Nicaragua: New attacks against democratic freedoms

19 December 2018 by Collective

The 12th December, in continuation of the policy of suppression of any criticism against the Ortega-Murillo government, a majority of members of the National Assembly of Nicaragua voted the withdrawal of the legal personality of the CENIDH (Nicaraguan Centre of Human Rights). This extreme decision, which violates all administrative and legal procedures in the country, constitutes a further restriction of democratic freedoms in the country. It also confirms an acceleration in the dynamic towards the establishment of a police state, which started eight months ago.

This measure has also affected other political organisations like “Hagamos Democracia” [Let’s have a democracy]; the ONG “Centro de Información y Servicios de Asesoría en Salud” [Information and Aid Centre for Health Services], led by Ana Quirós, a Costa Rican born citizen naturalized Nicaraguan, who has just been expelled from the country, and the “Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y Políticas Públicas” [Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policies] (IEEPP). This is part of a series of procedures whose objective is the systematic criminalisation of collective or individual forms of opposition to the regime. These measures started in July with the adoption of the anti-terrorist law, which imposes heavy prison sentences on those who support or finance any demonstration arbitrarily considered as a tentative to destabilise the regime. They were followed by the obligation to demand authorisation to demonstrate, when it is a general truth that the government systematically refuses all such demands from the civil society. Just as an example, the CENIDH’s authorisation demand to demonstrate in commemoration of 10th December, anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was rejected.

Created at the beginning of the 1990s by Dr Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, ex vice-president of the Supreme Court of Justice under the Sandinista government during the 1980s, the CENIDH is the main organisation that stands for human rights in Nicaragua. In the cities and in the countryside, for the last 25 years, the CENIDH has defended innumerable victims of human rights violations, regardless of their political ideas, and against successive Nicaraguan governments.

The fallacious administrative reasons raised against the CENIDH, as well as the accusation of "criminality” against the president of the organisation, Dr Núñez de Escorcia—who is in her eighties—, might be a cause of ridicule were they not occurring within a context of generalised repression which has caused over 500 people to be detained for political reasons. Let us also bring to mind that two other national organisations for the defence of human rights—the Nicaraguan Association For Human Rights (ANPDH) and the Permanent Committee for Human Rights (CPDH)—have also suffered retaliatory measures. Not only has the CPDH been forced to temporarily close its offices because of threats, but one of the representatives of the ANPDH, a witness to the violations of human rights committed by the police and the para-military forces in the city of Masaya in July, was forced to leave the country to save his life. Furthermore, several committees from the UN (United Nations) and the OAS (Organisation of the American States), whose objective was simply to verify the situation of people who were hurt, imprisoned or who simply “disappeared” during the April demonstrations and the repression that followed them, have been refused access to information and/or places like prisons, courts, morgues, hospitals.

This relentless attack against democratic freedom by the parliamentarians loyal to the regime was continued on 13th December when five other ONGs were deprived of their legal existence. They are: the Institute of Leadership of the Segovias Foundation (ILLS); the Institute for the Development of Democracy (IPADE)—founded by the ex-minister for the Agrarian Reform Jaime Wheelock; the del Río Foundation; the Investigation Centre for Communication (CINCO)—co-founded by Carlos Fernando Chamorro, ex director of the daily Barricada and now director of the online journal Confidencial; and the Popolna Foundation—led by the Commander of the Sandinista Revolution Mónica Baltodano.

This decision was immediately followed by serious consequences. In the early hours of 14th December, the police entered by force the offices of several of the dissolved organisations as well as of those of Confidencial and the television channel 100% Noticias and ransacked them. This was a clear attempt not only to intimidate these organisations, but also to deprive them and the media of their meagre means to make their ideas heard.

The organisations who sign this statement vigorously denounce this new attack against collective and individual freedoms whose only objective is to deprive citizens of any defence against the repeated abuses of the power in place. This is why we demand:

The restitution of their legal statute for all the organisations mentioned, and the end of all stigmatisation against those who defend human rights, journalists, and citizens who are critical of the regime.

The repeal of the anti-terrorist law; the restitution of the right to demonstrate; the freedom of all political prisoners; the end of impunity for those responsible for the crimes committed.

Paris, 14th December 2018.

Solidarity With Nicaraguan People Collective (CSPN)
Tricontinental Centre (Belgium)
Guatemala Collective
Autoconvocadxs solidarixs
Catholique Committee against Hunger and for Development –CCFD-Terre solidaire
Alert Honduras
France Amérique latine
Labour Union Solidaires
Confédération paysanne (Peasants Confederation)



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