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Human Rights Council must establish mechanism to promote accountability for grave violations in Nicaragua

As the country’s rights crisis worsens, UN High Commissioner's reporting, and documentation by civil society organisations, point to the urgent need for efforts to lay the groundwork for future accountability processes in Nicaragua. At its ongoing 49th session, the Human Rights Council must seize the opportunity to create a UN-mandated mechanism to investigate serious violations, identify perpetrators, and preserve the evidence.

In March 2021, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 46/2, strengthening the monitoring mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, on the human rights situation in Nicaragua. On 7 March, Bachelet presented her Office’s (the OHCHR) written report to the Council in which she concludes to a ‘pattern of serious violations of civil and political rights result[ing] in dissenting political opinions being arbitrarily suppressed.’ She provides 13 recommendations to the Government, including that it:

  • Promptly releases all those arbitrarily detained;
  • Ceases and sanctions attacks against human rights defenders and journalists;
  • Restore the legal personality of civil society organisations, political parties and media outlets;
  • Restore the rule of law, by amending all restrictive legislation and thoroughly reforming its judicial and security sectors;
  • Resume cooperation with the UN human rights mechanisms, including by providing access to the country to the OHCHR and regional organisations.

During a dedicated exchange with the High Commissioner, 19 delegations – including regional actors such as Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Peru, Paraguay and Argentina – expressed deep concerns at Nicaragua’s human rights situation, calling on the authorities to promptly resume cooperation and release those arbitrarily detained. The Nicaraguan delegation did not address the High Commissioner’s concerns, and instead calling out a ‘manipulation’ deriving from the ‘economic and political interests of imperialist countries.’ The Government was backed by 11 diplomatic allies – including North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, China and Russia – accustomed to providing themselves mutual support to avoid UN scrutiny over grave violations.

During the debate, Josefa Meza, the mother of Jonathan Morazán, a young student killed during the April 2018 mass protests, delivered a joint statement by ISHR and the Association of April’s Mothers (AMA), calling on the Human Rights Council to establish an investigative and accountability mechanism during this session.

Read her full statement in English here, in Spanish here.

A pressing need for longer-term accountability

The Colectivo 46/2, a coalition of 21 national, regional and international organisations – including ISHR -, documented over the last year, on the basis of publicly available information from the UN and Inter-American systems, the absence of any initial steps taken by the Government of Nicaragua to implement any of the recommendations it received in resolution 46/2.

Such evidence points to the absolute lack of cooperation by the Nicaragua Government with UN and regional human rights bodies, underscoring the need for the international community to step up action.

Additionally, the Government of Nicaragua has:

  • Refused to respond to any questions during its review by the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, in September 2021, failing its treaty obligations;
  • Turned down all offers of technical assistance by the OHCHR, including its Regional Office in Panama, as indicated by the High Commissioner and her Deputy in Interactive Dialogues with the Council in December 2021 and March 2022;
  • Denounced the Charter of the Organisation of American States, although the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reiterated it still has jurisdiction over Nicaragua during the two-year time lapse until the Government’s decision takes effect;
  • Not accepted a return of OHCHR and Inter-American presences on the ground, since it expelled them in late 2018.

Since Daniel Ortega’s reelection in November 2021, following a deeply-flawed electoral process, Nicaragua has shown it does not fear being diplomatically isolated: this diminishes the leverage on the Government of ongoing UN monitoring efforts and short-term political pressure at the Human Rights Council. For this reason, it is fundamental to step up action by laying the groundwork for longer-term accountability for grave human rights violations, in the form of future justice processes at the national and international level.

In her written report, Bachelet reiterated her previous call that the Human Rights Council enhances the OHCHR’s monitoring and public reporting mandate, and ‘considers further measures to strengthen accountability for serious human rights violations.’

States are currently negotiating a draft resolution at the Human Rights Council, presented by a group of countries – Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Paraguay – that would establish a group of three human rights experts mandated to investigate serious human rights violations since 2018, identify perpetrators, collect and preserve evidence, and provide recommendations to the Government of Nicaragua. The draft resolution also strengthens the High Commissioner’s mandate, whose flexibility and focus on monitoring, makes it complementary to that of the group of human rights experts.

In an open letter released on 4 March, ISHR, jointly with the Colectivo 46/2, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and 13 other organisations urged the Human Rights Council to establish such mechanism at its ongoing 49th session.  

ISHR calls on Human Rights Council Member States to support the adoption of the current draft resolution creating a group of human rights experts on Nicaragua, and strengthening the High Commissioner’s monitoring and reporting mandate. Join the campaign!

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