HRC Press conference of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua - 29 February 2024
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HRC Press conference of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua - 29 February 2024

Jan-Michael Simon, Chair of the Group of Experts

Press conference to launch the Experts' latest report on the human rights situation in Nicaragua


Jan-Michael Simon, Chair of the Group of Experts
Ángela Maria Buitrago, member of the Group of Experts

good afternoon. And, uh, welcome to this press conference at the
Pale de Nion
in Geneva.
We're pleased to have with us, uh, here today,
the group of human rights experts on Nicaragua
who are here to share with you the findings of their latest report.
As you may know,
the Human Rights Council established the group of experts in March of 2022
to investigate all alleged human rights violations and
abuses committed in the country since April 2018.
The group released their latest report today and
presented their findings to the Human Rights Council
in the session that just ended.
Uh, we've also just put out a press release accompanied by the report to the, uh,
members of the media.
So we should all have that by now.
Um, and so here with us, uh, in the middle, uh, is the chair of the group of experts, Uh,
Jan, uh, Simon
and, uh, to his right. Angela
Um uh, So Mr Simon will read an opening statement,
and then we'll open the floor to questions.
Uh, please note that this press conference will be held exclusively in English.
Um, if you have questions in Spanish,
please contact us afterward and we'll be happy to arrange, uh,
for you to speak to the experts.
Uh, directly.
Um, Now I pass the floor to Mr Simon and then who will, uh, deliver opening remarks,
and then we'll take your questions.
Thank you.
Thank you for that. Uh,
so serious systematic
human rights violations tend to mount to
crimes against humanity continue to be perpetrated in
For political reasons by the government,
President Ortega, uh, Vice President Murilo
and the high level state officials identified
in the investigation should be held accountable,
uh, by the international community,
as should Nicaragua as a state that goes after its own people targeting
university students,
indigenous people,
people of African descent,
and members of the Catholic Church and other Christian
Our report found that the persecution by the government of Nicaragua
of real or perceived opponents
has become more refined. Since our last report
violations, abuses and crimes
have been perpetrated not only
to dismantle active opposition
but they are also perpetrated
to eliminate
all critical voices
and dissuade
the long term
any new organisation
and initiative of social mobilisation
in the country
as a government has moved closer
to its goal
of total destruction
of critical voices
in the country.
Patterns of violence of the right to life
uh, security
integrity of the person
are less prevalent today
and instead
in particular. Since 2023
there has been an exponential increase
of prevalence, of violations focusing
on incapacitating
any kind
of opposition.
At the long term,
Nicaragua is caught in a spiral
of violence
worked by the persecution
of all forms
of political opposition,
where the real
are perceived
both domestically
and abroad.
In addition,
the government has solidified a spiral
of silence,
incapacitating any
potential opposition.
The persecution extends beyond Nicaragua's borders,
with Nicaraguans abroad facing deprivation of nationality
and legal identity,
lack of access
to official
and consular support,
as well as
other violations impeding
family reunification
and effective
extensively conditions for earning a living abroad.
Nicaraguan citizens have been left statelessness
and devoid to access,
to regal remedies,
and many Nicaraguans are suffering from similar
conditions caused from statelessness.
Family members of victims of human rights violations are themselves victimised
by the government only for being related
to real or perceived government opponents.
These violations, by extension,
are particularly serious when they affect Children.
Children have been subjected to violations due to their relationship
or activities and our opinions expressed
by their parents
or family members.
Many Children have been separated from parents who were expelled
or banned
from entering Nicaragua,
and some have been denied valid passports to join their parents.
The report of
UH US also highlights
the consolidation and centralization of all state powers
in the hands of President Ortega
and Vice President
particular the
cult, uh, total control
over the judicial branch.
Centralization of power not only ensures impunity
for perpetrators,
but also undermines efforts towards accountability.
The government has ensured
that it remains in an increasingly solid bubble
to per
uh per
perpetuate sorry
in power
and annihilate
attempting to break that bubble.
In this context, the amnesty law from 2019
further entrenches impunity by shielding serious
human rights violations.
These violations include extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention,
and persecution.
Such amnesty provisions are incompatible
with Nicaragua's obligations under international human rights law,
particularly under international
human rights law,
applying regarding the convention against torture and other cruel,
inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment.
We call on the government to
immediately release
all persons arbitrarily deprived of their liberty,
cease violations, abuses and crimes,
particularly persecution on politically motivated grounds,
and undertake exhaustive,
and transparent investigations of documented violations, abuses and crimes
to hold perpetrators accountable.
We urge the international community
to take immediate action
by expanding sanctions against individuals and
institutions involved in human rights violations.
are a minimum form of accountability
in a country where impunity and criminalising democracy is the rule.
We also call on the international community
to make use of its findings
that we have here
presented today in the Council
in security, financial and trade relations and policies,
be it within the framework of the Financial Action Task Force,
the International Monetary Fund,
or when conditioning preferential access of Nicaragua to
markets on compliance with non trade political objectives.
The effect
on the Nicaraguan population is devastating,
and it will take the people of Nicaragua
and the international community a significant
amount of time and resources to recover
everything lost under the rule of President Ortega and Vice President Morelo.
Thank you, Mr Simon. Um, now we open the floor to questions.
Uh uh, First we'll go to the room if we If you have any questions, please.
Uh, identify yourself and the
media outlet that you work for. Um, we can go here on the front, on the left.
Thank you.
the Spanish Research Agency.
Um, I would like to ask you about a visit yesterday by a Russian, uh, high official,
um, uh,
security official from Russia,
And he visited yesterday. Managua. And
he met there with President Ortega and other representative from other countries,
like Venezuela, Cuba, um,
and Bolivia.
And I would like to know if
because it's clear that the Russia seeks to
have a greater influence in the region,
So do you. Do you Do you think, uh,
that, um,
this can,
increase the sense of confidence,
uh, of the government,
Uh, and increase, um, its sense of, uh, impunity. Because he it he feels that
he is, uh, protected by a big power.
Our mandate, uh, is related to the human rights situation
in in Nicaragua. And, uh, this is, uh, what we are mandated to investigate
if there are
any relations
regarding violations in the country.
other states
and or
other states
the lack of accountability
and impunity actively
in the country.
Um, this would be a
very serious case.
As to now, we do not have enough information.
Uh, that would make us
to conclude
that there are other countries involved
in perpetuating the human rights situation in the country. Nor do we have
enough information
on countries
that would support perpetuating impunity.
It would be a matter of concern,
certainly for our mandate to address these questions
if we would have substantive information on this. But
up to today, we do not have it.
Thank you.
Um, any more questions from the room?
Yes. OK, uh, Jamie Keaton, Uh, from Associated Press.
Thank you, Mr Simon.
what is the solution for Nicaragua?
Like, what,
uh does does Mr or does President Ortega have to leave power for the country to, uh,
to to to see, uh,
an end to all these, uh, rights violations that you're talking about
that the government of Nicaragua ceases to violate. Uh,
the ongoing
human rights violations
is addressed
by our recommendations. In order to get some
leverage of the international community
to make Nicaragua
get back to the path of rule of law
and the respect for human rights.
we have
reached out at the beginning of our mandate to
the government in order to establish a dialogue.
It wasn't possible.
And so do have other actors,
be it within
multilateral organisations on a bilateral level.
At present,
we are convinced
that only joint efforts
in the international community,
and in particular
were leveraged
agencies can be used in order
to make the government rethink.
What they're doing
one of the options
that you have.
Whether this at the
mid term will work
out, we will see. But we have first to try it.
And in particular,
this is addressed literally in our report.
The role of the International Monetary Fund in
this is crucial.
It can be,
um, like
in the last two reports,
uh, of, uh,
the international money, uh, tariff fund regarding,
governance issues
the use of IMF funds
in particular to questions of the rule of law,
is addressed in the way that it has addressed
in the last two reports.
So they must take
serious action
in order to evaluate the situation related
uh, their
mandate under Article four
uh, the Nicaraguan government,
with standards.
they should stick in order to get
funds from the
The same applies.
And this we have also addressed,
uh, as to compliance
non trade political objectives in accessing
and getting
preferential access
to markets. So this is at
present what we think
is one way
to put some leverage on the government
within the country.
One of our main conclusion is
that there is literally no civic space anymore. No opposition anymore.
The only thing you can do is from outside
from outside.
Ok, um, thank you. Um, we'll take another question. Uh, here on
on. That question is, um and what, exactly? Um, the IMF can
exactly what? Concretely what do you call them to to do,
to cut funds to to put, uh
Conditions. Um, exactly.
To To help the good government governance in in Nicaragua.
And also excuse me and on the trade issue. Also,
the fact that the the the the fact that the the
country can export at the preferential tariffs to to many countries.
could you exactly um, be, uh um uh give us more details. On what exact what countries.
Do you think are the major
are the major, um, trade partners of Nicaragua and, uh, the United States Europe.
Who are you asking
to To to do something in in trade terms.
Yeah, thank you very much for your interesting question.
Like the I will begin with the second one.
The main trade partners are the US and the European Market.
Regarding the US
theft agreement as
conditions on the human rights and rule of
law situation in countries that should be enforced,
our reports are clear evidence that
the country doesn't comply
the so called non trade political objectives
relations are
on accessing
and the same applies to the European Union. I
don't know whether you're familiar to the issue, but there is
and has been, in the past, uh,
issues regarding the free trade agreement between
the European Union and Central America,
where Nicaragua is part of it.
Uh, the free trade pillar
of the agreement
had been provisionally applied
to commercial relations without
uh, the human rights standards. They are also part of the convention.
And the only reason why they weren't applied is that the convention wasn't in force.
Now having Valon
finally agreeing
on the ratification of a free trade agreement between Central America
and the European Union. The whole convention will get into force.
And when this is the case,
then you will have the
applied directly
to commercial relations with Central America, in particular Nicaragua.
And there again,
our findings are the ones that should be then applied.
When the commission will assess
in the agreement with Nicaragua
the consequences of not complying with its conditions is
finally to suspend a country
the beneficient of the Free Trade Agreement.
And as to the International Monetary Fund article
uh, consultations between member
and the IMF,
have hard conditions, uh,
on assessing, uh, issues that are related
to to governance and one of the
hardest issues that you have There is the rule of law
and the situation,
uh, that are related to the rule of law.
We have come to the conclusion of total impunity, incomplete destruction
of the justice system.
So if this is not an issue to be assessed by
under their Article four consultations,
I don't know what are the conditions that they are addressing there,
and if you get a bit closer and I invite you as a journalist to look closer
to these reports and in particular,
the last report that has been approved by the Directorate of the
you will find a clear
difference between their assessment and our assessment of the justice system.
And if this is the case
and they would
take seriously our
this definitely conditions funds of the International Monetary Fund.
So if you do not comply with this,
you are at risk of losing finances from
the International Monetary Fund
and there's one issue that was not addressed by you, But, uh uh uh, I
will take it up.
It is
money laundering
and the
recommendation eight
of the International Financial Action Task Force
that relates
to legislation on controlling money laundering.
Uh, when handled
or when assets are handled by
non governmental organisations. Precisely.
uh, rules
have been used in order to
and manipulate more than 3000
organisations of the social, uh, of the civil society.
So we invite uh,
the FAA F and the member states of the FA
TF who was sitting in the directorate to take seriously,
our analysis in this regard
and to do no harm.
And in addition to this,
Nicaragua is one of the few countries that has recently
been released from the grey list of the FAA F.
So one might wonder, uh, what informed
the decision of the
having Nicaragua getting out of the grey is given the situation of
lack of transparency in the rule of law in the country.
Thank you, Mr Simon. Uh, do we have any more questions from the room?
Another one from Associated Press.
Thank you.
Uh, sorry to, uh, monopolise it looks like, uh, the Isabella and Jamie Show today.
I just had a quick question about, uh uh,
you mentioned IMF in the United States and Trade Partners.
Um, one of the common refrains that we've heard out of, um,
Nicaragua from the government for years has
been the influence of the United States.
Um, in the country.
Um, and I just was wondering, um, what do you make of the claims that
the United States may have tried to orchestrate the coup in 2018,
and what has been the fallout for that is is this scapegoating in the United States?
Is there any validity to it in your view,
and And what has been the impact of that on human rights?
once again. Thank you for your question. We address the
human rights situation in the country, and if there is no
direct link to this, we would not have an opinion on this.
As to the question of the colleague regarding Russia,
if there is a link that could be traced directly to the human rights situation,
we would be happy to dig a bit deeper into this.
But as
up to now, we do not have enough information regarding this.
Ok, any more questions
from the room?
Uh, anybody online?
Going once,
Going twice.
OK, we have one question from, uh uh, Gabriella. Uh,
please, go ahead.
sorry. Go ahead, Gabrielle. We'll come to you, Maria, in a second.
Yes, Uh, thank you very much.
Um, if international community stays still,
what is the perspective
for, uh, Nicaragua?
What can you see?
And if you have any evidence of, uh, Mr Ortega involved
in narco
activities, uh, drug related crimes or something like that.
Thank you very much.
According to the
final declaration within the UN
on the responsibility to protect it
is up to the
international community. Wants a body of the UN
or somebody or somebody mended it like
us, uh,
to investigate serious human rights violations and comes to the
conclusions of crimes under international law to step up their efforts
members of the international community who commit this kind of
and violations of international law
to stop this.
There are several means to do this. One of the means I have addressed is a
uh, of the international community. And there are other means to do this.
can also
human rights
through extending your jurisdiction in terms of criminal responsibility.
And you can hold
the state under the concept of state responsibility.
if there is a jurisdiction in The Hague
for these violations.
So it is up to the
international community to take steps and initiatives
in order to
take seriously their compromise on the responsibility to protect.
uh, once again, uh, related to our mandate, we're a mandated to
investigate human rights violations. And
if there would be a link
to so called
Palermo crime activities
as related to drug trafficking and other things.
Uh, we would address this if there would be a direct link.
But as to up to now, we do not have enough information on this in order to
respond to your question.
Thank you. Um, we'll take another call. Uh, sorry. Another question online.
So Apologies, Maria. Alejandra. We skipped you.
If you could just identify the outlet that you work for. Um, please go ahead.
Yes, Thank you. Uh, Maria Alejandra is Teta
from El N
Um, I wanted to, uh,
pose a question regarding
the way that apparently, financial institutions are behaving in a complacent way.
And, uh, trade partners, uh, Nicaraguan trade partners.
Uh, that is, uh, US and the EU.
And I was wondering if, um
if, uh, Mr Simon could tell us a bit
What? How How would you see this, Uh, them pulling out of the country.
And if this would not,
uh, push Nicaragua for to further alliances with Russia, China
and other countries, the autocratic countries.
So, uh, would this not have a backlash? That would be, um
that would entail, uh,
an even worse Worsen the situation.
Um, thank you very much.
Uh, there's always a bubble effect, Uh,
that you would find in terms of sanctions and in terms of, uh
though, this is not a sanction of conditioning, for example, financing.
And it is, uh, up to the actors, then to balance out uh,
what, uh, is more promising in order
to lead to
the overall objective
to make the government change
their conduct in terms of, uh,
violating human rights.
the international financial system is very complex,
and the sources of income of
countries are very complex in order
give you here an answer
that might be reasonable in order to come to one or another conclusion.
I think it is up to
different actors that have the leverage in direct votes in the Directorate
of Multinational
uh, in a way that is reasonable in order
have, um,
some leverage in this regard.
So, uh,
definitely difficult to answer these questions
at the one shot here, so
I would leave it like that.
Ok, thank you. Any more questions from the room or online?
OK, I don't see any. So that brings us to the end of this press conference. Um,
thank you very much for joining us, and thank you all for being here.
Uh, have a good day