated by the National Prison System.

Given persistent repression in the country, the IACHR calls on States in the Americas, on the international community as a whole, and on the political institutions of the Organization of American States (OAS) to support the return of democracy and the restoration of the rule of law in Nicaragua. The Commission further urges the Nicaraguan State to end persecution of government critics and to release all individuals who have been arbitrarily arrested.

A principal, autonomous body of the 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. 123/23

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