Press Release

IACHR Urges Nicaragua to Protect Members of the Miskitu Indigenous Peoples

February 23, 2016

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the reported increase of violent incidents against the members of the Miskitu indigenous peoples, in the Autonomous Region of the North Caribbean Coast, in Nicaragua. Several Miskitu communities are beneficiaries of precautionary measures issued by the IACHR on October 14th, 2015 and extended on January 19th 2016.

According to information received by the IACHR, for a period of four months, six indigenous persons have been killed, dozens have been injured, ten have been kidnapped, three women have been sexually abused, homes and crops have been burned, and communities have been subjected to acts of intimidation, harassment and threats. In this context, a part of the community has been forcibly displaced. The situation has been a subject of a recent statement by the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

The Commission notes with concern that these acts are part of a context characterized by a conflict over territory. Reports indicate that third parties, known as "settlers," are allegedly entering the ancestral territory of Miskitu people. This situation occurs in a context of lack of implementation of official recognition of indigenous ownership over their ancestral lands. Also, the information indicates that the authorities have been granting concessions for works and projects in ancestral lands of the Miskitu people, without complying with their obligation of a prior, free, and informed consultation.

The IACHR recalls that indigenous and tribal peoples have the right to enjoy effective control over their territories and to be free from interference from people who seek to maintain or take control of their territories by force or by any other means, to the detriment of the rights of indigenous people.

In this regard, the Commission reiterates that States have an obligation to take actions to ensure effective control of its territory and protect indigenous peoples of violence or harassment.  This duty of protection is especially important in known situations of territorial disputes with third parties and where the delays in sanitation and demarcation have the potential to generate conflicts.

The IACHR observes that, despite both the granting and the expanding of precautionary measures to protect the Miskitu, no response from the State of Nicaragua has been received to date. The IACHR urges the State to adopt immediately, and in consultation with the affected communities of Miskitu indigenous people, measures to protect and guarantee the life and physical integrity of its members and to investigate the occurred events with due diligence to identify and punish those responsible, and to prevent its recurrence and address its causes.

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 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. 018/16