Nicaragua in contempt of international human rights mechanisms
📢Continúan farsas judiciales. Con el trámite machotero el régimen ORMU acusó al Dr. Óscar René Vargas, 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐮𝐭á𝐧𝐝𝐨𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬 𝐝𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐨s: conspiración para cometer menoscabo a la integridad nacional, provocación para cometer rebelión y propagación de noticias falsas pic.twitter.com/RYXWuSFx3J— Cenidh (@cenidh) December 1, 2022
On 18th October 2022, the Ministry of the Interior ordered the removal of the legal status of 42 national civil society organisations (CSOs) and the cancellation of the operating registration of 58 foreign CSOs, most of them from the United States, Spain and Germany. Another similar order was published on 17th November 2022, with legal status cancelled for 91 national CSOs and seven foreign CSOs. On both occasions, the government claimed that the organisations had not complied with reporting requirements. Among the organisations affected are groups working on rural development, education, health, as well as several religious associations and professional associations. According to civil society monitoring, over 2,500 organisations have been stripped of their legal status in Nicaragua since 2018.
On 22nd November 2022, 77-year-old sociologist and writer Oscar René Vargas was arrested in Managua. Vargas is a former advisor to ruling party Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), but in recent years became a strong critic of Daniel Ortega’s regime. Civil society groups reported that the arrest was sudden and took place without clear charges against the writer. The Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights – CENIDH) said Vargas requires specialised medical attention for a heart condition. Charges against him were only made public on 1st December, when he was accused of alleged “conspiracy to undermine national integrity”, “incitement to rebellion” and “dissemination of false information.” His initial hearing is set for 9th December 2022.
Detentions during municipal elections
#AlertaUA 🔴 #Urgente Denunciamos el incremento de violencia política en el contexto electoral.— Urnas Abiertas (@UrnasAbiertas) November 9, 2022
Del 1 al 7 de noviembre verificamos 31 detenciones arbitrarias en 7 departamentos y 19 municipios, en colaboración con el @AzulyMonitoreo pic.twitter.com/NxZOJlkIpQ
On 6th November 2022, Nicaraguan municipal elections were held without any real opposition. A few days later, the Supreme Electoral Council announced that FSLN had won 100% of the mayoral races, confirming the party’s total control over the country’s municipalities. Election monitoring organisation Urnas Abiertas (Open Ballots Boxes) called the process an “assault on democracy and municipal autonomy.” The organisation reported multiple cases of coercion on election day and documented 31 detentions in 7 departments between 1st and 7th November.
Similarly, feminist network IM-Defensoras documented eight cases of women human rights defenders or their family members being detained in the week preceding the election. Of these, only two had been released by 9th November 2022. In addition, the group recorded 12 cases of harassment against women rights defenders and local leaders. Police were the main perpetrators of these abuses, followed by government supporters and public employees.
International mechanisms reprimand Nicaragua
#MedidasProvisionales 👩🏿⚖️👨🏿⚖️Corte IDH declara desacato permanente del Estado de Nicaragua respecto a las Medidas Provisionales adoptadas en los Asuntos Juan Sebastián Chamorro y otros y 45 personas privadas de su libertad en 8 centros de detención respecto de Nicaragua. (Sigue 👇🏿) pic.twitter.com/BLN94gXU5R— Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (@CorteIDH) November 29, 2022
On 25th November 2022, the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) said the State of Nicaragua had ignored its obligation under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Nicaragua refused to cooperate with the review of its implementation of the Convention, leading the CAT to proceed with the examination of Nicaragua in the absence of a State delegation. The CAT adopted its final findings in November 2022, underscoring a particular concern about numerous reports indicating the National Police, the Directorate of Special Operations and agents in civilian clothes had used lethal force, arbitrary detentions and acts of torture to repress protestors participating in demonstrations since April 2018.
On 29th November 2022, the CAT and the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) decided to take unprecedented action in response to Nicaragua’s refusal to cooperate with the two UN bodies in tackling and preventing torture in the country. The bodies issued a joint statement and published the confidential SPT visit report to reflect the gravity of the situation and the need for a coordinated response to prevent torture.
“States need to be held accountable for failing to prevent torture and ill-treatment, including by not providing information on their implementation of the SPT’s visit recommendations, as is the case for Nicaragua, following our 2014 visit,” said Suzanne Jabbour, Chairperson of the SPT. “Therefore, we believe that the decision to make our previously confidential report public will have a preventive effect. We also hope it can be useful to all actors on the ground.”
Similarly, on 29th November 2022 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared the State of Nicaragua in permanent contempt of the provisional measures adopted in the cases of journalist Juan Sebastián Chamorro and others and 45 people deprived of their liberty. The Court said Nicaragua has sent 19 communications rejecting the provisional measures which had ordered the immediate release of the political prisoners. It added that this refusal and the prolonged detention left political prisoners in a state of “absolute lack of protection.” The Court said its president would present a report about the situation to the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States and urged the Council to act to follow up on the non-compliance.
The continued eradication of freedom of expression in Nicaragua was highlighted in a report to the 78th General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). Since August 2022, the government has seized the offices of independent newspaper La Prensa, removed CNN’s signal, closed down several Catholic Church radio stations and cancelled the operations of hundreds of non-governmental organisations. IAPA estimated that over 150 journalists have left the country for their own protection since April 2018.
IAPA also underscored that at the end of September 2022, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures to detained La Prensa director Juan Lorenzo Holmann and his family, considering the “serious and urgent risk of irreparable harm to his rights.” The IACHR requested information from the government on Holmann’s “inadequate conditions and lack of necessary, timely and adequate medical care.”