Press Release

IACHR Asks IA Court to Adopt Provisional Measures in Favor of Members of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) and the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH) in Response to the Extreme Risk They Are Facing in Nicaragua

June 27, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requested that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) adopt provisional measures to protect the rights of the members of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) and the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH), who are at extreme risk of suffering irreparable harm in Nicaragua.

Although precautionary measures granted in favor of the CENIDH in 2008 and in favor of the CPDH in 2018 remain in force, the members of the two organizations have remained at risk for a considerable period of time, and this situation has been exacerbated by the current human rights crisis in Nicaragua. The specific situations that the two organizations have alleged pose risk to them include:

i) public smear campaigns and other forms of stigmatization conducted through broadcast media and social media platforms, inciting acts of violence against them or attributing crimes to them, thus generating ill-feeling and hatred toward them among the general public;
ii) constant monitoring by the police and undercover agents, be it on foot or in vehicles, as the groups’ members go about their work defending or monitoring human rights, in a way that reflects detailed knowledge of their patterns of behavior and close monitoring of their whereabouts, including their residential addresses and the locations of other places they visit frequently;
iii) police presence near the two organizations’ offices and even within these and in places where lawyers take statements or record complaints from individuals, and police checkpoints monitoring the area where CENIDH’s headquarters are located;
iv) surveillance through cameras positioned on neighboring premises in such a way as to be able to record the movements of all those who enter and leave the organizations’ offices;
v) impediments to members being able to carry out their work in public places such as courts, police stations, or prisons and to their being able to receive letters or other forms of communication.

The IACHR argued that although these circumstances in themselves expose the proposed beneficiaries to extreme risk as they go about their work, the members of the CENIDH and the CPDH are also experiencing continuous harassment in the form of direct action by the state or individuals acting on its behalf to the detriment of these organizations. These actions seek to generate permanent intimidation and harassment in a way that suggests that the overall objective is to create a hostile environment for the work of defending human rights. The IACHR also argued that the constant fear of being deprived of their liberty and the withdrawal of the CENIDH’s legal status point to deliberate attempts to dismantle these organizations and shut down spaces where human rights violations can be reported. In the IACHR’s view, these circumstances create an environment of extreme hostility against these groups, which favors the possibility of the risks they are facing becoming a reality.

The members of CENIDH have had to go about their work “undercover” since the National Assembly of Nicaragua revoked their legal status through a procedure for which there was no prima facie evidence of even minimum guarantees, given that their offices were raided and the tools they need to go about their work were confiscated by state agents. Likewise, although the CPDH continues to be formally active, it has allegedly received at least five anonymous telephone threats regarding the tenancy of its current facilities, which suggests it may be at risk of losing its legal status, as other organizations have.

The IACHR stressed the imperative need to protect the members of these organizations given that defending human rights is inextricably linked to the possibility of rule of law and a democratic form of government in the country. The risks these organizations currently face could be further exacerbated due to the role they are playing in the country, where there is a vital need for the work of reporting and verifying human rights violations and for providing legal counsel for victims of violence.

These organizations represent hundreds of victims of human rights violations, including the families of victims who have been killed, several of whom in alleged extrajudicial executions, and so-called political prisoners who have allegedly been subjected to arbitrary detentions and acts of torture. More recently, these organizations have called the Amnesty Law passed by Congress into question due to the potential impunity it could generate around grave human rights violations. Their work also entails the documentation and reporting of such violations both within Nicaragua and at the international level, including in relation to provisional and precautionary measures within the inter-American system.

These circumstances may have irreparable individual consequences on the lives and personal integrity of the members of these organizations, who are already going about their work in an atmosphere of extreme hostility and threats. However, the IACHR also argued that if these risks escalate further in the absence of measures of protection, they could also prompt these groups to cease carrying out their work defending human rights, which would lead to hundreds of victims becoming even more vulnerable. It would also silence the main sources of information on the human rights situation in Nicaragua for both people within the country and those outside it. Consequently, the IACHR deemed it urgent for the IA Court to intervene promptly.

In its request for provisional measures, the IACHR asked the IA Court, pursuant to Article 63.2 of the American Convention, to request that the state of Nicaragua:

a) immediately adopt the protection measures needed to safeguard the rights of members of the CENIDH and the CPDH and to ensure they can continue to go about their work defending human rights without being subjected to harassment, threats, or aggression;
b) guarantee that the protection measures in question are not provided by the law enforcement officers whom the beneficiaries allege are involved in the events reported above, and that the beneficiaries take part in the process of assigning the personnel who will perform these tasks;
(c) implement other measures from the highest level of government, in consultation with the beneficiaries, to reduce the effects of the smear campaigns and stigmatization of the work being carried out by members of CENIDH and CPDH by legitimizing their work defending human 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. 162/19