Cris Huerta addresses UN Human Rights Council, UN Webtv

Latin America & Caribbean

Prison or exile: activist denounces fate of feminist activists in Nicaragua during UN debate

In Human Rights Council debate on Nicaragua, UN experts, governments and NGOs worry about deepening human rights crisis, urge Nicaragua to reengage with the international community.

On 18 December, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) closed the year convening a dialogue on Nicaragua’s human rights situation, hearing about the most recent developments in the country documented by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  In her address to UN Member States, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif described a daunting context of persecution against human rights defenders, journalists, political and indigenous leaders, members of the Catholic Church, where ‘impunity is the norm’. Al-Nashif reported the arbitrary detention of at least 17 women and 54 men, including due process violations and torture against them, as well as denial of entry into Nicaragua and ‘violations against Nicaraguans stripped of their nationality and property.’

Every day the country deviates further from human rights, deepening people’s suffering, triggering the exodus of youth, and undermining the future of democratic public institutions. I call on Nicaragua to immediately reverse this course and introduce fundamental change in the interests of its people, anchored in human rights.
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif

In a joint statement, governments composing the ‘core group’ of countries leading a resolution to establish UN scrutiny over Nicaragua – Costa Rica, Chile, Canada, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Paraguay and Ecuador – urged the authorities to ‘cooperate fully’ with UN human rights bodies, raising the cases of Bishop Rolando Álvarez, Miskito leader Brooklyn Rivera and business woman Karen Celebertti.

The European Union and other governments – including France, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands, Georgia, Ukraine, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States – expressed concern at a range of rights abuses in the country. In a strongly-worded statement, Argentina announced it would reintegrate the ‘core group’, which it had left in 2020.

During the dialogue, Cristiana ‘Cris’ Huerta, a feminist activist from Nicaragua, briefed the Human Rights Council on the fate of women human rights defenders in a statement delivered on behalf of the International Service for Human Rights. For Cris, feminist activists are faced with two choices: prison or exile.

In October, Nicaragua had yet again refused to be scrutinised by a UN women’s rights committee established under a treaty ratified by the Nicaraguan State itself. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) publicly ‘deplored’ Nicaragua’s ‘unacceptable conduct’ and ‘baseless accusations’. This exceptional act of defiance was also met by strong criticism from governments and UN experts, with Deputy High Commissioner Al-Nashif condemning the use of ‘inappropriate language’ by Nicaragua’s Ambassador, Rosalía Bohorquez, against the Committee. The Committee’s findings on women’s rights in Nicaragua will be issued in February 2024.


Upcoming regional elections in 2024

As the North and South Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua – predominantly inhabited by Indigenous Peoples – is scheduled to hold regional elections in March 2024, Deputy Al-Nashif raised concern at the ‘arbitrary cancellation of the legal status of YATAMA, the main Indigenous and Afro-descendant political party in the country.’ She also expressed concern at the significant risks to the rights of Indigenous Peoples entailed by the Bio-CLIMA project – funded by the Green Climate Fund –, in particular given the lack of adequate processes to guarantee free, prior and informed consent of affected communities.

In her final remarks during last Monday’s dialogue, Deputy Al-Nashif recommended that Nicaragua promptly release National Assembly members Brooklyn Rivera and Nancy Henriquez, and restore the legal status of all political parties arbitrarily cancelled, including YATAMA, ahead of the 2024 regional elections.

There is hope. Human rights defenders in Nicaragua and in exile continue to work tirelessly towards a better future. They need the sustained support of the international community.
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif

This dialogue is mandated by resolution 52/2, adopted by the Human Rights Council on 3 April 2023, following sustained campaigning by the Colectivo 46/2, a coalition of Nicaraguan and international NGOs, including ISHR. The resolution renews for two years the monitoring mandate of the OHCHR, and the investigation mandate of the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua, that concluded to the commission of crimes against humanity earlier in March.

In 2024, Nicaragua’s human rights situation will be the topic of debates at the Human Rights Council in March, June, July and December. In November, UN Member States will review Nicaragua’s record and provide recommendations in the context of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a key ‘temperature check’ of global concern over the country’s multipronged crisis.

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