Nicaragua: UN must take action as over 100 activists remain in prison

Statement at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council delivered by Amaru Ruiz, Fundación del Río

The crisis in Nicaragua persists and systematic repression of demonstrations has effectively suppressed mobilisations. As a result, the CIVICUS monitor has included Nicaragua on its Watchlist of countries. Human rights defenders, journalists, and political opponents face criminalisation and harassment from security agents and pro-government civilian groups. At the end of 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported that there were still more than 100 political prisoners in Nicaragua.

While hundreds of political prisoners were released in 2019 and 2020, many are still subjected to surveillance, retaliation and re-imprisonment. In recent months there has been an increase in the use of common criminal charges, such as possession of drugs and weapons, to convict those perceived as opponents of the government while denying their status as political prisoners.

The Nicaraguan authorities have tried to silence the independent press, including by arresting journalists and seeking to curtail their activities. Since late 2020, pro-government lawmakers have stepped up attacks on civil society, enacting a series of laws designed to reduce the space for freedoms of association, assembly and expression. Such laws include the Foreign Agents Law, the Special Law on Cyber ​​Crimes, and an amendment to the country's Penal Code that allows preventive detention without charges for up to 90 days.

A recent report on freedom of association by Fundación del Rio and Fundación Popolna revealed the process of systematic deterioration of an enabling environment for social organisations, with patterns of lack of access to justice and due process. This situation is leading to the eventual forced closure of several Nicaraguan civil organisations and the departure from the country of international organisations unwilling to submit to the legal framework of criminalisation that has been institutionalised.

With elections set for later this year, we are seriously concerned that repression will escalate, putting human rights defenders and broader civil society at even greater risk.

The member states of the Human Rights Council should support a strong resolution calling for greater monitoring by the High Commissioner to promote accountability processes and prevent the situation from deteriorating further as Nicaragua heads toward elections.

 Nicaragua is rated as 'Repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor


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