IACHR Condemns Human Rights Violations Reported During Elections in Nicaragua

November 10, 2021

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the human rights violations reported in the general elections that were held in Nicaragua on November 7. The Commission calls on the State to end arbitrary arrests and harassment against individuals and organizations who politically oppose the government and to restore guarantees for Nicaraguans' full enjoyment of civil and political rights.

Over the period November 5–7, the IACHR received information about increased police pressure, acts of harassment, raids, threats, and arbitrary arrests against opposition leaders, human rights activists, members of civil society organizations, and journalists in several departments around the country. These acts of violence were allegedly mostly perpetrated by police officers, para-State agents, and government supporters. According to the data the Commission has had access to, at least 23 individuals were arbitrarily arrested in nine departments, without arrest warrants and without providing information to detainees' families beyond asking them to wait 48 hours for additional details. Further, members of the former Citizen Power Councils (CPCs, by their Spanish acronym) allegedly went door to door asking residents to vote for the ruling party, as a way to intimidate voters.

The IACHR's Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression is concerned about the many reports on restrictions of freedom of the press on election day. These include not allowing reporters to get close to voting facilities; acts of harassment against media outlets and journalists; temporary arrests of journalists and confiscations of their personal property and work equipment; the obligation to broadcast to the whole country a speech delivered in the middle of election day by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega; the broadcast of electoral propaganda on pro-government media, in violation of the relevant domestic legislation; and deportations of and entry bans for international media reporters who wanted to cover the election on site.

After the election, the Commission and its Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights were told of public-sector employees who had been forced to vote for Ortega, and to make their vote clear with photographs or by showing their fingers stained with permanent ink to indicate they had voted, or risk being dismissed from their jobs. There were also reports about the arrest of a student leader and about acts of retaliation against individuals who could not prove they had voted. In particular, several medical students were allegedly banned from entry into public and private universities and into the hospitals where they honed their practical skills, in retaliation. The same thing reportedly happened to medical staff working in public hospitals, where some workers were fired.

The IACHR is also concerned about the speech made by President Ortega that was broadcast to the whole country on November 8. In that speech, Ortega made offensive, intimidating comments about more than 30 people who remain deprived of liberty in the context of the election, including social movement leaders, journalists, human rights defenders, and presidential candidates. Ortega suggested that, based on their actions, these individuals should not be considered Nicaraguans and should instead be sent abroad. Comments like these exacerbate hostility and intolerance against individuals who are identified as government critics, which in turn might increase the risks they face in terms of their rights to life and integrity, particularly for those among them who remain in State custody. State authorities must refrain from making comments aimed at delegitimizing the defense of human rights.

The Commission urges the State of Nicaragua to release all the people who have been arbitrarily arrested in the context of the election and since the current crisis started, and to end attacks against government critics and any actions that affect the rights of journalists and the media. The State should also restore the full enjoyment of civil and political rights, as well as fundamental liberties and guarantees. The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights call for the implementation of the principle of equality and non-discrimination in education and employment, and stress that political opinions should not be used to justify exclusion from access to and enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights.

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. 300/21

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