Nicaragua: IACHR warns international community about lack of conditions for free and fair elections in autonomous regions of the Caribbean Coast

February 23, 2024

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Washington D.C.- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the absence of conditions for the realization of free, fair and competitive regional elections in Nicaragua, in a context of closure of civic space, state repression, police siege and militarization in the indigenous and Afro-descendant territories of the Caribbean Coast.

In recent months, through the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), the IACHR has received information on the intensification of a repressive strategy deployed on the Atlantic Coast in order to convey a message of control and fear against indigenous and Afro-descendant movements critical of the government. The aim is to limit their participation in the regional elections scheduled for March 3, 2024 to renew the positions of 90 authorities of the autonomous regions.

Among other recent events, the cancellation of the legal status of the indigenous party Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Asla Takanka (YATAMA) and the seizure of its regional facilities stand out. Also concerning are the detention of the deputy of the National Assembly and president of the YATAMA party, Brooklyn Rivera, whose whereabouts are still unknown, as well as the legal representative and alternate deputy of YATAMA, Nancy Elizabeth Henríquez; both beneficiaries of provisional measures by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR Court).

The IACHR also highlights the closure and confiscation of the headquarters of the indigenous community radio stations Yapti Tasba Bila Baikra Bilwi and Waspam; the permanent acts of persecution against indigenous leaders to criminalize them and remove them from the political arena; and the systematic attacks by armed settlers who act with the tolerance of State authorities to dispossess and displace communities from their territories.

These actions seriously threaten the autonomy of the indigenous and Afro-descendant communities of the Atlantic Coast, place their cultural and ethnic survival at risk, and strengthen the concentration of power in the Executive in that area of the country, based on the co-optation of its institutions and the proven absence of an independent electoral system.

The regional elections had been the result of historical demands and the struggle for the recognition of the autonomy of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant communities in Nicaragua, leading to the approval of the "Statute of Autonomy of the Atlantic Coast Regions" (Law No. 28) and other national laws. Against this background, the lack of conditions for holding free elections would constitute a significant setback in the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities.

The IACHR urges the State of Nicaragua to adopt all necessary measures, in accordance with its international obligations, to guarantee that indigenous and Afro-descendant communities can participate, under conditions of equality, both in (the upcoming regional?) elections and in decision-making on matters that affect or may affect their rights and the development of these communities, in accordance with their values, uses, customs and forms of organization.

It also urges the State of Nicaragua to cease repression against indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, against members of the indigenous party Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Asla Takanka (YATAMA), and to respect and guarantee fundamental freedoms. It also urges Nicaragua to immediately report on the whereabouts of Mr. Brooklyn Rivera in compliance with the provisional measures granted by the IACHR Court.

The IACHR is a principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission is mandated to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 040/24

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