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UN Rights Chief Cites Growing Human Rights Crisis in Nicaragua

FILE - Riot police prepare to disperse protesters during a rally against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's government, inside Metrocentro mall in Managua, Nicaragua, Feb. 25, 2020.

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, is warning that new laws adopted by Nicaragua’s government are undermining fundamental freedoms and leading to a further erosion of the rule of law in the country.

In a report submitted this week to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bachelet said damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and hurricanes Eta and Iota have worsened the socio-political and human rights crisis facing Nicaragua. Furthermore, she said the passage of new restrictive laws is strangling peoples’ rights to freedom of association and expression.

Bachelet said the laws also are inhibiting political participation and due process, which is especially troubling as Nicaragua approaches general elections in November. She noted that earlier this month two prominent organizations promoting freedom of expression were forced to suspend operations because of a new “foreign agents” law.

“My Office has documented 117 cases of harassment, intimidation and threats by police officers or pro-government elements against students, peasants, political activists, human rights defenders and organizations of victims and of women,” Bachelet said.

The report also documents 34 cases of intimidation, threats, criminalization and campaigns to discredit media and journalists considered to represent the opposition. Bachelet said arbitrary detentions of political opponents continue and Indigenous communities continue to face land invasions and violent attacks by settlers.

“Human rights violations perpetrated during the social protests of 2018 continue in all impunity. We have also received information as to a rise in femicides and high levels of pregnancy among young girls,” Bachelet said.

The high commissioner said the government must undertake necessary reforms to ensure free, fair and transparent elections. She urged the government to allow members of her staff to enter the country so they can monitor the human rights situation in the lead-up to November’s elections.

Nicaragua’s Attorney General Wendy Carolina Morales Urbina rejected the high commissioner’s report, calling it a throwback to the interventionist policies of former colonial powers. She said the report was biased and lacking in objectivity.

Morales Urbina added that the government of Nicaragua denounces the report as yet another manifestation of imperial aggressions that have promoted crimes of hate, terrorism and destruction.