UPR: States issue recommendations to Nicaragua to ensure respect for the human rights of its citizens
Geneva, May 15, 2019. The call for the State of Nicaragua to respect the human rights of its citizens, including freedom of expression and the right of peaceful demonstration and association, was one of the most recurring recommendations from the more than 90 States that reviewed Nicaragua today during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), held within the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva.
The recommendations given to the Nicaraguan State, 259 in total, come after a year of crisis during which serious human rights violations were committed by the authorities and parastatal groups against the population holding demonstrations. As a result, at least 325 people were killed, more than 2,000 were injured, and 62,000 people were forced to flee the country.
Other States issued recommendations to Nicaragua to release the more than 300 political prisoners in the country, to investigate the violent acts that occurred in the context of repression that started in April 2018, and to allow scrutiny by international human rights organizations such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), both expelled from the country by authorities.
The State of Nicaragua, represented by Vice Chancellor Valdrack Jaentschke, presented a summary of its country report on the progress of the measures adopted by the State over the past five years to improve the human rights situation. He also repeated the official version of the government, according to which there were no spontaneous demonstrations in Nicaragua, but rather a failed coup d’état.
Jaentschke, taking distance from a widely documented reality, insisted on defending Daniel Ortega’s Administration and denied that the authorities of Nicaragua restrict freedom of expression, repress protests, imprison unjustly protesters, or help parastatal groups suppress demonstrations.
Participation of the States
A total of 94 States made recommendations to Nicaragua to improve the human rights situation in that country, including several Ibero-American delegations such as Honduras, Mexico, El Salvador, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Haiti, Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and Spain.
“My country recommends (Nicaragua) to decriminalize the right to hold peaceful protests and to free persons arbitrarily detained in the context of civil protests; to restore respect for freedom of expression and the press and free journalists who are imprisoned; to guarantee that all the people who were forced to leave Nicaragua since the beginning of the crisis can return, remain in the country in safety, and be free from reprisals; to eradicate the practice of sexual violence against women deprived of their liberty; and to resume the cooperation of Nicaragua with the Office of the High Commissioner, the IACHR and its mechanisms, and to assure them of all the guarantees necessary for the fulfillment of their mandates,” the representative of Costa Rica said.
The delegation of Spain also expressed concern over the human rights crisis in Nicaragua, along with other European countries such as Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, and Malta.
The US delegation recommended that Nicaragua punish the officials, agents, and parapolice officers that have been responsible for human rights abuses, conduct investigations into the acts of violence, and allow social and religious organizations to work without restrictions or threats with legal punishment or against their lives.
Other recommendations that were made to Nicaragua were focused on respecting the guarantees of women’s sexual and reproductive rights, such as allowing access to voluntary abortion and expanding measures to reduce levels of teenage pregnancy. In addition, States recommended implementing measures to reinforce and promote equality for Afro-descendant and indigenous people, and that an LGBTI census is conducted to expand protection measures for these communities.
The UPR is one of the main tools of the Human Rights Council in which countries examine each other. These recommendations are fundamental for Nicaragua to overcome the current situation of serious human rights violations and to comply with the international obligations acquired through the ratification of the human rights conventions to which Nicaragua is a party.
The recommendations given today by delegations from around the world will be reviewed by the State of Nicaragua, which will decide in September what recommendations it will commit to fulfill or of which it will only take note.
This is the third time that Nicaragua has been subjected to scrutiny under the UPR, but human rights defenders working in the country recently reported that a significant part of the 164 recommendations acquired by Nicaragua in the 2014 UPR were not fully implemented.
Recently, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations approved a resolution that allows that body to establish a system for monitoring and presenting periodic reports on the current human rights crisis in Nicaragua.
The delegation of Nicaragua affirmed during the UPR review that there has been progress in access to justice, particularly for the victims of the events of April, and that the media conduct their work without prior censorship or limitations.
The Nicaraguan Vice Chancellor even claimed that no journalist has ever been arrested for exercising the right to inform, suggesting that those in prison have committed illegal acts. However, Miguel Mora, Lucía Pineda, and Marlon Powell were all arrested for their work as journalists.
In addition, he discredited the OACNUDH and the IACHR, insisting that the barricades or roadblocks in the country were centers of criminal operations. He tried to justify the disproportionate use of force used by the police, accused of having executed crimes against humanity, arguing that these forces reestablished public order and acted against what he described as “pockets of violence and terror.”
Regarding freedom of association, he said that the reason why nine organizations had their legal status cancelled was because those NGO’s were used to forge the alleged attempted coup d’etat.
We consider it unacceptable that one year after the April protests, the Government’s narrative continues to ignore and cast aside the large body of evidence against the government that exists, without accepting its responsibility in the repression of protests.
We believe that it is unacceptable to continue denying the lives of citizens who protested and were met with death, as a result of State repression. In addition, we consider it inexcusable that instead of taking advantage of the technical assistance that could be supplied by the protection bodies of the regional and universal human rights system, the regime has chosen instead to discredit these important mechanisms.
We hope that the State of Nicaragua accepts the recommendations made and takes the necessary steps to respect freedom and to restore of democracy with the urgency that the situation requires.