NICARAGUA: National Assembly should not approve the legislative proposal for the Law for Regulation of Foreign Agents

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San José-Geneva-Paris-Managua, 25 September 2020 - We, the undersigned organisations, call on the international community to urgently use all available means to prevent the approval of the legislative proposal for the Law for Regulation of ’Foreign Agents’, as we consider that its content is contrary to international human rights standards and represents an unacceptable restriction of freedom of association and the right to defend human rights in Nicaragua.

The signatory organisations express their deep concern at the legislative process of the Law for the Regulation of Foreign Agents, which establishes new limitations and obstacles to the work carried out by non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders in Nicaragua. If this bill were to be approved, the exercise and enjoyment of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of peaceful assembly and association; and the right to defend human rights would simultaneously be put at risk, which is incompatible with Nicaragua’s international obligations as a signatory to human rights agreements.

The legislative proposal was presented on 22 September by members of the ruling party, under the assumption of ensuring state security from foreign interference. However, the content of the initiative contains several articles which, if approved, would impose unacceptable restrictions on the right to freedom of association and could be used as an instrument of repression against people and human rights organisations in receipt of resources from international cooperation in the country.

It should be noted that the draft Law defines as ’foreign agent’ all “organisations, associations or natural or legal persons, Nicaraguan or of other nationalities, who, within Nicaragua, receive funds, goods, or any object of value from directly or indirectly, from foreign governments, agencies, foundations, companies or associations of any kind or nature”; excepting from its scope of application commercial agreements, foreign investments and natural and legal persons carrying out economic or commercial activities.

These provisions, if approved, would directly contribute to blocking spaces for civil society organizations to monitor human rights violations and would increase the criminalisation of human rights defenders and their organisations. Indeed, Article 12 of the bill underlines that "natural or legal persons, Nicaraguan or of other nationalities, who act as foreign agents must abstain, under penalty of legal sanctions, from intervening in internal political issues, activities or topics", while establishing that foreign agents would be prohibited from "financing or promoting the financing of any type of organisation (...) or associations that carry out internal political activities in Nicaragua".

The vague wording of several of the articles of the bill grants serious discretion and would restrict the civil and political rights of Nicaraguans.
Likewise, the initiative establishes that natural and legal persons who receive money from abroad must register as ’foreign agents’ with the Ministry of the Interior. The draft bill sets out very strict controls on their activities and resources, which, aside from what these controls involve, could lead to arbitrary action by the authorities. In the same sense, this law would oblige the country’s financial entities to report all funds received by foreign agents to the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF). Failure to comply with the obligations established in this regulation, in addition to fines and administrative sanctions, may involve committing crimes against the security of the State.

Worryingly, this legislative proposal comes a couple of weeks after the Executive Power began the process of a reform to establish life imprisonment to, in the words of President Ortega himself, punish people perceived as opponents who "commit hate crimes" or who are "against peace", without a clear definition of the behaviour. In some cases, this could mean the repression of the exercise of freedom of expression and association.

Therefore, the signatory organisations warn that both initiatives represent an alarming escalation in the repressive environment in Nicaragua. In particular, in relation to the barriers that would be imposed on the defence of human rights by collectives and organisations; and the resulting multiple obstacles to international monitoring. It is important to remember that article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders establishes that everyone has the right, individually or collectively, to request, receive and impose resources for the promotion and protection of human rights.

We therefore call on International human rights protection bodies and the diplomatic corps of the international community to strengthen their commitment to social movements, organisations and human rights defenders in Nicaragua by censuring these measures, which will undoubtedly make it increasingly difficult to sustain spaces for social participation and the defence of human rights in Nicaragua.

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  • Co-signatories

    ● Amnistía Internacional Américas
    ● Asociación de Investigación y Especialización sobre Temas Iberoamericanos
    ● Asociadas por lo Justo (JASS) Mesoamérica
    ● Bienvenida al sur (BAS)
    ● Brujas Migrantes
    ● Ca la Dona
    ● CEJIL
    ● Centro de Información y Servicios de Asesoría en Salud
    ● Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Nicaragua Nunca Más
    ● Comisión de Derechos Humanos Hispano Guatemalteca
    ● Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de las Mujeres CLADEM
    ● Cooperación Comunitaria AC
    ● Escuela para Defensoras Benita Galeana AC
    ● Federación Internacional por los Derechos Humanos (FIDH), en el marco del Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos
    ● Feministas Autoconvocadas Barcelona
    ● Feministas Madrid X Nicaragua
    ● Feministas por Nicaragua Euskal Herria
    ● Fundación Estudios Sindicales y Cooperación de Andalucía - FESCA
    ● ICID (Iniciativas de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo)
    ● Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (IM-Defensoras)
    ● International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
    ● Las Amapolas
    ● Movimiento Campesino de Nicaragua
    ● Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres (MAM)
    ● Nuevas Ideas Nicaragua
    ● Organización Mundial Contra la Tortura (OMCT), en el marco del Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos
    ● Periodistas y Comunicadores Independientes de Nicaragua
    ● Red de Hondureñas Migradas
    ● Red EU-LAT
    ● Red Internacional de Derechos Humanos (RIDH)
    ● Solidaridad Internacional Andalucía
    ● Tlalij A. C.

  • Member organisations - Nicaragua
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