UN High Commissioner denounces “serious deterioration” of human rights, total closure of democratic space, and arbitrary prison sentences
HAVANA TIMES – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, warned that the human rights situation in Nicaragua has continued to “severely deteriorate.” This has caused “a paralyzing effect on Nicaraguan society,” since anyone who criticizes the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo is “punished.”
In its report titled Situation of human rights in Nicaragua – which will be presented during the fifty-fourth period of sessions of the Human Rights Council, to be held between September 11 and October 6 – the office highlights that in the last year people considered opponents to the regime and their relatives have been “persecuted and subjected” to a wide range of “arbitrary measures that violate their human rights.”
These arbitrary measures include “prison sentences handed down without trial and the deprivation of nationality through judicial decisions that have no resemblance to legality.” Likewise, 27 Nicaraguans have been denied entry to their country, forcing them to relocate.
Furthermore, with the progressive elimination of all independent associations, the control of all public institutions and the expulsion and exile of the main opposition leaders, the regime “has reduced the civic and democratic space to such an extent that it leaves no room for dissidence,” they emphasize.
Arrests without due process
The report, which covers the period between August 15, 2022 and June 15, 2023, indicates that arrests of opponents of the regime continued to be recorded periodically. This practice increased between August and November 2022 in relation to the greater persecution of the Catholic Church and during municipal votes.
The UN High Commissioner’s Office continued to observe “a pattern of systematic violations of procedural guarantees and the right to a fair trial” for political prisoners.
They indicate that arrests have continued to occur without court orders or information about the reasons. The detainees have been prevented from communicating in a timely, free, and confidential manner with their lawyers and have only been able to meet with them before the hearings and under the supervision of police officers.
They add that lawyers have had limited access to court documents, including evidence. The hearings have mostly not been public, without justifying their inaccessibility to the public and without prior notice to the accused and their lawyers about the date and time of the hearings.
“Numerous hearings were held at the Evaristo Vásquez (El Chipote) police complex in Managua, which only police and judicial personnel can access. Some hearings took place at four in the morning to avoid public scrutiny. These practices violate article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international human rights standards,” the report reads.
The UN High Commissioner has also documented 49 cases in which executing judges improperly modified sentences, by increasing them after trials had taken place.
“In one case, the Supreme Court sentenced a person convicted of the crime of undermining national integrity and sovereignty to 13 years in prison and disqualification from holding public office or employment. Three months later, another judge convicted the same person of treason, a new crime based on the same facts, and sentenced him to lifelong disqualification from holding public or elected office,” the report details.
The “arbitrary” stripping of nationality
Another action that “concerns” the UN High Commissioner’s Office is the stripping of nationality carried out by the Ortega-Murillo regime against 317 citizens. It points out that these measures “are arbitrary and are not permitted by international law.”
Furthermore, such measures and the way in which these cases were handled by judicial authorities, including the fact that they apparently had no basis in national law, “have raised concerns about the independence and impartiality” of the judicial authorities in Nicaragua.
The UN Office has also documented 43 cases of people, among the 317 deprived of their nationality, who were denied copies of civil registry documents and university academic records and were told by officials that they did not exist in public records.
This measure has had a “seriously negative” impact on the rights of the affected people and their families. “In an especially serious case, the birth registration of the child of one of the affected people would also have been removed from the civil registry,” the report highlights.
“Particularly affected are people who received pensions or had contributed to the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS), whose personal records would have been erased and their right to a pension,” they add.
Closure of civic organizations affects citizens
On the other hand, the UN Office highlights that, between August 15, 2022 and June 15, 2023, the National Assembly and the Ministry of the Interior canceled the legal status of 1988 Non-Profit Organizations, including 298 foreign organizations registered in the country and private universities. In total, 3,338 legal entities have been revoked since 2018.
“These revocations have led organizations to suspend their various types of assistance, negatively impacting the beneficiaries enjoyment of a series of human rights,” the report reads.
“Medical organizations that provide healthcare services that are not available in the public system have had to close; business associations have lost their ability to represent their interests; and women, Indigenous Peoples and people of African descent have lost organizations that worked for their rights,” they add.
The organization also indicates that a study that evaluated the impact of the closure of a sample of 53 of the 3,338 closed associations, concluded that only with the closure of these organizations, Nicaragua had lost an investment of 41 million dollars, 2,000 jobs and services for more than 1 million beneficiaries.