EIn its resolution 49/3, the Human Rights Council established the Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua (hereinafter «the Group» or «the GHREN») for a period of one year, to investigate all alleged human rights violations and abuses committed in Nicaragua since April 2018, with a view to contributing to accountability and access to justice for victims.
The Council requested the Group to submit a written report to the Council at its fifty-second session. The GHREN produced the present report and an extended report, issued as a conference room paper, which elaborates on the investigation and factual findings, the analysis, and conclusions in further detail.
The Council also urged the Government of Nicaragua to cooperate fully with the GHREN, allowing the Group access to the country, including detention centers, and providing it with the information necessary to carry out its mandate.
Between June and December 2022, the GHREN sent 11 letters to the Nicaraguan authorities. However, it received no response. For its part, the Government of Nicaragua sent a communication to the President of the Human Rights Council in May 2022, copying the Secretary General of the United Nations, rejecting the mandate of the GHREN. The GHREN regrets the lack of cooperation of the Government of Nicaragua, and particularly the lack of access to the country.
On 22 February 2023, the GHREN shared a draft of this report with the Government of Nicaragua.
Methodology and legal framework
Pursuant to resolution 49/3, the GHREN adopted a gender approach in order to collect and analyze the information and examined the impact of violations and abuses on specific population groups. The Group followed a victim-centered methodology, under the principles of «do no harm» and prioritization of the «best interests» of the victim.
The GHREN used the following methods to gather information: confidential interviews with victims, family members, witnesses, former and current public officials, and other individuals who have direct knowledge of the functioning of the State; exchanges with national and international human rights organizations; retrieval and analysis of verified digital information (videos, satellite imagery, photographs, and social networks); review of court records; and analysis of public statements by government representatives and official documents.
The GHREN investigated 142 individual cases, and examined secondary sources to corroborate and contextualize the information gathered, including over 160 confidential documents received and databases shared by international agencies and human rights organizations. The GHREN evaluated these sources rigorously to establish their reliability.
Given the complexity of the facts, the time constraints, and the lack of access to the country, the GHREN was unable to address all the events and alleged human rights violations and abuses reported. In particular, the GHREN considers it important to further investigate violations and abuses committed against indigenous peoples and rural and agricultural workers and aspects related to corruption and the instrumentalization of the State apparatus, as well as the confiscation of assets.
In line with the general practice of other investigative bodies established by the Human Rights Council, the GHREN applied the «reasonable grounds to believe» standard of proof. While this threshold is admittedly lower than that required to establish liability in a criminal proceeding, it is sufficient to justify further investigation.
The GHREN assessed facts in the light of international human rights law and customary international criminal law (based primarily on the statutes and jurisprudence of international criminal tribunals). The GHREN also considered the human rights guarantees under domestic law and other relevant aspects of Nicaraguan legislation.
Legal and institutional factors contributing to violations and abuses
The human rights violations and abuses that have been perpetrated since April 2018 are not an isolated phenomenon, but the product of a dynamic process that involves the dismantling the separation of powers and democratic guarantees; a strong concentration of power in the figures of the President and Vice President of the Republic; and the confusion between the State and its institutions, and the ruling party. These factors allowed high-ranking Government authorities to instrumentalize the Executive, Legislative, Judicial, and Electoral Powers, in order to develop and implement a legal framework designed to repress the exercise of fundamental freedoms and to persecute real or perceived opponents.
Furthermore, there were significant precedents of human rights violations and abuses prior to 2018, including extrajudicial executions, excessive use of force, attacks on human rights defenders, attacks on protesters by pro-government groups, and arbitrary detentions. The prevailing impunity for these violations and abuses enabled and facilitated the escalation of violence and of the persecution of real or perceived Government opponents.
The extended version of this report elaborates on these factors and identifies areas where additional research is needed to comprehensively address the structural root causes of the violations and abuses.