Nicaragua: Wiping Out NGOs “Will Devastate” Poorest Citizens

UN experts warn

Collage: Erick Retana / Confidencial

They indicated that the cancellation of the legal status of more than 1,200 associations “represents a clear pattern of repression of civic society”

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The cancellation of hundreds of non-profit organizations in Nicaragua “will have even more devastating consequences on marginalized people and groups,” warned a group of independent United Nations experts in a letter addressed to the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.

According to their statement, the experts detailed in the letter that marginalized citizens “depend” on the services of NGOs “for their survival; for example, rural and indigenous communities, children and youth, women and asylum seekers.”

The National Assembly, dominated by Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista Front, eliminated 200 organizations this week through two decrees, bringing the NGOs canceled to 1,206 so far in 2022.

With this new round of outlawing, the Ortega regime accumulates 1,280 associations eliminated from December 2018 to date.

A CONFIDENCIAL monitoring shows that the regime has closed environmental, educational, children’s rights, human rights, women’s, adolescents, indigenous rights, culture, entrepreneurship, democracy, charity, and health NGOs, regardless of the impact this has on its beneficiaries.

In mid-July, Brian Nichols, US Under Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, warned that he had information that Ortega “plans to close 1,797 nonprofits, but the actual number could be much higher.” On his Twitter account, the high-ranking US official posted that “the regime cares more about remaining in power than about the well-being of its people.”

“Improper use of laws”

The UN experts indicated that the cancellation of the legal status of hundreds of associations “represents a clear pattern of repression of civil society.”

They added that the limitation on the right to free expression in Nicaragua observed since the political crisis of 2018 has accelerated with the application of the Foreign Agents Law and the Law of Regulation and Control of Non-Profit Organizations, which entered into force in May.

The latter of those two laws imposes serious obstacles for this type of association and significantly limits external financing.

“We regret to see, once again, the misuse of terrorism and money laundering laws to unnecessarily and disproportionately restrict the activities of civil society and fundamental freedoms,” the experts said.

The shuttered organizations have no right to appeal the decision of Parliament and, in many cases, the former directors denounced that the Ministry of the Interior had established obstacles for them to comply with all the requirements mandated by law.

“Deterrent effect” on activists

According to the statement, the UN experts expressed concern about the dissuasive effect these closures have on civil society activists. “Hundreds of activists have already fled the country to seek refuge in neighboring states given the risk of reprisals,” they added.

“We urge the State to refrain from decreeing more closures and to immediately revoke these restrictions on associations. A functional, strong, and diverse civic and political space is crucial for any democratic country.”

The letter was signed by more than a dozen special rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council, including the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Clement Nyaletsossi, and the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor.

The United Nations clarified that the experts are volunteers; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government and organization and act in their individual capacity.

*With information from Efe.

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