Environmental and land rights defenders threatened and sued

Association

On 2nd June 2017, Centro Nicaraguense para los Derechos Humanos – CENIDH (Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights) reported on cases involving the criminalisation of seven environmental defenders from Movimiento Comunal Santa Cruz de la India who opposed the development of a mining project. The mining company Condor Gold sued the community leaders after they took part in a protest. The trial was postponed twice and finally, on 29th June, the mining company decided to withdraw the lawsuit. The company claimed that it had reached an extra-judicial agreement with the activists, however, the defendants have denied this claim, requesting that the company “show the agreement document signed by the defendants”.

On 11th June 2017, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted protection measures to Lottie Cunningham, an activist with Centro por la Justicia y Derechos Humanos de la Costa Atlántica de Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN). Cunningham supports indigenous communities in exercising their legal rights to protect natural resources on their lands. In February 2017, the activist received death threats for her efforts as a human and land rights defender. Others members of CEJUDHCAN received protection measures from the IACHR last year, but reports indicate that the government of Nicaragua has failed to take steps to protect human rights defenders in the country. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 22nd May 2017, a group of activists reported that the police had harassed them, disrupting a protest they had organised in front of the Social Security office to demand an explanation regarding social security contributions. According to the activists, the presence of police officers was excessive and intimidating, as the group described: “we were only 50 activists and [the police] were around 150”.

Another protest took place on 1st June 2017 in Teustepe when a group of taxi drivers from the community organised a demonstration against motorcycle-taxis. The demonstration ended in clashes with police officers when the protesters tried to block a road used to access the country’s capital. At least six people were reportedly injured in the clashes.

On 13th June, another protest against the construction of the Inter-Oceanic Canal was organised in el Dorado. In contrast with the previous protests, demonstrators were able to march without police repression or disruption of the protest.

Expression

Nicaraguan news outlet La Prensa reported on separate incidents when two of their journalists were not allowed to access the premises of public institutions to cover the news. In the first case, Martha Vasquez Larios was not allowed to enter the Judiciary Complex, where high-level courts in the country are housed. A spokesperson for the Supreme Court of Justice, however, has denied the journalist's claims. In the second case, the news outlet's team was not allowed to attend a national meeting of commerce held by the Nicaraguan Central Bank. The Bank reportedly has a censorship policy against independent media after a report was issued criticising the veracity of the Bank's statistics.