Press Release

IACHR Requests IA Court Expand Provisional Measures in Favor of Members of Miskitu Indigenous Communities in Nicaragua

September 6, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has requested that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) expand the provisional measures in favor of the members of certain communities of the Miskitu indigenous people of Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean Coastal Region, so as to include the members of the Santa Clara Miskitu indigenous community among the beneficiaries.

The IACHR notes that the serious acts of violence that have taken place in the Northern Caribbean Coastal Region have included alleged kidnappings, killings, sexual assaults, threats, setting houses on fire, robberies, ambushes, and other attacks on community members. According to the available information, the Santa Clara Community has experienced threats, kidnappings, aggression, and armed attacks by third parties against community members, who were allegedly injured while moving about their territory or attempting to engage in their traditional subsistence activities, such as planting crops.

This aggression against the inhabitants of Santa Clara is ongoing: a representative recently reported that women had been kidnapped by 25 armed third parties who threatened them and made them engage in forced labor for approximately five hours until they were rescued by a relative; two brothers were allegedly surrounded and threatened by 20 people, some of whom were armed; and other community members were threatened and interrogated by armed third parties while fishing. Furthermore, third parties carrying firearms and machetes are allegedly continuing to settle in areas adjacent to Santa Clara, limiting the community’s ability to move about freely, and even building fences that prevent them from freely and safely accessing areas where they go about their traditional subsistence activities. The territory continues to be deforested by armed third parties, and other events have taken place that reflect the intentions of armed third parties to enter the Santa Clara community and seize community lands.

In view of this, and given the ongoing atmosphere of extreme conflict in Nicaragua that has not yet been addressed effectively by the state, the IACHR believes that there is reasonable likelihood of these grave events reoccurring in Santa Clara. In addition to causing aggression and fatalities, this would entail the destruction of the community’s means of subsistence, which would cause irreparable damage to its cultural identity should it be forced to abandon its ancestral lands and lose its way of life.

The IACHR notes that three years after the first precautionary measure was adopted in this case, armed third parties continue to operate in the area. The absence of effective state measures to address the grave circumstances that the members of Miskitu communities are facing creates an atmosphere that encourages the invasion of their territories by third parties who seek to settle in the area by violent means, at any cost.

At present, seven communities of the Miskitu indigenous people are protected by provisional measures ordered by the IA Court. On September 1, 2016, the IA Court ordered that provisional measures be granted in favor of the members of the Miskitu indigenous community living in the Klisnak, Wisconsin, Wiwimak, San Jerónimo, and Francia Sirpi communities and of those who were allegedly forced to abandon these communities but wish to return. These measures remain in force. On November 23, 2016, and August 22, 2017, the IA Court decided to extend these provisional measures to protect the members of the Miskitu indigenous community of Esperanza Río Coco and Esperanza Río Wawa, as well as people who have allegedly been forced to leave the latter community but wish to return. Likewise, on August 23, 2018, the IA Court decided to extend the provisional measures in favor of human rights defenders Lottie Cunningham Wrem and José Coleman. A further five communities are also currently protected by precautionary measures granted by the IACHR.

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. 219/19