Venezuela, Nicaragua and LGBTI issues: key points of the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council
Geneva, July 16th 2019. A report on the human rights situation in Venezuela presented by the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and an update on the state of human rights in Nicaragua presented by Deputy High Commissioner Kate Gilmore, as well as the mandate renewal of the UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, were all key agenda items during the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The 41st session of the Human Rights Council, which took place between June 24 and July 12 at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, was marked by the Latin American agenda. In her opening speech, Bachelet expressed concern about the setbacks experienced in Latin America that affect important achievements made by victims, human rights defenders and political leaders in terms of reconciliation and transitional justice in recent decades.
The High Commissioner warned: “today we are witnessing a worrisome trend of denial of the facts, even extending to the passage of laws intended to undo the progress made in seeking justice.”
As an example, she cited the recent approval of the Amnesty Law in Nicaragua and the attempts of Guatemala and El Salvador to pass similar laws. Faced with this situation, she urged “these and all other countries not to adopt regulations that prevent serious human rights violations from being prosecuted and duly punished.” She also said that “accountability, with fair trials, protects societies from future radicalisation and violence.”
The Human Rights Council is the intergovernmental body of the United Nations that is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights. It has the competence to discuss all human rights thematic issues and to call for change through recommendations. This body also has the function of empowering special procedures and carrying out the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). It meets three times a year: in February, June and September.
The Deputy High Commissioner presented the update on the human rights situation in Nicaragua. This intervention was held as part of the resolution of the Human Rights Council for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Nicaragua (Resolution A/HRC/40/ L8) approved in April 2019, which also provides for the presentation of a report in the following Council session in September of this year.
In her oral intervention, Deputy High Commissioner Kate Gilmore stressed that one year after the violent repression of demonstrations throughout the country, which killed more than 300 people, injured 2,000 and put more than 70,000 people in exile, human rights violations committed during that crisis remain unresolved. Peaceful protest and dissent continue to be repressed.
She also noted that, despite the Nicaraguan authorities’ claim that they have freed all those arrested in the context of the protests, more than 80 people could still be in custody under severe conditions of detention. The OHCHR has even received reports of torture and mistreatment. Gilmore urged the release of all persons arbitrarily detained for their participation in the protests or for expressing dissenting or critical opinions, including those who are still under alternative measures to incarceration, and reiterated the call to the Nicaraguan authorities to carry out immediate, impartial and effective investigations into the allegations of torture and violent acts in custody.
Regarding the Amnesty Law and the Law of Integral Attention to Victims, she emphasized that nether guarantees the right of victims to truth and reparation and that they were adopted without sufficient consultation with civil society or victims’ organizations. One of the most critical points of her speech was the reference to the work of the OHCHR, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, for its initials in Spanish) of the Organization of American States. Although these agencies have managed to document serious human rights violations, the Government continues to deny the responsibility of the state or its professional agents. The National Police has continued to systematically deny authorization for civil society meetings and to arbitrarily arrest people who attempt to demonstrate, with episodes of excessive use of force. The Deputy High Commissioner also showed concern for human rights defenders, community leaders, media journalists and civil society organizations who continue to be the target of attacks, threats, harassment and constant surveillance.
She ended her speech by calling on the authorities to participate in a genuine, meaningful and inclusive dialogue to address the legitimate demands of justice and reparation and to undertake institutional and electoral reforms. She recalled her office’s willingness to support the Nicaraguan Government in the fulfillment of its international obligations regarding human rights.