Nicaragua 'witch-hunt' against dissent: UN experts
A group of UN human rights experts, including the special rapporteurs on freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and extrajudicial exections, issued a statement Aug. 9 urging the government of Nicaragua to "stop the repression" following 100 days of unrest in which at least 317 people have been killed and 1,830 injured. "Reports indicate that there has been an increase in targeted repression, criminalization and alleged arbitrary detention, which is creating an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty among different communities and among civil society representatives in the country," the statement said. "We are appalled that many human rights defenders, journalists and other opposition voices are being criminalized and accused of unfounded and overly punitive charges such as 'terrorism'."
The protests, which erupted in April, have recently decreased in number and intensity, following the removal of roadblocks by the government. However, UN experts said voices critical of the government, including rural community leaders, students, independent journalists, representatives of the Catholic Church and members of the Civic Alliance, are still subjected to intimidation, threats and deprivation of liberty. Health professionals assisting the injured have faced retribution and have been dismissed from their jobs.
"We deplore what appears to be a smear campaign aimed at discrediting or vilifying human rights defenders as 'terrorists' and 'coup-mongers,' and apparent attempts to undermine the opposition," the statement read.
The experts stressed the importance of the government keeping a clear and up-to-date record of the names and locations of those who have been deprived of their liberty. They added that those who face legal proceedings must be guaranteed their right to a fair trial. The statement also called on the government "to immediately demobilize paramilitary groups and to investigate the extrajudicial executions, killings and reports of enforced disappearances with due diligence," and to "refrain from engaging in practices of criminalization against human rights defenders and other activists, including through the inappropriate use of national security and counter-terrorism legislation." (OHCHR, Aug. 9)