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Nicaragua: Bachelet warns against amnesty law

GENEVA (8 June 2019) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday expressed concern about the potential adoption in Nicaragua of a broad amnesty law that could prevent prosecution of individuals who may be responsible for serious human rights violations committed in the context of anti-Government protests that began in April 2018. The Government has not made the text of the draft law available in advance, in spite of requests by the UN Human Rights Office.

“Human rights monitoring by my Office and regional mechanisms has exposed the serious violations and abuses perpetrated since April 2018 in Nicaragua, in particular the disproportionate use of force by the police, sometimes resulting in extrajudicial killings; enforced disappearances; torture and sexual violence, as well as widespread arbitrary or unlawful detentions, occasionally by pro-Government armed elements with the acquiescence of authorities,” Bachelet said. “More than 300 people have been killed, 2,000 injured, and hundreds of people critical of the Government have been jailed, with more than 700 subjected to criminal prosecutions.”

“The Government has a duty to ensure accountability and justice for the victims,” the High Commissioner added.

According to the information available, just one sentence has been handed down against a pro-Government armed element and not a single investigation has been opened into members of the security forces in relation to these reports of human rights violations.

“Amnesties for serious human rights violations are prohibited under international law. They create impunity, which can lead to further violations,” Bachelet stressed. “They can also undermine victims’ right to an effective remedy, including reparations and the right to truth. As for those arbitrarily detained in the context of the protests or for expressing dissenting views, they should be released and criminal proceedings against them should be dismissed.”

The High Commissioner also expressed concern about the adoption on 29 May of the law on comprehensive care for victims. The law was pushed through in less than 48 hours, without consultation with civil society or victims’ organizations.

The Law fails to establish appropriate and proportionate measures of reparation, including compensation and guarantees of non-repetition. Furthermore, it specifically refers to the willingness of the authorities to respond to the damage caused by the “failed coup d’état” to victims –implying that who opposed the Government during the 2018 protests are seen by the authorities as perpetrators of the “coup d’état”, rather than victims.

“Nicaraguans have the right to truth, justice and reparation. They must also be assured that similar excessive use of force cannot and will not happen again and that their fundamental rights to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly will be respected. An inclusive process of dialogue is needed in order to address people’s grievances and chart the way forward,” Bachelet said.

The High Commissioner reiterated the willingness of her Office to advise and assist the Government of Nicaragua in strengthening its justice and broader rule of law institutions, including by ensuring that the rights of all victims of human rights violations during the crisis are respected, and to resume general cooperation with the Office, as requested by the Human Rights Council in March this year.

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