High Commissioner’s intersessional update on Nicaragua
Delivered by Debora Leao, CIVICUS Monitor Research Officer for the Americas
Thank you, Madame President, and thank you High Commissioner for this timely update.
Following months of intense repression, Nicaragua’s civic space rating was a week ago downgraded from ‘repressed’ to ‘closed’ – the worst rating possible – in the CIVICUS Monitor. An atmosphere of fear and violence prevails, where people are routinely imprisoned and attacked for exercising their civic rights of association, free assembly and expression.
In the runup to the November election, opposition candidates and government critics – including student leaders, defence lawyers and journalists – were detained under charges such as “acting to undermine national integrity,” based on repressive laws designed to criminalise all criticism. Some were forcibly disappeared for weeks or months, and many have been subjected to ill treatment while in detention. Such laws paved the way for the illegitimate election, which took place with seven opposition candidates remaining behind bars.
Outside of the electoral process, civil society organisations in Nicaragua are operating in an increasingly hostile environment. Between July and August 2021, the authorities ordered the closure of 45 non-governmental organisations, including women’s groups, humanitarian organisations and medical associations.
Around 26 journalists have been forced to flee the country in recent months. Widespread surveillance and self-censorship are commonplace. Reporters have been personally targeted, summoned and threatened with charges.
In this context of intensified repression and entrenched impunity, we call on the Council to establish an investigation and accountability mechanism at its next Session.
High Commissioner, what more can member states do immediately to protect civil society being persecuted in Nicaragua?
Civic space in Nicaragua is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor