Nicaragua: Outrage at new arbitrary action by the Ortega-Murillo regime

Inti Ocon / AFP

Paris, 16 February 2023. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) condemns the arbitrary deprivation of the nationality of human rights defender Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, founder of the Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH), a FIDH member organisation in Nicaragua. FIDH calls on the international community to react quickly and forcefully to this new wave of repression by the Ortega-Murillo regime, which constitutes a clear attack against civil society and human rights defenders in the country.

On 15 February 2023, the Court of Appeals of the Central Judicial Complex of Managua accused and convicted Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, together with 93 other individuals, of "treason" without prior trial. The same decision revoked their Nicaraguan nationalities permanently, disqualified them from holding public office and ordered the confiscation of their assets in favour of the State of Nicaragua. Among this group are recognised figures from the civil and artistic society of Nicaragua, who since 2018 have raised their voices for human rights and democracy in the country.

Almost all of them are outside Nicaragua, having taken the painful decision to leave the country to safeguard their integrity. Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, President and founder of the Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH) since 1990 to date, remains in Nicaragua claiming her right to defend the victims of human rights violations and to demand a democratic transition. In view of this new situation, FIDH requests that her integrity and security be guaranteed. Human rights defender for more than 60 years, she confronted the Somoza dictatorship and is a survivor of the 1959 Student Massacre. Imprisoned, tortured and prosecuted by a Military Tribunal in that epoch, she then became one of the first women magistrates in the High Courts of Nicaragua and was Vice President of FIDH for 10 years.

"This new turn taken by the Ortega-Murillo regime is outrageous. The international community must condemn the arbitrary and absolutist conduct of the State."

Jimena Reyes, head of FIDH Americas desk

"It will take time, but the actions of these police officers, officials, and judges who flout the rule of law and the dignity of Nicaraguans will not go unpunished", added Jimena Reyes.

"FIDH mobilises today and always. Nicaraguan human rights defenders can count on our unconditional support while authoritarian regimes can count on our relentless persistence to ensure the advent of justice and solidarity", said Alice Mogwe, President of FIDH.

FIDH stresses that nationality is a non-derogable right and its arbitrary deprivation in this case is a serious violation of international human rights law. The action by the Court of Appeals continues a clear and grave path of criminalisation and harassment of civil society in Nicaragua by the Ortega-Murillo regime.

FIDH calls on the international community to denounce this situation, as well as to continue to closely monitor Nicaragua overall, in particular in relation to Vilma Núñez de Escorcia and the other individuals who remain in Nicaragua, ensuring that their freedom, physical and psychological integrity are respected; as well as to renew and strengthen the Resolution on Nicaragua in the United Nations Human Rights Council.

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