NICARAGUA: A new attack on civil society organisations

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Paris-Geneva, March 18th 2021 - In a long speech on International Women’s Rights Day, President Daniel Ortega made attacks against civil society organisations. This new provocation by the head of state reflects once again the serious stigmatization of those who defend human rights in Nicaragua, denounced the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT).

On March 8, 2021, the President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, and his wife and Vice President of Nicaragua, Rosario Murillo, delivered a speech to celebrate International Women’s Rights Day.

During his speech, Daniel Ortega accused civil society organisations of laundering money "to develop destabilizing terrorist activities" against his regime. He also referred to the Law for the Regulation of Foreign Agents, approved on October 15, 2020, and to the organisations calling for sanctions against the regime: "Those who live asking for sanctions, those who receive laundered money through those organisations which call themselves NGOs, we already have laws about that. We have information about how the laundering has been done for years and even more recently, thousands and thousands of dollars running there to spread terror". The Observatory recalls that this law, which controls the activities of individuals and NGOs receiving funds from abroad, constitutes an unacceptable restriction of the freedom of association, a universal fundamental right, enshrined in numerous international treaties and norms, and the right to defend human rights in Nicaragua.

It should be recalled that on December 12, 2018, the National Assembly canceled the legal personality of nine human rights and media organisations, including the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), a member organization of FIDH and OMCT. One day later, on December 13, 2018, the National Police arbitrarily and violently raided their facilities as well as the Confidencial newspaper, hindering their work and violating their fundamental right to freedom of association and expression.

President Ortega also assured that freedom of speech is total in the country: "Here, there is freedom of speech. [...] Here anyone says what they want in the networks, in their pages". These statements contrast with the violent dispersal at the press conference on December 14, 2020 held by a group of journalists and members of CENIDH in front of the office of the newspaper Confidencial, attacked by the National Police.

Since this intervention, some images and videos of attacks against several civil society organisations and their members circulated on social networks, especially Whatsapp and Facebook. Among them, the CENIDH, its members and its president Vilma Núñez, calling them "enemies of the people", damaging their dignity, along with Ms. Núñez’s reputation and her 60 years experience of promoting and defending the human rights of Nicaraguans.

The Observatory strongly condemns these attacks and the stigmatization of human rights defenders and organisations by the Nicaraguan authorities.

The Observatory urges the Nicaraguan authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment against all human rights defenders, as well as to take measures to guarantee freedom of association and freedom of speech in the country, in accordance with relevant international standards.

Finally, the Observatory expresses its concern about the recently approved laws and urges the State of Nicaragua to repeal or modify any legislation that could unduly restrict the rights to freedom of expression and association and that could impede the actions of human rights organisations.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) is a program created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and aims to intervene to prevent or remedy concrete situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of Protect Defenders EU, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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