High Commissioner Volker Türk on Nicaragua: Climate of Oppression Has Only Intensified
Washington D.C., December 15, 2022 - The climate of oppression has only intensified in Nicaragua, with a "systematic effort to stifle opponents and dissidents," said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk at the UN Human Rights Council's special session on Nicaragua on Thursday, December 15. Likewise, member countries of the Council and civil society organizations called for continued international scrutiny.
According to data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the number of persons arbitrarily detained for expressing their political opinions or for being perceived as critical of the Government, has increased to 225 persons (26 women and 199 men), including relatives of opponents "presumably to pressure the latter to turn themselves in".
The High Commissioner also highlighted other situations that concern him, among these: the more than 3000 national and international NGOs that have been canceled since 2018, leaving countless people without access to their services or assistance; the closure of 26 national media and three international media; the decision of the Government of Nicaragua to deny entry to 12 Nicaraguan citizens; and acts of intimidation, harassment and arrests of human rights defenders, journalists, members of the clergy.
On the other hand, Türk referred to the elections held last November 6 as an "autocratic exercise", in which there were acts of intimidation and denial of access to voting centers to people considered dissidents. "Riot police allegedly repressed supporters of the indigenous political party YATAMA, who claimed to have won in the municipality of Waspam, on the Northern Caribbean Coast" and at least 19 people, mostly young indigenous people, were arrested and "detained for several days", the High Commissioner added.
Support for Nicaraguan migrant population
The High Commissioner urged the international community to support people who have been forced to leave the country, "through international protection measures for refugees''. "At the international level, it is important for the international community to ensure sustained support for civil society organizations, many of which continue to operate from exile," he said.
The High Commissioner's office has documented that, between January and October 2022, Costa Rica received 70,000 new asylum applications from Nicaraguans, and more than 147,000 Nicaraguans have been recorded arriving at U.S. borders.
High Commissioner again requests access to Nicaragua
"My Office is ready to continue working with the (Nicaraguan) authorities," assured Volker Türk, as he again requested access to the country for the staff of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Among other appeals, Türk urged the national authorities to "immediately release all persons arbitrarily detained"; reintegrate those who have been excluded from participating in public life; fully respect the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly, which are essential for sustainable development; and establish an inclusive national dialogue, "founded on human rights."
"I would like to express my solidarity with the victims and their families, and with all human rights defenders in Nicaragua and in exile. My office will continue to support efforts for accountability, and for the promotion and protection of human rights," Türk concluded.
"Nicaragua deserves scrutiny by the Council"
After concluding the presentation of the Nicaragua context, the Core Group (promoter group) made a joint statement signed by Chile, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador Paraguay and Peru, in which they lamented that the November municipal elections "were neither free nor fair" and were marked by repression of dissenting voices and restrictions on civil and political rights. "Nicaraguan actions disproportionately affect those in vulnerable or marginalized situations, including indigenous peoples," added Costa Rica's representative to the Council.
The Core Group called on Nicaragua to grant access to legal representation and medical care to all prisoners, and to release those arbitrarily detained and sentenced. It also urged Nicaragua to attend its review by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in February 2023, and to renew cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner.
Other members of the Council, such as Argentina, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, joined the demand for the release of persons deprived of their liberty for political reasons and urged an independent investigation of violations against human rights defenders, including defenders of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants, faith leaders, journalists, among others.
"Let it be clear that the situation in Nicaragua deserves scrutiny by the Council," emphasized the Costa Rican representative.
NGOs call for 2-year renewal of the Group of Experts on Human Rights in Nicaragua
Thirty-four Nicaraguan and international organizations, of which twelve are part of the 46/2 Collective - a coalition that monitors Nicaragua's cooperation with the UN human rights system - launched a global call for a resolution on Nicaragua that would renew the mandate of the "Group of Experts on Human Rights on Nicaragua" for a period of two years, strengthening its intersectional approach and "paying special attention to the situation of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants, migrants and forcibly displaced persons, persons detained for political reasons, and the families of victims."
According to the organizations, information from the UN and the Inter-American Human Rights system denotes the "absolute lack of implementation" of the 14 recommendations of Human Rights Council resolution 49/3, which requires greater UN scrutiny.
"We call on all governments to support this resolution at the next session of the Human Rights Council," said Juan Carlos Arce, member of the Human Rights Collective "Nicaragua Nunca Más," a member organization of the 46/2 Collective.