UN rights chief ‘extremely alarmed’ as Nicaragua expels rights missions
The UN rights chief on Friday harshly criticised Nicaragua’s decision to expel two international human rights missions, warning this would complicate efforts to resolve the raging crisis in the country.
The government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega expelled two expert missions from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday, accusing them of meddling and bias.
A letter to Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro said the suspension of the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) and the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) would remain “until conditions of respect for sovereignty and internal affairs are re-established.”
It accused the two entities of demonstrating “an interfering, interventionist attitude, echoing United States government policies against Nicaragua.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet voiced outrage at the decision.
“I am extremely alarmed,” she said in a statement.
She pointed out that the Ortega government had already revoked local human rights groups’ permits, raiding their headquarters and confiscating property, and had clamped down on independent media.
This, followed by the “de facto expulsion of the two IACHR organisations… means there are now virtually no functioning independent human rights bodies left in Nicaragua,” she said.
In September, the government also expelled a UN human rights mission, branding a report it produced as biased, and it has also now decided that IACHR itself will no longer be permitted to visit the country.
“The net result is a country where civil society is in danger of being shut out altogether, and international organisations are also struggling to keep operating,” warned Bachelet, a former Chilean president.
The expulsion order came a day before GIEI — created to collaborate with authorities to assess Nicaragua’s human rights situation — was due to present findings on human rights during the first weeks of anti-government protests, which erupted in April.
Rights groups say at least 320 people have been killed in Nicaragua in a brutal government crackdown launched in response to the escalation in April of street protests, initially against a now-ditched pension reform.
But the government accused GIEI of acting outside agreed parameters by directly interviewing victims.
GIEI coordinator Amerigo Incalcaterra denied the allegations, but said the mission had been advised not to present its report.
Bachelet cautioned that the actions by the Ortega government “make resolution of the crisis affecting the country much more difficult and risk blocking all dialogue within the country, with neighbouring states and with the international community at large, with possible wide-ranging consequences.”
“I hope we can find some common ground with the government to reverse this trend.”