Press Release

IACHR to Set Up a Coordination Unit to Monitor Events in Nicaragua

May 3, 2018

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Santo Domingo – Given the serious violence that has affected Nicaragua in recent weeks, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), holding its 168th Period of Sessions in the Dominican Republic, unveiled plans to set up a Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit to pay special attention to the human rights situation in Nicaragua. The IACHR remains concerned about the State’s response to the repression of protests that has left several people dead or injured, and also about the State’s response to the demonstrations. The Commission insists on the urgent request it has sent the Nicaraguan State to be allowed to visit the country.

The IACHR has requested that visit to observe first-hand the human rights situation in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan State responded in a letter sent on May 1, 2018, asking the IACHR to await progress in internal proceedings. The Nicaraguan State noted that the President had convened a National Dialogue open to all sectors of society, and that the National Assembly had approved the creation of a “Commission for Truth, Justice and Peace.”

The IACHR has also received reports on a request by students that such a Commission for Truth be independent and autonomous, rather than be established within the framework of the legislative branch. The IACHR expresses its concern for the lack of credibility that both the Commission for Truth and ongoing investigations have for Nicaraguan citizens. The IACHR highlights the importance of any dialogue being inclusive and credible for all sectors, and stresses its willingness to support the process in the framework of its own mandate and role.

Regarding the investigation and efforts to punish those responsible, the Nicaraguan State said that its Office for the Defense of Human Rights had created a Victims Committee to record complaints, investigate them, establish who is responsible for the events that led to those complaints and impose punishments and reparations in keeping with the law. Further, the Nicaraguan State noted that the Public Prosecutor’s Office had launched an investigation of events linked to the deaths of students, police officers and civilians, as well as other crimes.

“The IACHR will closely follow all those initiatives through the Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit, and it demands that such initiatives comply with international human rights standards,” said the IACHR’s Rapporteur for Nicaragua, Commissioner Antonia Urrejola. “In that regard, the IACHR further insists on its call on the Nicaraguan State for a timely, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into acts of violence and police behavior during the demonstrations, whether by actions or omissions, and for the imposition of any relevant penalties,” she added.

Given the demands that students and other elements of civil society have expressed in relation to the State’s proposals, and in keeping with its own mandate, the Commission emphatically and urgently insists on its request to be allowed to visit Nicaragua, in a working visit with the aim of verifying what happened and any measures taken to protect and enforce human rights in the country. In keeping with its mandate, the IACHR observes that Nicaragua has for years rejected international scrutiny regarding human rights. It has been absent from public hearings within the Inter-American system since 2016. In December 2017, the Nicaraguan Government did not allow a member of the Commission to travel there for a promotional visit. Given the international obligations Nicaragua voluntarily accepted regarding human rights, the IACHR calls on the Nicaraguan State to open up to international scrutiny, which would contribute to constructive dialogue within the country.

“The violence in Nicaragua is particularly and disproportionately affecting children and adolescents,” said the IACHR’s Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemema de Troitiño. “We urge the State to take urgent measures to respond to this situation, especially to prevent the persistence of that impact, and to guarantee that children and adolescents can exercise their human rights, including their right to freedom of expression, without retaliation or any other negative consequences. Above all, we call upon the Nicaraguan State to adopt measures to defend and enforce the rights to life and to a humane treatment of children and adolescents, including those taking part in marches and protests.”

According to reports that are publicly available, at least 43 people have been killed, hundreds have been injured and several have been arrested in a context of attacks by allegedly pro-government gangs and of an excessive use of force by police in a scenario of protests and demonstrations. Protests continued after the Government withdrew its reform plans. The IACHR has been informed that some relatives of people killed during the protests have been forced not to file complaints, in exchange for their loved ones’ bodies. There are reports that the injured were initially denied the emergency medical care they needed, following Government orders. The IACHR calls on Nicaragua to ensure that all the injured get the medical treatment they need, in a timely manner.

“The lack of clear data on the exact number of arrests and subsequent releases makes it difficult to establish how many people are currently missing,” said IACHR President Margarette Macaulay. According to the information the Commission has had access to, some detainees were subjected to violence and other forms of ill-treatment. The IACHR reminds the Nicaraguan State of the importance of complying with international standards in contexts of social protests, particularly to ensure that all the people arrested receive humane treatment, that their dignity as human beings is respected, and that their families get accurate information regarding the reasons why they have been detained and the place where they are being kept.

“The IACHR has also received reports that human rights defenders are being subjected to attacks, threats and harassment in this context,” said Paulo Abrão, Executive Secretary of the IACHR. The IACHR notes that the work of human rights defenders is essential to build and strengthen a solid, lasting democratic society. Respect for human rights in a democratic State, therefore, largely relies on the effective and adequate guarantees it grants human rights defenders, so they may freely carry out their activities.”

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 094/18