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Nicaragua: Michelle Bachelet call for intensifying efforts aimed at the release political prisoners

Washington DC, June 17, 2022.- In compliance with Resolution 49/3 of the Human Rights Council, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, gave an oral update on the human rights situation in Nicaragua in which it asked the State to ensure the immediate release of all political prisoners and to carry out an “independent verification of the conditions of detention”. She called on the Human Rights Council and member states to "promptly intensify efforts aimed at the immediate release" of these people.

In her statement, Bachelet denounced that at least 173 people continue to be deprived of their liberty in conditions contrary to the United Nations Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), in need of urgent, permanent, or specialized medical care; and facing judicial proceedings and arbitrary sentences. It should be noted that eleven of these people are under house arrest; however, "according to current national regulations, this benefit should favor all detainees who are older adults or have serious illnesses."

Likewise, the High Commissioner expressed her deep concern over the high number of exiled Nicaraguans -which has exceeded that registered in the 1980s- and the “dramatic reduction of civic space”. Since the beginning of the crisis in April 2018, violations of freedom of expression and association, academic freedom, and university autonomy have not ceased. This year, the National Assembly - at the request of the government - has canceled the legal status of at least 388 organizations. This means that since November 2018, the government has canceled 454 organizations, including national and international human rights organizations, organizations working in education and development, universities, medical and professional associations, among others.

Michelle Bachelet also warned about the consequences of the new General Law for the Regulation and Control of Non-Profit Organizations, which came into force on May 6. This regulation makes it difficult for organizations to register, prohibits them from getting involved in political activities and allows the Government total discretion to request information about their funds, activities, and beneficiaries. "The limits and prohibitions of this law strongly obstruct the free exercise of the right to freedom of association, as well as other essential rights in a democratic society," she said.

Finally, she urged the Nicaraguan Government to immediately cease the policies that contribute to Nicaragua's isolation from the regional and international community; and reiterated the need for Nicaragua to allow access to the OHCHR to promote efforts to promote human rights and, particularly, to visit people arbitrarily deprived of liberty.

States urge the Nicaraguan authorities to allow the entry of the Group of Experts on Human Rights

Member states of the Human Rights Council (HRC) expressed their serious concern over the successive reports of the High Commissioner, which reveal Nicaragua's "continuous disregard of its international obligations" and its lack of will to cooperate with international and regional mechanisms of human rights. Once again, they urged the Government of Nicaragua to allow the entry and cooperation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Group of Experts on Human Rights, and other mandates of the Council.

Costa Rica, on behalf of the Core Group (Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru), condemned the expulsion of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the resident delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), whose humanitarian work allowed relatives to learn about the health situation of dozens of political prisoners. Likewise, they reiterated their commitment to support the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in Nicaragua.

The delegation of Argentina expressed that it is "crucial" that the Nicaraguan authorities cease the cancellations and restore the legal status of the affected organizations and promote an inclusive national dialogue with the "objective of guaranteeing a peaceful and democratic solution to the multidimensional crisis that Nicaragua is experiencing.””.

For its part, the European Union (EU) urged the Nicaraguan authorities to "unconditionally and immediately release all political prisoners and annul their sentences, which are contrary to international law and standards of procedural guarantees."

Organizations of the Collective 46/2 request support from the Group of Experts

During the interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner, organizations from Collective 46/2 -a group of 21 NGOs that promoted the creation of the "Group of Experts on Human Rights" that will investigate the violations committed since April 2018 in Nicaragua-, asked the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to fully support this mission, ensuring that it has a gender, intersectional and victim-centered approach.

The lawyer of the Legal Defense Unit (UDJ), Alexandra Salazar, representing the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) and the International Service for Human Rights (International Service for Human Rights), requested the High Commissioner to provide more information on the conditions of detention of political prisoners documented by her Office, and on their exchanges with the Government.

The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) called on the Council and Special Procedures to support the group of experts, particularly, ensuring the scrutiny of violence and impunity against indigenous peoples, and of the forced displacement of thousands of Nicaraguans.

Dr. Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, in a joint intervention by the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), denounced the resurgence of persecution against the Catholic Church, the imprisonment of a priest. She asked the Council to "redouble efforts to achieve the immediate release of political prisoners, and provide all its support so that the Group of Experts can effectively pursue the fulfillment of its mandate"

Ramón Muñoz of the International Human Rights Network (RIDH) said that this UN Mechanism "must identify in the clearest possible way the material authors and those who have given the orders" of the human rights violations - which could be classified as crimes against humanity - including the highest civil and military authorities. "Only if the perpetrators are identified and convicted will democracy return to Nicaragua," he concluded.



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