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Nicaragua: UN experts find crimes against humanity, call for further investigation

Human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity have been carried out in Nicaragua, a group of UN independent experts have told the Human Rights Council. To investigate these crimes fully, the Colectivo 46/2 coalition calls for the two-years renewal of UN Human Rights Council resolution on Nicaragua.

The Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua (GHREN), established one year ago by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate grave human rights violations and abuses committed in Nicaragua since 2018, has reported evidence of crimes against humanity carried out against real or perceived opposition figures by ‘authorities of all branches of the government and at all levels’ and at the highest level, including President Daniel Ortega and Vice-President Rosario Murillo. The Group concluded to the crimes of:

  • extrajudicial killings, with 44 cases identified, committed by the police and members of pro-Government armed groups
  • imprisonment, as a result of violent arrests, without arrest warrants, incommunicado and without due process guarantees, and the instrumentalisation of criminal law
  • torture, including through rape and other forms of sexual violence
  • forced deportation
  • persecution, as the crimes were committed ‘in the context of a discriminatory policy, intentionally orchestrated by the highest echelons of the Government, against part of the population of Nicaragua, for political reasons.’

These findings echo the analysis and reflect the experience of Nicaraguan civil society actors, as noted by Alexandra Salazar of the Unidad de Defensa Jurídica (UDJ), in a joint statement on behalf of the Colectivo 46/2 coalition during a Council dialogue with the GHREN on 6 March.

The findings demonstrate our lived reality: that of a police and dictatorial State, rooted in fear and the absolute deprivation of human rights. The instrumentalisation of State institutions at the service of repressive political actors has led to the collapse of the rule of law and institutions.
Alexandra Salazar, Unidad de Defensa Jurídica, on behalf of the Colectivo 46/2 coalition

UN Assistant-Secretary General Ilze Brands Kehris, who provided the Council with an oral update on Nicaragua on 3 March, gave examples of this lived reality: 222 political prisoners were released and deported to the United States – an act characterised as forced deportation by the GHREN – to then be arbitrarily deprived of their Nicaraguan nationality. A few days later, 94 other Nicaraguans were also striped of nationality, of which emblematic woman human rights defender Vilma Núñez, president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) is the only one to still remain inside the country in legal limbo.  

Nicaraguan defender Olga Valle, member of the citizen electoral observatory Urnas Abiertas, in a joint statement with ISHR, spoke of the depth of the crisis facing the Nicaraguan population.

The installation of this de facto government has led to the erosion of the quality of life of Nicaraguans in all its dimensions, with high levels of impunity for violence against women and widespread corruption that tramples and conditions access to other rights such as health and education. and work.
Olga Valle, Urnas Abiertas, on behalf of Colectivo 46/2 coalition

The Unidad de Defensa Jurídica, Urnas Abiertas and ISHR are all part of the Colectivo 46/2, a coalition of civil society groups who along with others are calling for the two-years renewal of the Human Rights Council resolution establishing the GHREN’s accountability mandate, and the monitoring mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The coalition, jointly with Human Rights Watch, CIVICUS and IBAHRI, convened a public side event looking at the fate of political prisoners, including those forcibly deported, and human rights defenders inside and outside the country.

In his address to the Human Rights Council, the Chair of the GHREN, Jan-Michael Simon, called for the renewal of the Group’s mandate noting a need to focus more attention on three key areas:

  • support to victims in getting access to justice
  • further investigation of violations targeting Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and peasant communities (campesinos)
  • instrumentalisation of State institutions and confiscation of assets.

For this, noted Simon, the GHREN needs terms of reference that allow for additional analysts and the use of specific technological tools, all supported by an adequate budget to support the work of the Group. Concluding the dialogue with the Council, he also reminded States that the findings of the Group’s first report compel them to action – including by resorting to universal jurisdiction –, noting that States must ensure crimes do not go unpunished and that they promote access for victims to justice.

Crimes against humanity are crimes against the international order. They empower the jurisdiction of States other than the State of the crime scene.
Jan-Michael Simon, Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua

Negotiations on a draft text to renew the resolution, led by Costa Rica, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador and Brazil, are ongoing, with consideration of the resolution likely on 3 or 4 April.

As part of the Colectivo 46/2 coalition, ISHR calls on:

  • The Human Rights Council to renew for a period of two years its resolution on the human rights situation in Nicaragua, which establishes the mandate of the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua, and the monitoring and reporting mandate of the OHCHR.
  • All Council Members to support such a resolution and reinforce its intersectional approach, by bringing particular attention to the situation of Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants, migrants and forcibly displaced persons, those detained for political reasons and the relatives of victims.

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