UN to Investigate Human Rights Violations in Nicaragua

View of a UN General Assembly session. Photo: UN

International and independent experts will have a year to realize an exhaustive investigation of human rights violations committed in Nicaragua.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – On Thursday, March 31, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution called “Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Nicaragua.” The resolution approves the creation of a group of international and independent human rights experts to investigate the country’s grave human rights crisis and the government’s responsibility for the multiple violations. It comes after more than three years of monitoring and three previous resolutions supporting a peaceful solution.

The resolution was introduced by the Chilean delegation, with the support of Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Canada. It was approved with 20 votes in favor, 7 against, and 20 abstentions.

Meanwhile, Wendy Morales, Ortega’s Attorney General, rejected the resolution regarding Nicaragua, calling it the product of a “manipulated assessment” that is “rooted in the economic and political interests of the imperialist countries,” which don’t respect peoples’ self-determination.

“We don’t accept any resolution, update or report on human rights in Nicaragua, because these lack objectivity and are sheathed in clearly defined political and interference bias,” Morales declared via video call.

Nonetheless, the investigation mechanism – composed of three experts on human rights in Nicaragua, appointed by the Human Rights Council president – will be active for a year. The three participants have a mandate to “conduct thorough and independent investigations into all alleged human rights violations and abuses committed in Nicaragua since April 2018, including the possible gender dimensions of such violations and abuses and their structural root causes.”

Similarly, the experts were charged with collecting, preserving and analyzing the information and possible evidence and – whenever possible – identifying those responsible for said violations, with the goal of promoting accountability.

The group will also issue recommendations for improving the human rights situation in the country, as well as offer guidance on access to justice and accountability. Towards this end, they’ll collaborate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Nicaraguan government, international human rights organizations, pertinent UN organisms, and civil society.

Concern for the political prisoners

In the resolution, the Human Rights Council also expressed “serious alarm” over the death of political prisoner Hugo Torres Jimenez on February 12, 2022. Torres died while in the custody of the Nicaraguan government as a political prisoner.

The resolution also condemns the arbitrary detentions that took place during the electoral period. Those imprisoned included presidential hopefuls, political leaders, human rights defenders, business leaders, journalists, rural and student leaders, and members of civic organizations. The statement expresses concern for the physical integrity of the 170+ political prisoners, the conditions of their detention, and their state of health.

The Council reminded the Nicaraguan State that minimum rules have been established by the United Nations for the treatment of prisoners (“Nelson Mandela Rules”). These include agreements that punitive and restrictive measures should not include forbidding family contact, and that contact with families can only be restricted for a limited period, as strictly needed to maintain security and order.

The text also expressed “grave concern” for reports on the political trials that have been held in Nicaragua, without respecting such procedural guarantees as the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty; the right to a fair and public hearing from a competent, impartial and independent tribunal; and the right to adequate time and means to prepare a defense.

Human Rights advocates express optimism about the resolution

Following the resolution’s approval, Collective 46/2, a coalition of 21 international, regional and Nicaraguan human rights organizations, expressed optimism about the work that the international experts could do, despite the fact that they’ll be working without the good graces of the Nicaraguan government.

“For over four years, Nicaragua has been immersed in a deep human rights crisis that has been analyzed in detail by the Human Rights Council. Four resolutions have been adopted, but the [Nicaraguan] authorities have shown no intention of cooperating with either the United Nations or the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,” affirmed Vilma Nuñez, president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights.

Ligia Gomez of the organization Urnas Abiertas [“Open Ballot Boxes”], declared: “Amid repression and a coopted justice system that has become a key part of the repression, the establishment of a mechanism for accountability by the UN Council represents the support we of the human rights organizations need to assure truth, justice and compensation for the victims in a future process for justice.”

The creation of this mechanism takes places nearly 4 years after the mass protests of April 2018, and at a moment when the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have intensified their persecution of opposition leaders and victims demanding justice with no more impunity.

Juan Carlos Arce of the Nicaragua Nunca Mas [“Never again”] Human Rights Collective stated: “This mechanism is the result of the civic resistance of diverse figures, including the victims, who have refused to remain silent before the crimes committed by the government. This is a tool for the defense of rights and the fight against impunity, as well as a support for the victims. Without a doubt, this good news fills us with hope.”

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.