Nicaragua: Serious human rights impacts caused by arbitrary deprivation of nationality

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Inti Ocon / AFP

Statement at the interactive dialogue on the situation in Nicaragua at the Human Rights Council: FIDH deplores the use of statelessness by the autocratic regime of Ortega-Murillo, as a mechanism to repress civil society in Nicaragua and calls on the international community to address this unprecedented situation, aimed at inhibiting the defense of human rights and freedom of expression in the country.

Paris, 18 December 2023. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has published a note denouncing the serious human rights impacts caused by the arbitrary stripping of Nicaraguan nationality from 317 people, which occurred in February 2023. These actions, ordered by the autocratic Ortega-Murillo regime, are yet another example of the breakdown of democracy in the country.

In the note, Exile and civil death: serious impacts of the arbitrary deprivation of nationality of people who defend human rights and oppose the dictatorship in Nicaragua, FIDH repudiates the use of statelessness as a strategy of persecution and expulsion of political opponents, human rights defenders, journalists, academics and all dissident voices that have spoken out against the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega. In this sense, the organisation rejects the closure of independent civil society spaces in the country.

It is also important to bear in mind that this situation occurs in a context of government repression. Since 2020, the authorities have enacted and selectively applied various laws and constitutional reforms as a mechanism to give the Nicaraguan regime’s repressive practices a semblance of legality, thus allowing them, in the long term, to silence political opposition and limit human rights.

The document explains the breach of international standards as a result of the stripping of 317 people of their Nicaraguan nationality. On the one hand, this was an arbitrary sanction that did not respect the principle of legality and the right to due process. On the other hand, its imposition was motivated by discriminatory reasons, linked to restriction of the exercise of fundamental rights of those persons deprived of their nationality. Finally, it is a violation of the duty to prevent, avoid and reduce statelessness, assumed by the State of Nicaragua in 2013 when it ratified the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Specifically, the note makes explicit reference to the most serious consequences of statelessness, especially the decisions adopted by the Ortega-Murillo regime that have sought to produce the civil death of persons deprived of their nationality. In this sense, the authorities have promoted the elimination of public identity records, such as copies of identity cards, birth certificates or academic records; the confiscation of goods and property, through the expropriation of homes and the freezing of bank accounts; and, finally, the cancellation of retirement pensions and denial of health care, which increases the vulnerability of the elderly.

The situation of Nicaraguan citizens in exile is extremely complicated. While some of the 222 people, released from prison and exiled, have obtained a 2-year temporary residence permit in the United States, others are awaiting the resolution of their asylum applications in other host countries. As for those who remain in the national territory - as is the case of Monsignor Rolando Álvarez and Vilma Núñez, both finalists for the Sakharov Prize, awarded this year by the European Parliament - they find themselves in a situation of total vulnerability, without access to any means to safeguard the integrity of their fundamental rights.

This note does not provide an exhaustive picture of the situation. The cases presented therein only illustrate the seriousness and systematisation of the human rights violations suffered by persons arbitrarily deprived of their Nicaraguan nationality. However, it is necessary to highlight that, to date, the situation of every individual who has become stateless is currently unknown, and individuals may be facing similar or worse scenarios of lack of protection than those described in the note.

Therefore, FIDH makes an urgent appeal to all States and international organisations to take all measures within their reach to confront this aberrant and unprecedented situation in the region.

In particular, a call is made to firmly reject the arbitrary deprivations of nationality imposed by the Ortega-Murillo regime against 317 Nicaraguans and to condemn the actions that have deepened the effects of their statelessness, as mentioned in the document. In addition, to urge the State of Nicaragua to guarantee the integrity and safety of human rights defender Vilma Núñez de Escorcia and Monsignor Rolando Álvarez Lagos, who remain stateless in the country, and to immediately release all political prisoners in Nicaragua.

Likewise, to the States that have taken in Nicaraguans who have become stateless, to adopt special, simplified and expeditious procedures to provide them with protection. Finally, to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to conduct and disseminate a study on the situation of statelessness of the Nicaraguan population that allows for a greater understanding of the scope and dimension of the problem and the identification of affected populations, including their protection needs.

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