Nicaragua must restore full enjoyment of civil and political rights, particularly freedom of expression

OHCHR

The Nicaraguan State has a duty to comply with its international obligations to respect and guarantee fundamental freedoms, UN and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) experts urged in a joint declaration.

In several letters (*) addressed to the Nicaraguan Government today, UN experts said the cancellation of the legal personality of hundreds of associations “represents a clear pattern of repressing civic space” and expressed concerns about attacks and unlawful interference with the freedom of the media.

In light of the closure and government co-optation of civic spaces and democratic participation in Nicaragua, experts from the UN and the IACHR raised concerns about the increasing restrictions on fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, reaching a critical point. The experts called on Nicaragua authorities to cease the repression of civic space and ensure the access to justice to the victims of human rights violations.

“(T)he State of Nicaragua must immediately cease the judicial persecution of all dissenting voices, release those imprisoned for political reasons and ensure prompt, impartial and thorough investigations into allegations of human rights violations, resulting in those responsible being held to account and effective remedies being provided to the victims”, the experts said.

Since April 2018, Nicaragua adopted a “censorship strategy” and developed a “clear pattern of repression of civic space” against dissenting voice, including journalists, human rights defenders, civil society actors, academics, students, members of the Catholic Church, political parties and government opponents.

In the joint declaration, the experts further urged the State of Nicaragua to “refrain from using the law arbitrarily and selectively and from applying abusive governmental practices to hinder or restrict citizen participation and freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association”.

The experts stressed that the restrictions on fundamental freedoms not only amount to human rights violations but also have a humanitarian impact.

“(T)he number of political prisoners stands at more than 200, many of whom are held in unhealthy conditions, without access to adequate medical care, subjected to solitary confinement regimes, and prevented from receiving visits from their families, among other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” the experts said.

The experts urge the State of Nicaragua to comply with the fundamental rights of all persons deprived of their liberty, to life and to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

They further called on the international community “to encourage the compliance with their fundamental rights and freedoms, and to take humanitarian support measures in accordance with the seriousness of the allegations received.”

They further raised their concerns on the ongoing persecution of various actors from Nicaraguan civil society who are forced to flee and in need of humanitarian assistance. “Under international human rights law, refugee law, and international humanitarian law, States are called upon to open their borders and guarantee emergency entry into their territory to civil society actors seeking international protection or demonstrating urgent humanitarian needs, including recognition of refugee status”, the experts said.

The joint declaration provides key steps for promoting and defending the re-establishment of rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression of Nicaraguan society and recall recommendations previously highlighted in the Joint Declaration on Protecting And Supporting Civil Society At-Risk and the Joint Declaration on Protecting the Right To Freedom of Peaceful Assembly in Times Of Emergencies.

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