Nicaragua Must Cease Criminalising Peaceful Protestors

A new wave of violent attacks has increased recently since the 2018 national protests in Nicaragua.

Widespread attacks have occurred following the third anniversary of the Nicaraguan protests over social security reforms and a fire in the Indio Maíz Nature Reserve.

“Nicaragua must not criminalise legitimate practices such as participation in peaceful protests”, said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. 

“The State should refrain from initiating criminal proceedings based on generic or disproportionate charges”, she told the United Nations’ news wire.

Cases of ill treatment have increased including the arrest of a trans woman ‘Celia Cruz’ who was held in an all male prison despite identifying as a woman.

Another human rights worker ‘Christopher Cerna Zúñiga’ was arrested on drug trafficking charges and has suffered ill treatment as a consequence. Even though a lack of evidence sufficient enough to uphold the charges remains to be seen he is still kept in custody.

Mr Zúñiga was sentenced to 12 years in prison which many believe is aimed to keep him from working as a human rights defender.

UN Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor said:

“Nicaragua must redouble its efforts to guarantee the right of human rights defenders to peaceful assembly and the right to defend rights”, she said.  

“The work of defenders is more essential than ever. Their role in protecting human rights and assisting vulnerable populations must be protected, not undermined”

Many have endorsed the Special Rapporteur’s call, though there is still a lack of effort worldwide despite pressure from the global forum to activate the international community.

Photography: Michael Bertrand