Nicaragua Rebuked at UN Human Rights Council

Police lay siege to the offices of “La Costeñisima” Radio. Photo taken from Facebook

The regime rejected the new UN report demanding an end to arbitrary detentions and modifications to the punitive laws. The report also asks that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights be permitted to enter the country.

By Yader Luna (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – A new UN report on Nicaragua marked a diplomatic defeat for the image of normality the Ortega regime tries to sell. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the document February 25th, at a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

In the discussion that followed, 20 of 29 UN member countries spoke against the regime. They echoed the denunciations of arbitrary detentions, restrictions to free circulation, threats and other forms of intimidation. These abuses, the report noted, were aimed against opposition figures, journalists and human rights advocates.

The Nicaraguan representative condemned the report as “partial and interventionist”. Only eight countries – Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, Belarus, Iran, Syria, Sri Lanka and Eritrea – spoke in support of that position. Han Tae Song, representing North Korea, assumed the neutral position that “political pressure is counterproductive”. He called for “dialogue and understanding”.

Canada, (also representing Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile and Paraguay) joined the United States, the European Union and 16 other countries. These countries backed the report’s conclusions and Michelle Bachelet’s recommendations to the Ortega regime.

The recommendations included a call to “urgently adopt” an effective electoral reform to guarantee “free, fair and transparent’ elections. Bachelet also called for the political prisoners to be freed. Other countries supporting this position were: Sweden, France, Ecuador, Switzerland, Colombia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Peru, Spain, Uruguay, Mexico, Luxemburg, Ukraine, Great Britain, Germany and Georgia.

During the presentation, Wendy Morales Urbina, Nicaragua’s Attorney General, represented the Ortega regime. She expressed her government’s “complete rejection” of the report, which they considered “unilateral, biased and lacking in objectivity”.

“All of which confirms the politicization and manipulation of human rights at this time in history,” Morales declared. She termed the document an “aggression” which joins the “denatured” voices “of the empires”.

Morales read a speech prepared in El Carmen, the presidential residence. It labeled the UN Human Rights Council “discredited, tarnished and disfigured”.

“The functioning of these organizations should be submitted to an impartial review, [since] they’ve lost all independence and objectivity. They continue serving as an echo chamber for the appetites and voracious desires underlying an interventionist and invasive political agenda.” That agenda, “defines and frames the expansionist practices of political domination and economic suffocation imposed by the imperial, colonial and neocolonial powers,” she declared.

Ambassadors denounce abuses

The Canadian ambassador, Leslie Norton, represented several countries at the UN Council meeting. She was the first to express her concern for the human rights violations in Nicaragua. She highlighted the “reports of repression against citizens, journalists and indigenous people.” Ambassador Norton also noted “the high number of crimes against women in 2020.”

“We call on Nicaragua to guarantee victims of human rights violations access to truth, justice, reparations and non-recurrence. We also demand that Nicaragua rapidly and impartially investigate the widespread human rights violations perpetrated in April 2018,” she declared.

Alejandro Davalos, Ecuador’s ambassador, lamented the Nicaraguan government’s lack of compliance with the recommendations previously issued. Despite such recommendations, “the multiple human rights violations perpetrated in April 2018 remain in impunity.” The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had repeatedly advocated for government investigation of these abuses.

Another of the organization’s recommendations was to modify the recently passed punitive laws. These included the Law for the Regulation of Foreign Agents and the Special Cybercrimes Law. Also noted was the “Law for the Defense of the People’s Rights to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace”. The OHCHR recommended amendments, “in line with international human rights norms and standards, in consultation with different sectors of civil society and experts.”

“Given the weakening of the rule of law and the deterioration of the separation of powers, there’s serious risk. These laws could be applied selectively to repress dissident voices still further,” High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet stated.

The representative from Ecuador expressed his concern, “for the approval of illegal Constitutional reforms incompatible with international human rights standards.”

Concern over lack of electoral reforms

The delegation from the Netherlands called on the Nicaraguan government “to defend the role of civil society. To respect the right of all citizens to freedom of expression, organization and association.”

Ambassador Monique T. G. van Daalen urged “Free, fair, transparent and credible elections in accordance with international standards.” Such elections, she maintained, “are essential for a democratic, peaceful and sustainable solution to the human rights crisis in Nicaragua.”

US representative Sean Garcia also spoke before the United Nations Human Rights Council. He stated that the ongoing detentions for peaceful demonstration and the repression against the media in Nicaragua were troubling.

“The threats to life, the torture and violence in the detentions, are unacceptable, We’re concerned about the lack of significant electoral reforms prior to the November elections,” he insisted.

Garcia criticized the laws “limiting the participation of the political parties and the candidates.” Such laws “that treat dissention as a hate or terrorist crime are distancing Nicaragua from free and fair elections.”

Multiple critiques expressed

The Peruvian ambassador, Silvia Alfaro Espinoza, also spoke. She expressed regret “that persecution, harassment and attacks against opposition voices critical of the government persist.” She also lamented “the impunity in the face of documented human rights violations.”

Ambassador Alfaro criticized the Ortega government’s “lack of cooperation” with the OHCHR and other regional human rights organizations.

Spanish ambassador Aurora Diaz Rato declared: “the jails continue full of prisoners of conscience and demonstrators. The hounding and harassment of opposition advocates and journalists hasn’t ceased.”

For that reason, she said, her government demanded that human rights organizations be allowed to enter the country. They also demanded the reestablishment of all Nicaraguans’ civil rights.

EU representative Linda Ekholm said the recently passed laws represent a step backwards. She mentioned the Foreign Agents Law, the Cybercrimes Law and the Law for “People’s Sovereignty and Self-determination”. She also noted the recent reform to the Penal Code and the latest constitutional reform introducing life sentences. These laws “imprecisely define hate crimes, disparage civil and political rights and represent a step backwards in compliance with the laws.”

“Nicaragua lacks cooperation with the regional and international human rights organizations. These have stressed the need for a mechanism that can provide continuous monitoring and send regular updates to the Council. The European Union demands that the government resume cooperation with regional mechanisms, including access to the country. This is particularly vital prior to the November elections,” the EU representative expressed.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.