By Caribbean News Now contributor
NEW YORK, USA — After the Nicaraguan government announced that it has asked two key human rights institutions to leave the country, the UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said on Friday that she was “extremely alarmed” by a decision that means, in effect, there will be “no functioning independent human rights bodies left in Nicaragua”.
According to Bachelet, the two non-profit human rights organisations were set up by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) “in full cooperation with the government after the violence and unrest earlier this year”. One of them is MESENI, a follow-up mechanism from IACHR set up specifically for Nicaragua, and the other is known as GIEI – the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts.
“After the earlier cancellation of the registration and confiscation of properties of national NGOs working on human rights, the de facto expulsion of the two IACHR organizations means there are now virtually no functioning independent human rights bodies left in Nicaragua,” Bachelet said, adding that “the government has said it will no longer accept visits by the IACHR itself”.
Since April, when student-led protests began in response to a decree which raised taxes and ordered changes to social security, hundreds have been arrested. The UN human rights office (OHCHR), has received reports that fair trial rights of protesters and their leaders are being violated.
According to media reports, the violence and civil unrest has led to around 300 deaths, and a report from the UN rights office in late August, detailed numerous violations carried out by Nicaraguan security forces, including extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances. The report noted that 22 police officers had also lost their lives.
“Coupled with the parallel clamp-down on independent media, including last weekend’s raids on media outlets, the net result is a country where civil society is in danger of being shut out altogether, and international organizations are also struggling to keep operating,” warned the UN Human Rights High Commissioner.
“These actions by the government make resolution of the crisis affecting the country much more difficult and risk blocking all dialogue within the country, with neighbouring states and with the international community at large, with possible wide-ranging consequences,” she added, hoping that some common ground can be found with the government so this trend can be reversed.
Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, issued the following statement regarding the recent events in Nicaragua:
“The eyes of the world are on Nicaragua as President Ortega and Vice President Murillo continue to chip away at the freedoms that underpin democracy. Last week, the Nicaraguan government raided and shuttered civil-society organizations and media outlets. And this week, independent experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights were ordered to leave the country. The Nicaraguan government’s continued repression of its internal critics and expulsion of its international critics are unacceptable. Fortunately, leaders across the Americas have raised their voices in opposition to these actions. I urge all OAS member states to continue to shine light on the Ortega government’s dangerous disregard for democracy.”