Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern over Nicaragua’s Announcement That It Will Not Continue Dialogue and Calls on the State to Comply with Its Obligations to Guarantee and Respect Human Rights

August 6, 2019

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Washington, D.C. –The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses concern at Nicaragua’s intention to discontinue the Negotiating Table for Understanding and Peace, which are talks between the government and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy that began on February 27, 2019. The IACHR regrets the state’s decision to close this dialogue down, particularly its lack of will to effectively reinstate the fundamental rights and guarantees that have been restricted as part of the police state that has been implemented and the serious institutional decline the country is experiencing.

According to publicly available information, on July 19, 2019, the president of Nicaragua allegedly stated in an official speech that the government would not resume the dialogue process. On July 30, 2019, this position was made official through state communications to international organizations who were taking part in the Negotiating Table as witnesses and providing support for this process. In response to this imminent closure of the negotiation process, the IACHR urges the state to comply with its obligations to guarantee and respect all Nicaraguans’ human rights and to end the repression in the country.
In July, the IACHR received information through its Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) on the ongoing patterns of state repression in the country, such as indirect censorship of independent media outlets, the disproportionate occupation of the public space, and the prohibition of social protests. In response, MESENI has spoken out against ongoing police harassment of those who organized events to celebrate the memory of the people who were killed during Operation Cleanup; the National Police Force’s refusal to authorize the demonstration to mark Student Day; and the repression of those who attempted to demonstrate on July 25.

Likewise, the IACHR has spoken out against the increase in surveillance, police monitoring and tailing, and the harassment of human rights organizations and defenders, particularly the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) and the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH). Both organizations have been granted precautionary measures by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights because they are at extreme risk of suffering irreparable harm. Among other events, on July 20, 2019, MESENI documented the arrest of the defender Yonarquí Martínez, and on July 26, the criminalization of María Oviedo, a human rights defender working at the CPDH.

The IACHR has also continued to receive information that reveals the lack of independence of the Nicaraguan justice system due to the ongoing use of selective criminalization, the persistence of a pattern of violations of due process guarantees, and the manipulation of criminal law. On July 31, 2019, civil society organizations reported that at least 120 people who have been arrested during the crisis continue to be deprived of their freedom. Among them are two people who had been released but have allegedly been charged with new crimes. Through MESENI, the IACHR received information on the use and application of the Amnesty Law to archive cases regarding demonstrators and people who have been identified as dissidents rather than dismissing them, which will make it easier to reopen these cases under the nonrepetition clause established in article 3 of the law. Following this, on July 23, the person convicted of the murder of Brazilian student Rayneia Gabrielle Da Costa Lima was allegedly released through this same law, even though the state had argued that her death was not linked to the violence and protests that began on April 18, 2018.

The IACHR was also informed of the arrest of 15-year-old Bryan José Putoy in Masaya on August 2. According to the information received, he has not been allowed contact with his family or access to legal counsel since being arrested. The IACHR expresses its concern at the seriousness of this report and recalls that people under the age of 18 can only be deprived of their freedom in exceptional circumstances and only as a measure of last resort for the shortest possible time. The principle of exceptionality serves not only to protect adolescents’ right to freedom but also their rights to life, survival, and development and their right to family life.

“The IACHR calls on the Nicaraguan judiciary to fully exercise its autonomy and independence with regard to criminal proceedings that remain open and the motions declaring the Amnesty Law unconstitutional,” said Commissioner Joel Hernández, the rapporteur on the rights of people who have been deprived of their freedom. “An independent judiciary is essential to guaranteeing the re-establishment and effectiveness of the rule of law in the country.”

In July, the IACHR received worrying information on the alleged increase in violence in rural areas and on the border with Honduras, which included reports on the murder of people who members of Nicaraguan civil society identified as dissidents. The IACHR warns that victims’ family members lack of trust in state institutions or their fear of reprisals, the lack of independence of the judiciary, and the limited access that independent media outlets and human rights organizations have to these areas are all factors that make it difficult to obtain accurate information on the circumstances in which these events are occurring.

Despite this, the IACHR recalls that these events must be investigated by the state of Nicaragua itself as a legal duty and not just as a mere formality that is doomed to failure. The state must comply diligently with this obligation to investigate in order to avoid impunity and prevent such events from occurring again. Moreover, the IACHR stresses that this obligation stands regardless of who the violation is eventually attributed to, even if they are private individuals: if such events are not seriously investigated into, then the state would be aiding and abetting them, which would compromise its international responsibility.
Finally, on July 17, 2019, the IACHR learned of the death of Bryan Murillo López and of the gunshot wounds suffered by his brother Kenner and Javier Cortez Castillo in León, during an alleged National Police Force raid on the brothers’ home. In response to this event, the IACHR warns that the number of people who have died since the current crisis began on April 18, 2018, now stands at 328.

“According to the IACHR’s recommendations, re-establishing the rule of law in Nicaragua would require a comprehensive reform of state institutions to guarantee the nonrepetition of human rights violations and establish the reforms and mechanisms needed to guarantee that the acts of violence that have taken place since April 18, 2018, do not remain unpunished,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, rapporteur for Nicaragua.

“The IACHR calls for an end to the human rights violations that are continuing to occur in Nicaragua and for there to be a true, democratic dialogue that would allow us to identify and address the structural causes that led to these violations,” said Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, the president of the IACHR. “The international community needs to be aware of the ongoing state repression in Nicaragua, the closure of demographic spaces, the persecution of people for expressing their opinions and attempting to protest, and the fact that there continue to be fatal victims. We call on the state to urgently cease this repression,” she added.

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. 194/19