FILE PHOTO: Nicaraguan police officers stand in formation as they block journalists working outside the house of opposition…
FILE - Nicaraguan police officers block journalists working outside the house of opposition leader Cristiana Chamorro after prosecutors sought her arrest, in Managua, Nicaragua, June 2, 2021.

GENEVA - U.N. Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet warns increasingly repressive measures by the Nicaraguan government against its political opponents are undermining prospects for free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections in November. Bachelet’s warning came as she submitted her report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Nicaragua has been mired in a human rights crisis for years. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet says the situation is getting worse, making it unlikely that Nicaraguans will be able to fully exercise their political rights in the elections.  

Bachelet says the government of President Daniel Ortega is using newly adopted criminal laws to get rid of its political opponents.  She noted security forces have arrested 15 people this month who declared their intention to run for president in November under ambiguous criminal offenses and without sufficient evidence.  

“There are ongoing investigations against peoples’ rights and against the presumption of innocence. This is preventing persons from participating in general elections, not only undermining [the] political rights of persons to vote for the person of their choice,”  she said.

The high commissioner’s report documents cases of arbitrary arrests, attacks, and harassment by the National Police against human rights defenders, journalists, and perceived opponents of the Ortega government. As of mid-June, civil society sources report nine women and 115 men, who had been detained during protests, remain in prison.  

Bachelet says Nicaraguan authorities are squashing peoples’ rights of freedoms of expression and assembly, and political participation. 

“Authorities have been stigmatizing the opposition, threatening them on social media… This leads to a climate of fear. There is no right of enjoyment of freedom of association. There is no guarantee of a credible electoral process,” she said.

In response, Nicaragua’s minister of foreign affairs, Samuel Santos Lopez, accused North American countries and Europe of seeking to maintain their colonial dominance over his country. Santos Lopez urged the council not to fall prey to their disinformation strategy, calling it an immoral attempt to coerce Nicaragua that should be denounced.