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Michelle Bachelet says “No Progress” on Human Rights in Nicaragua

Bachelet denounces the constant threats, intimidation and assassination, while Daniel Ortega’s government continues to allow impunity.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a statement on Nicaragua on September 14. She said: “there is no progress observed in the human rights situation” in the country. On the contrary, with Covid-19 the situation has worsened,” she noted.

In her oral update on the current human rights situation in Nicaragua, Bachelet sounded a warning. She said the Nicaraguan government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic added to the socio-political crisis.  This situation “continues affecting a multitude of rights, including economic, social, and political rights.”

Bachelet declared that the health crisis requires more transparency and open information from the Ortega government.

“The official data is only reported once a week, and lacks detailed epidemiological information,” declared Bachelet.

She mentioned the Pan American Health Organization’s disclaimer. “To analyze the situation in the country,” the PAHO advised, “we’ve had to use data collected by non-official sources.”

Bachelet expressed concern about “the lack of itemized information regarding the pandemic’s impact on the indigenous and Afro-descendant population.  There’s also a lack of information on specific measures adopted in their favor.”

Political violence continues

Back in October 2019, citizens organized a protest at Café Las Flores, on the road to Masaya. Members of different opposition groups were surrounded by hundreds of riot police and paramilitaries. Photo: Carlos Herrera | Confidencial

On the contrary, denounced Bachelet, the state response “has included violations of freedom of expression and firings of medical personnel.”

Bachelet spoke during the inaugural session of the Human Rights Council. She affirmed that the government still shows no sign “of a constructive approach to the tensions and structural problems that culminated in the April 2018 socio-political crisis.”

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights documented 30 cases of threats and intimidation. The victims include human rights advocates, journalists, students, rural leaders, and the Catholic clergy.

“Cases continue to arise of possible violations of the right to life. These include the July 19th assassination of a man in La Trinidad, Esteli. He was murdered by an armed pro-government figure. This recalls the importance of the recommendation in our 2019 report regarding the dismantling and disarming of pro-government persons.”

Bachelet repeated a warning she has given on several occasions. “The Amnesty Law approved in June 2019 has favored impunity for those responsible for serious human rights violations.”

New violations

Three citizens were arrested in Managua after the calling for a march to demand the release of political prisoners. The police militarized the city of Managua to arrest people who came out to demonstrate. Photo: Carlos Herrera

According to organizations of civil society, 94 people “continue arbitrarily deprived of liberty.” Among them are 4 women.  The majority of these political prisoners are accused of fabricated common crimes.

Bachelet urged the government “to free all persons arbitrarily deprived of freedom for participating in protests or for expressing critical opinions.”

This would constitute a significant step towards the restoring rights and lessening the existing polarization, she has said.

In the same way, Bachelet repeatedly expresses concern over threats against the freedom of the press.

The police are also accused of increased intimidation and harassment of journalists. Most recently directed against the board and employees of two local radio stations, in Leon and in Bluefields.

The recent tax resolutions imposed against three media outlets are also of serious concern. These could affect their ability to continue operating, the civil society organizations note.

Femicides also on the rise

Bachelet also expressed concern for the increase in femicides in Nicaragua. Women’s organizations register 50 such killings up through August 31, 2020. During a comparable period last year, there were 44 such crimes documented.  In addition, they reported 68 attempts at femicide, compared with 52 the year before.

“With respect to this, there’s also a concern for the difference reported in the official data. Officially, only 11 femicides are mentioned between February 1st and August 7th, 2020. This is evidence of a possible under-reporting. As such, it hinders the adoption of effective measures to counteract those crimes,” stated Bachelet.

The High Commissioner urged the government to fulfill the recommendations of her office and renew effective cooperation with them.  For example, authorizing a mission to the country “taking into consideration our preparations for the next report to the Council.” Also, “in view of the elections scheduled for November 2021.”

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