Press Release

IACHR Calls for Persecution of People Identified as Dissidents to End and for Democratic Guarantees to be Reestablished in Nicaragua

October 10, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) warned that attacks on public freedom in Nicaragua are intensifying. It called upon the State to immediately cease persecution of people who have been identified as dissidents and to take the measures needed to reestablish the guarantees and rights that are essential to democratic regimes, particularly in view of the upcoming elections in the country.

Through its Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), the IACHR has received information regarding the intensification of a government strategy consisting of attacks on the media and independent press through direct and indirect censorship, as well as raids and threats to the detriment of social and political leaders and human rights defenders.

On the matter of the media and independent press, the IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression expressed their concern regarding the embargo on Nicavisión S.A., which owns Channel 12, for alleged tax debts, and the tax proceedings initiated against Channel 10. These are the only two channels that are still operating independently in Nicaragua. The IACHR also spoke out against the criminal sentence received by Kalúa Salazar, a journalist from the Costeñísima radio station, in September, for slander.

Through MESENI, the IACHR spoke out against the continual raids on the facilities of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH) that are carried out by police and parapolice forces for the purposes of intimidation. Other events that have taken place include the September 10 attack by police officers on the organization’s executive director, Marcos Carmona, and his family, which included a gun being fired; and the subsequent interference by police and other state agents to prevent him from filing a complaint with the appropriate authorities regarding these events. In August, the IACHR also received detailed information on how State agents or government supporters have occupied or requisitioned lands where experimental ecological activities were being carried out and which continue to be owned and administrated by Fundación del Río, an NGO whose legal status was revoked in 2018.

On September 29, the IACHR reported that feminist organizations were being subjected to persecution and acts of intimidation by police agents who surrounded and blocked the entrance to their facilities and threatened to criminalize activists from the Mujeres Rurales, La Corriente, and María Elena Cuadra collectives. The IACHR particularly condemned the persecution that Sandra Ramos, the leader of the María Elena Cuadra Movement, has been subjected. The IACHR granted precautionary measures in favor of Ms. Ramos on July 25, 2018.

In this grave context, the IACHR calls once more on the State to prevent the bill on foreign agents from going ahead. This bill seeks to regulate and control so-called foreign agents and would have grave effects on the work of Nicaraguan organizations that receive financing or support from abroad to pursue causes such as development and the defense of human rights. It thus affects the rights to freedom of association and to defend human rights as well as the exercise of the right to participate in public affairs.

The IACHR has also been informed that demonstrators and dissidents continue to be arrested by State agents in an arbitrary, illegal fashion. These arrests take place without court orders and without the flagrante delicto hypothesis having been verified. They are often brief detentions that seek to dissuade demonstrators, sometimes through violent means, from engaging in protests; while in other cases, unjustified and disproportionate criminal charges are used to criminalize leaders of the opposition. As part of a coordinated effort with local civil society, MESENI has reported that more than 90 people continue to be deprived of their liberty through these repressive patterns. In this context, the IACHR has continued to express its concern over the health of Justo Emilio Rodríguez and Luis Enrique Meza Lagos, who remain in detention. According to the information the IACHR has received, their families are not being properly informed of their medical diagnoses, and there is no evidence that they are being provided with appropriate treatment for their ailments.

The IACHR wishes to acknowledge the tireless reporting, monitoring, and dialogue work carried out by Nicaraguan civil society through the Records Unit and the Verification and Security Commission. In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the failure to observe guarantees of due legal process in these cases, the IACHR is continuing to call for the State to release these individuals immediately.

Finally, the IACHR urged the State of Nicaragua to cease the persecution of dissidents and the political opposition, to take measures to promote the reestablishment of the rights and guarantees that are proper to the democratic rule of law, and to carry out institutional reforms to ensure widespread public participation in democratic life. 

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. 249/20