2020 Laureate Lottie Cunningham. Credit: Right Livelihood

Lottie Cunningham warns UN Human Rights Council of possible ethnocide in Nicaragua

News 15.09.2021

Indigenous peoples in Nicaragua are facing a possible ethnocide from settlers invading their land and killing them with impunity, 2020 Right Livelihood Laureate Lottie Cunningham Wren warned states and the UN’s human rights chief on Wednesday.

Read the entire statement.

Nicaragua must protect the rights of indigenous populations and end impunity for crimes committed against them, Cunningham said during a debate with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and UN member states at the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“​​We are before a possible ethnocide,” Cunningham warned.

She raised the alarm over settlers working for companies invading indigenous land to exploit resources, sowing violence and murder.

“Foreign gold mining firms, forestry companies, and cattle ranching businesses are killing my people and destroying our land,” Cunningham said. “We are subject to incessant violence and massacres by illegal armed settlers.”

She noted that on August 23, eleven indigenous persons had been brutally murdered. Members of the community where this happened had told the police just days earlier that they felt threatened by the settlers.

However, instead of protecting indigenous land according to the law, the Nicaraguan government plays a major role in the exploitation of our natural resources.

Cunningham urged the Council to call on the Nicaraguan government to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples; promptly investigate crimes and bring those responsible to justice; and provide truth, justice and reparations to victims and their families.

Cunningham spoke during a general debate with states and non-governmental organisations to react to oral updates by Bachelet on Nicaragua, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and a report on Venezuela.

Bachelet stressed that the unfolding environmental crisis had to be approached from several aspects including humanitarian, human rights, peace-building and development dimensions. She highlighted the fundamental contribution of environmental rights defenders to the enjoyment of human rights and environmental protection. She warned, however, that in many regions, they are threatened, harassed and even killed, in complete impunity.

During her oral update on Nicaragua, Bachelet denounced the arbitrary detention of political leaders, human rights defenders, journalists and others as well as the intensified attacks on the freedom of expression. She noted that between 28 July and 26 August, the authorities had ordered the closure of 45 non-profit organisations. 

She condemned the killings of indigenous people on August 23 also mentioned by Cunningham. Bachelet said that the Nicaraguan government must guarantee human rights for all and stop its persecution against the opposition, the press and civil society. She also urged the Council to consider all measures within its reach to promote and protect human rights in Nicaragua.

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