Nicaragua. Rights experts denounce closure of more than 700 civil society groups |
In a letter to the Nicaraguan government last Monday, the UN group of 16 experts argued that the action “represents a clear pattern of repression of civic space.”
UN experts echoed a statement made earlier this year by the High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the crackdown.
They expressed shock at the scale of closures by the National Assembly at the request of the government – counting more than 700 closures, 487 in the last month alone.
Anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering legislation is misused – UN experts
circumvent the laws
Even though the room for maneuver of non-governmental organizations has been reduced since the beginning of political protests against the administration of President Daniel Ortega in 2018, the recent application of a 2020 law on foreign agents and a 2022 law on the Regulation and Control of Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs) has accelerated the closures.
In anticipation of the law on NPOs which came into effect in May, the experts provided a legal analysis as well as their concerns.
Specifically, the law imposes cumbersome administrative and registration procedures, disclosure of beneficiary data, and significantly restricts foreign funding.
To date, the experts have received no response to their concerns.
“We regret to see that once again, anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering legislation is misused unnecessarily and disproportionately restricting civil society activities and fundamental freedoms,” the experts said, highlighting a global trend.
They argued that the closures had not only affected human rights organizations, including those working for the rights of women and indigenous peoples, but also those promoting democratic values and countering the effects negatives of climate change.
This decision also had an impact on associations that provide humanitarian aid and medical services as well as on educational, cultural and artistic institutions and religious foundations.
“This situation will have even more devastating consequences for marginalized individuals and groups who depend on these services for their survival, for example rural and indigenous communities, children and young people, women, migrants and asylum seekers. “, said the experts.
Activists chased abroad
UN experts have expressed concern about the chilling effect these closures are having on civil society, noting that hundreds of activists have already fled the country and taken refuge in neighboring states for fear of reprisals.
“We urge the state to refrain from further closures and immediately reverse these severe restrictions on associations,” the experts said.
“A functional, well-established and diverse civic and political space is essential in any democratic country.”
Special rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, to examine and report on a specific human rights theme or country situation. The posts are honorary and the experts are not remunerated for their work.