Nicaragua: Repressive machinery used against human rights defenders and democracy

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Geneva-Paris-Managua, 3 November 2021 - On the eve of the general elections on November 7, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) and the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH) denounce the series of laws that have been created to repress human rights defenders and political opponents.

More than 150 people have been arrested in Nicaragua in the current climate of repression. A repressive regulatory framework is being used to silence Nicaraguan civil society. Since May 2021, 39 human rights defenders and political opponents have been detained, including seven potential presidential candidates. Since 2018, 50 non-governmental organisations have been closed.

Today the Observatory and CENIDH are releasing the report "The New Laws of Repression" which details a new phase in the escalation of repression in Nicaragua that began on 20 October 2020. The new phase has been heralded by the enactment of laws that create abusive restrictions for activities conducted by civil society organisations. The laws also call into question international funding which is deemed to be an instrument of foreign intervention or a mechanism used for organised crime and terrorism, thus transforming the freedom of association to defend human rights and the exercise of civil and political rights into crimes or cybercrimes for promoting national hatred that are punishable by life imprisonment.

Those are the laws on "Foreign Agents", on the Defence of the People’s Rights to Independence, on Cybercrimes, and the Constitutional Reform to Article 37, the Law against Money Laundering and Law 1060, which, among other things, expands the term of detention from 48 hours to 90 days, without the minimum guarantees of due process.

The government has installed an official rhetoric portraying human rights defenders, journalists and opponents as the “internal enemy”, which clearly represents an attempt to dissuade people from defending human rights, to frighten those who criticise it and to silence them.

In this context, on the eve of the 7 November 2021 general elections, in the absence of democratic opposition and with the work of human rights defenders stymied and their voices silenced, Nicaragua is consolidating a totalitarian regime.

The Observatory and CENIDH call on the Nicaraguan authorities and the international community to take all necessary measures to restore the rule of law in Nicaragua and to guarantee the freedoms of expression and association in the country. The Nicaraguan judiciary must restore and give primacy to the principle of the independence of the justice system. The signatory organisations urge the authorities to immediately release the more than 150 people arbitrarily detained as a result of government repression, put an end to the criminalisation of their activities, and repeal all repressive legislation.

The Executive Summary and the full "The New Laws of Repression" report are available on the FIDH, OMCT and CENIDH websites.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

The Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH) is an organisation for the promotion and protection of human rights. CENIDH was created in 1990 and in December 2018, the Nicaraguan National Assembly arbitrarily stripped it of its legal status, raided its headquarters and its assets. CENIDH is a member of FIDH and OMCT and despite the intimidation and repression against it, it continues to work for the defence and promotion of human rights in Nicaragua.

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