Lottie Cunningham Wren

HRC 46 : Nicaragua must protect indigenous peoples and their defenders 

News 25.02.2021

On February 25th, during the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, the Right Livelihood Foundation, CEJIL and CEJUDHCAN delivered a statement denouncing human rights violations facing indigenous communities in the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. We urged Nicaragua to uphold its human rights obligations, by ensuring the protection of indigenous peoples and their defenders from third parties and called the State to promptly carry out independent investigations to identify perpetrators of the crimes against indigenous communities. 

In her address to the Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet deplored that indigenous communities continue to face invasions of their land and violent attacks by colonisers. She further condemned the recent adoption of various laws curtailing the right to freedom of association and assembly, which clearly shows the Nicaraguan government’s willingness to restrict civic space and democracy. Ms. Bachelet underscored that political participation of minorities is fundamental to help resolving the crisis and called on the government once more to grant her access to the country.

Speaking as a country concerned, Nicaragua firmly rejected the High Commissioner’s report, saying it is unilateral, biased and lacking objectivity. The government considers that the operation of some organisations has lost independence and that Nicaragua needs a local solution to the crisis. During the ensuing debate, 27 states took the floor, including four joint statements. Two positions could be identified. Numerous countries, including Canada, Mexico, the Nordic and Baltic countries, the European Union, Switzerland and Ecuador expressed great concern over the situation in Nicaragua, especially on the restrictions of civic space and the continued denial of access to the mandate of the High Commissioner. Belgium and France were especially alarmed by the increased violence against indigenous peoples and people of African descent. Other countries, such as the Russian Federation, Venezuela, Belarus and Cuba supported Nicaragua in rejecting the High Commissioner’s report and stressed that country specific resolutions should not be adopted without the consent of the concerned state.

The Right Livelihood Foundation, CEJIL and CEJUDHCAN took the floor to denounce crimes against indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants in the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, which have significantly worsened throughout 2020. We condemned that Nicaragua failed to implement law 445/2003 and the ruling of the Inter-American Court demanding the removal of irregular settlers, instead of colluding with business interests and encouraging land grabbing. We called the Council to urge Nicaragua to uphold its human rights obligations, in particular by ensuring the protection of indigenous peoples and their defenders and ensure that accountability is provided to perpetrators of these crimes.

Read our full statement here.

In her concluding remarks, Deputy High Commissioner Ms. Nada al-Nashif stressed that communication with Nicaragua continues to be a struggle. In relation to the upcoming 2021 elections, she mentioned that until the government does not enact electoral and legal reform, it is hard to see how elections could be credible, transparent and fair.

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